Over the weekend, my grocery-shopping trip had me in pursuit of ground turkey, which I’d seen advertised as on sale at a local store.
I was happy to see the deal because I had planned to buy the ground meat anyway, and this would let me further stretch my food budget. I planned to use the meat in one-pan dishes that I make and refrigerate or freeze in single-serving containers to dine on after work.
One reason that I was looking for turkey breast is its versatility. It has a fairly gentle flavor, so I can get creative with the herbs and spices.
Also, turkey is low in fat while providing protein in my diet.
As we were driving home after the marathon shopping trip, my sister and I were talking about using ground turkey, and my sister commented that more folks might add ground turkey to their diets if it came premixed with ground beef. Many people do mix the two at home for recipes, especially if they are on lower-fat diets or just trying to stretch meat budgets. And some people use turkey burger to reduce the fat in ground sausage.
I also know people who have used ground turkey in recipes for young children who find the taste of some red meats too intense. It’s a good way to get protein into the kids’ diets and gradually introduce more meat flavors.
My sister and I also talked about using turkey breasts in cooking.
This is another good lower-fat option. You can substitute them in most chicken recipes. Or, if you’re like some folks who would like to have turkey more than just on holidays but don’t want to cook a whole bird, turkey breasts are a good solution. Season them well, including use of sage or poultry spice, then bake with dressing.
Remember that turkey without the skin can dry out quickly when cooking, so be sure to keep the meat moist as it bakes. One solution is to put mushroom soup or other sauce over the breasts as they cook.
The following recipe from The Associated Press uses turkey breasts in a puttanesca recipe whose name shocked me when I heard it years ago, but whose flavor is hearty and preparation is quick.
If I were making the recipe, I would eliminate the salt and probably boost the amount of red-pepper flakes or even add some chopped green peppers for more flavor. Here is the AP story:
A healthy turkey-breast dinner with a sordid past
By JIM ROMANOFF
Boneless turkey-breast cutlets have almost no fat and cook quickly, making them an outstanding choice for healthy weeknight dinners.
Unfortunately, no fat can mean no flavor.
This recipe for quick turkey puttanesca uses a simple pan sauté technique to cook the cutlets, but the cure for humdrum flavor is in the spicy tomato sauce you make in the same pan.
Puttanesca is a traditional Italian pasta sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, capers, olives and spicy red pepper flakes. And puttanesca has as lively as story as it does a flavor.
Originally from Naples, puttanesca roughly translates to “pasta the way a streetwalker would make it,” the implication being fast enough to prepare between clients.
And fast is good, especially in combination with quick-cooking turkey cutlets, which can be purchased fresh and frozen. They usually are offered as large slices from the main lobe of the breast or as narrower pieces cut from the breast tenderloin.
If you like, you can buy a whole turkey tenderloin and slice it lengthwise to make your own cutlets.
Turkey-breast cutlets can be used in almost any recipe that calls for boneless chicken breast, though you’ll need to reduce the cooking time because it can toughen and dry out quickly.
When prepping the ingredients for the sauce, be sure to rinse the capers thoroughly. This washes away a good amount of the salty brine in which the capers are packed and leaves them with a cleaner flavor.
Stir a teaspoon of anchovy paste into the sauce if you want to add a bit more richness without adding much fat (or the fishy flavor you would expect). This versatile product is sold in tubes and can be found alongside the canned fish.
To soak up all the delicious sauce, serve turkey puttanesca with whole-grain pasta or a chunk of crusty bread.
QUICK TURKEY PUTTANESCA
Start to finish: 25 minutes
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound turkey cutlets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup pitted and chopped green olives
2 teaspoons capers, rinsed
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Salt and ground black pepper, to taste
In a shallow dish, combine the flour, salt and pepper. Dredge the turkey cutlets through the four mixture to coat both sides.
In a large nonstick skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the cutlets and cook until lightly browned on both sides and no longer pink at the center, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm.
Reduce the heat to low. Add the remaining oil and the garlic to the skillet, stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, oregano and red pepper flakes. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in parsley. Season the sauce with additional salt and pepper, if needed, and serve spooned over the turkey cutlets.
Makes 4 servings.
Nutrition facts per serving: 252 calories; 83 calories from fat; 9 g. fat (1 g. saturated; 0 g. trans fats); 45 mg. cholesterol; 12 g. carbohydrate; 30 g. protein; 2 g. fiber; 770 mg. sodium.