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updated: 9/5/2012 10:18 AM

Recipe challenge week 1: 365 Everyday Value coconut milk, ground turkey, wheat berries and tomatillos

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Michael Pennisi

I sort of freaked out about seeing tomatillo on the list because I've only used them once in a salsa but I do use the other ingredients especially wheat berries.

The coconut milk made me think that the dish should have a Caribbean or Asian flair to it and the ground turkey just popped "lettuce wraps" into my head.

My second meal idea was a yellow curry that incorporated all of the ingredients. I also thought about making a meatloaf with everything but the coconut milk, which I would incorporate into a side of mashed plantains. I asked my wife, family and friends and the lettuce wraps were the consensus choice so I tried them first.

As I planned the recipe out I thought that adding coconut rice would make the lettuce wraps into a meal as opposed to an appetizer while also using-up the whole can of coconut milk.

The tomatillo was the hard part. I tried using the tomatillo in the finishing sauce, the rice, and the wraps but they tasted best in the rice. I did also make my second idea, the curry, which I liked better but my tasters preferred the lettuce wraps with rice.

Gary Midkiff

A few of my friends and family are good cooks and I had them on alert. When I first saw the list of ingredients I texted the list to them and my son-in-law (a stay-at-home dad who does most of the cooking) suggested the curry.

Then I contacted a few of my Mexican-American students and asked about tomatillos (which I had never cooked with before). From them I learned how well they blend with avocado and how nicely the taste sets off against cilantro. I love caramelized onions and thought they would provide a nice flavor balance inside the turkey cakes.

I figured that turkey patties or a turkey loaf would be a common way to organize the presentation and wanted something more unique which led me to think of the muffin tin. I researched beef/turkey loaf recipes to get a handle on ratios then researched wheat berries online to determine whether or not they should be cooked and decided that cooking them would be better if they were going to be part of the turkey rather than sprinkled on the greens. I spent about two hours in my kitchen assembling, recording ratios and cooking.

I was lucky that everything worked the first time through (probably because of my research). My recipe was tested on our son Max (a college sophomore), who gave it a thumbs-up, then later on my wife Carol who said not to change any ratios. After the photographer left Max consumed the "display" serving.

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