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Turkey kebabs are healthy, tasty take

by Bonnie S. Benwick The Washington Post | October 9, 2019 at 1:50 a.m.
For The Washington Post/STACY ZARIN GOLDBERG Turkey Kebabs With Tahini Sauce

The ready-to-cook kebabs you find at the supermarket are designed to draw a shopper's eye with their colorful chunks of vegetables and proteins, but cooks with skewering savoir-faire know that when same-ingredient items populate each metal or bamboo rod (shish!), there's a better chance those foods will cook evenly.

That principle applies to this recipe, as it adheres pretty closely to the playbook of shaping the portions of spiced, oniony ground meat on a stick, also known as koftas. Ground turkey fills in for the typical ground lamb. In testing with light- and dark-meat turkey, we found the latter had a slight edge in flavor and juiciness. If you want to use lean ground lamb, grass-fed ground beef or ground chicken instead, go for it.

Speaking of juicy, the addition of grated squash adds moisture and helps bind the mixture together. And you can drizzle your cooked kebabs with tahini sauce, which takes no more than a minute or two to assemble.

When you grill the kebabs outdoors and have room on the grate, cut up the rest of your zucchini or yellow squash as well as single-skewer amounts of any or all of the following: bell peppers, mushrooms, red onion, eggplant, par-cooked potato. (Be sure to season the lot and drizzle them with olive oil.) Or simply thread on some small tomatoes, with sprigs of fresh rosemary between them. The vegetables will round out this meal, or they'll be at the ready for your next-day lunch or dinner.

Turkey Kebabs With Tahini Sauce

½ medium onion

½ medium zucchini or yellow squash

Leaves from 8 to 10 stems fresh parsley

1 pound ground turkey, preferably dark meat (may substitute ground lamb, grass-fed beef or chicken)

2 teaspoons za'atar, divided use (see note)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cumin, divided use

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

½ cup plain yogurt (not Greek-style; can be low-fat)

3 tablespoons well-stirred tahini, or more as needed

¼ teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)

½ lemon

Pita bread, optional for serving

Combine the following in a mixing bowl as you work: Cut the half onion into small dice (about ½ cup). Use the large-holed side of a box grater to grate the zucchini or squash (to yield no more than ½ packed cup). Chop enough parsley leaves to yield about 5 tablespoons.

Prepare a grill for direct heat; heat the grill to medium-high heat (375 degrees), or set a large grill pan over medium-high heat on the stovetop.

Add the ground turkey, 1 teaspoon of the za'atar, ½ teaspoon of the salt, ¼ teaspoon of the ground cumin and all the cardamom to the mixing bowl with the onion and zucchini. Use your hands to gently mix it all together until evenly blended.

Dampen your hands with water, then use them to divide the mixture into 8 equal portions, shaping each one to form a 2 ½- to 3-inch oblong kebab. Thread two onto each skewer, spacing the kebabs about an inch apart and pressing to secure them in place. Grease each kebab with a little cooking oil spray or olive oil (to help prevent sticking), then sprinkle with the remaining teaspoon of za'atar.

Grill for 10 to 12 minutes, turning them a few times for even browning/grill marks, or until the interior temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

Meanwhile, make the tahini sauce: Whisk together the yogurt, tahini, the tablespoon of oil, the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, the remaining ¼ teaspoon of ground cumin and the cayenne pepper. Squeeze in most of the juice from the half lemon, stirring to blend it in. Taste, and add more tahini and/or lemon juice, as needed.

Serve warm, with the pitas and the tahini sauce for dipping.

Makes about 4 servings.

Note: Za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice blend. It is available at specialty shops and some supermarkets. Can substitute equal parts chopped fresh thyme, toasted sesame seeds, ground sumac and salt.

Nutrition information: Each serving (without pita bread) contains approximately 270 calories, 27 g protein, 15 g fat, 7 g carbohydrate (3 g sugar), 85 mg cholesterol, 400 mg sodium and 2 g fiber.

Carbohydrate choices: .5

Recipe adapted from

Food on 10/09/2019

Print Headline: Turkey kebabs are healthy, tasty take


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