Lemon Basil Meatballs


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Melissa’s Produce to benefit Alex’s Lemonade Stand: Foundation for Childhood Cancer.

This week I’m partnering with fellow San Diego Food Bloggers to support Alex’s Lemonade Stand. If you’re in San Diego, the event is is coming up this weekend: Saturday July 26th, 2014 from 10 am to ­6 pm at 3366 Adams Avenue, 92116. FM 94.9 will be broadcasting live at the Masonic Parking Lot all day. Come to enjoy bands, lemonade, a silent auction, kids’ activities, and more!

This lemonade stand is the biggest fundraiser in California and one of the top ten Alex’s Lemonade Stands in the country. Since its inception, Alex’s Lemonade Stand has raised over $80 million for childhood cancer, and has funded more than 450 research projects at 94 institutions.They also help families struggling with childhood cancer through a Travel Fund and an annual Educational Symposium.

If you can’t attend, click here to donate. Your donation of $50 funds one hour of research. Let’s help the Miller Tribe reach their goal of $15,000 this year, getting them to $100,000 for the nine years they’ve been running.

I’m participating in the San Diego Food Bloggers Lemonade Online Challenge, sponsored by Melissa’s Produce More than a dozen San Diego Food Bloggers will be cooking with lemons in support of Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Check out their lemony recipes online between July 21-­28, and make a donation to the Stand through links on their blogs. All their recipes will be linked to this post too!

A Purpose Driven Wife
Becky Charms
Confessions of a Foodie
Deleting the Adjectives
Family Spice
Frugal Nutrition
Golden State Mom
Jinxi Eats
Kirbie’s Cravings
Making It Sweet
Recipe Renovator
Sweet Sueshine
The H Blog
The Seaside Baker
This Tasty Life

Event Partners:
Alex’s Lemonade Stand
Adams Avenue Business Association
Blind Lady Ale House
FM 94.9, broadcasting live all day
Melissa’s Produce

Many thanks to Stephanie at Recipe Renovator for coordinating this effort!


We have a prolific little lemon tree in our backyard that usually provides year-round fruits so that I’m never without citrus for the kitchen. Since our house remodel, though, our tree has been fruit heavy – I’m not sure if that’s because all the construction dust and debris kept our tree from flowering or if the work crew took it upon themselves to “clean” the yard, taking some lemons with them. In either case, where I would normally turn down the offer of free lemons, I was actually happy to have some bright yellow back in the kitchen.

When I think of cooking with lemons, my sweet tooth usually has the loudest voice. But, for some reason, I wasn’t in the mood for another lemon cake or lemon cookies (although, I forgot how much I love this pull-apart loaf for brunch). I started looking for a savory application, something I could make for dinner that wouldn’t take hours. I found this Pork and Lemon meatball recipe on Serious Eats and immediately tweaked it based on what I actually had in the house, namely ground turkey, basil, and no pasta.

I honestly have no idea how the original recipe is (it sounds quite tasty) but I was pretty pleased with how dinner turned out. I served the meatballs on a bed of polenta, one of the quickest starches I know how to make off the top of my head. The only thing missing were some proper vegetables, that’s one side I’m always lacking when I make dinner. I feel like it just gets forgotten and seems like too much effort in addition to the main AND the starch (so, hey, if you’re ever coming over for dinner, feel free to bring a veggie! I probably won’t have one!)

The turkey base in these meatballs has a much lighter taste, which I think let the lemon and basil come through better. The light, bright, zesty flavors are definitely aligned for a nice summer meal, so maybe an orzo pasta might have been a better pairing than polenta. But, really, how can you go wrong with polenta, butter, and truffled cheese?

I don’t have a real recipe for polenta, since I always wing in based on what’s in the fridge. It’s never as decadent as polenta you get in restaurants, but it’s good and smooth and (I think) more appropriate for every day dinners. I do 1 part polenta to 4 parts boiling water (or chicken broth), a teaspoon of salt to start, 1 part cheese (if we have some), and a pat of butter. I stir, stir, stir on low heat until it’s smooth and then do a taste. Sometimes it needs more salt, sometimes more butter, and sometimes I’m already so hungry that as long as it’s cooked, I’ll eat it.

I’ve been enjoying getting back into the kitchen lately; I’m hoping it all translates to getting back to the blog, too. I’ve missed it here – I think Instagram has made me a lazy blogger!

Lemon Basil Meatballs
1 package ground turkey (I think Jennie-O’s is 20 oz?)
1 lemon, zested then juiced
1 c. panko
1 egg (I like to use egg as a binder, plus we have so many I use them any way I can)
1/4 c. grated parmesan
1 tsp. salt
5 anchovies, minced
1/4 c. minced basil

1. Gently mix the ground turkey with the panko, lemon juice, zest, parmesan, salt and basil.
2. Make a well in the middle of the turkey mixture and add the egg and anchovies. Break up the egg and gently incorporate it in the ground turkey.
3. Heat a large skillet on medium-high with a couple of swirls of olive oil.
4. Roll the turkey mixture into golf ball-sized, uh, balls and add to the skillet.
5. Brown the meatballs on all sides (you may have to do this in batches) and once they’re all browned, cover the pan and let them simmer on medium-low until cooked through.

After the meatballs are browned, I usually start the polenta. Then, by the time the polenta is done, the meatballs are definitely cooked and I just plate it up. If you want to get fancy, you can garnish the plate with more lemon zest and basil chiffonade, but usually no one in my house notices things like that.

Disclosure: Melissa’s Produce provided me with a box of produce (including the lemons) as part of the San Diego Food Blogger Challenge but I was not compensated for my review. As always, all opinions are mine.

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2 responses to “Lemon Basil Meatballs

  1. Yummy, those meatballs look awesome! I never really thought to add lemon to meatballs. Polenta is delicious, I love it. I discovered this year that I also love grits – but I added delicious things to it to make it more flavorful. I think I never seasoned it enough in the past. Cheese and butter are wondrous things.

    • I never thought to add lemon to meatballs, either, but now I know how delicious it is! I still haven’t tried grits, which I think is me just being silly since it’s not that different from polenta, right? Someone also told me that Denny’s serves grits, it’s just not on the menu (not that I go to Denny’s often, but now I wonder who else has secret-menu grits).

      On Wed, Jul 23, 2014 at 8:14 AM, Three Dog Kitchen wrote:


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