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story.lead_photo.caption For The Washington Post/Tom McCorkle Tapas-Style Turkey Meatballs

A batch of these saucy, Spanish-style meatballs could serve you well this week in multiple ways. They can be made several days in advance so they are ready in the refrigerator, waiting to answer any number of calls for good food fast, with just a quick reheat.

Their mini size makes them a toothpick-friendly party food — one that is enthusiastically embraced at a potluck or as a casual nibble for friends who drop in for drinks. They are a lip-smacking dinner-at-the-ready served in a bowl with a simple side salad and some crusty bread for sopping up their smoky, tangy tomato sauce. And when you can't stop to sit down, you can pile them — hot or cold — into a whole-grain roll, maybe topped with some fresh spinach leaves, and wrap it up to go.

Also, I have been known to pregame by nibbling a few before an event when I am unsure if or when food will be served. Using a mix of light- and dark-meat turkey keeps these meatballs lean and well in the healthy zone, but ensures they are also quite moist and tender. They are so good and so versatile, you might want to make a double batch.

Tapas-Style Turkey Meatballs

1 pound ground turkey, all dark meat or a mix of light and dark (92 or 93 percent lean)

5 tablespoons dried whole-grain bread crumbs

1 small onion, half of it minced and half of it cut into small dice

4 cloves garlic, minced, divided use

1 egg, lightly beaten

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 ¼ teaspoons smoked paprika, divided use

1 teaspoon salt, divided use

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 (15-ounce) can no-salt-added tomato sauce

2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Pinch ground red pepper (cayenne), or more as needed

Combine the ground turkey, bread crumbs, the minced onion, half of the garlic, the egg, parsley, ½ teaspoon of the smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon of the salt and the black pepper in a mixing bowl, then use your clean hands to mix and create a well-blended mixture. Form into 24 small meatballs of equal size (about 1 inch in diameter). Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes (to firm up).

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add half the chilled meatballs to the skillet and cook for about 3 minutes, turning them two or three times, until they are browned all over. Transfer them to a plate. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the skillet, then repeat with the remaining meatballs, adding them to the others once they're browned.

Reduce the heat to medium; add the diced onion to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until it has softened a bit. Add the remaining garlic and cook for 30 seconds more.

Add the tomato sauce (it will sizzle and splatter a bit), the vinegar and the remaining smoked paprika, remaining salt and the cayenne pepper. Once the sauce mixture is bubbling, reduce the heat to medium-low; carefully return all the meatballs to the skillet, tossing to coat them (the sauce will not cover the meatballs). Cover the skillet and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and reducing the heat further as needed, until the meatballs are cooked through, and adding water a tablespoon at a time to loosen the sauce if it seems too thick. Taste, and add a bit more cayenne, as needed.

Serve warm.

Makes 12 appetizer servings.

Nutrition information: Each serving (2 meatballs) contains approximately 120 calories, 9 g protein, 7 g fat, 5 g carbohydrate (2 g sugar), 45 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium and no fiber.

Krieger is a registered dietitian, nutritionist and author who hosts public television's Ellie's Real Good Food.

Food on 12/26/2018

Print Headline: 'Tapas' meatballs make great anytime nibbles

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