Cookbook Review: Small Victories

Becoming a confident cook means mastering one delicious thing at a time, taking pleasure in each small victory. That’s the gift Julia Turshen shares here, and it’s one she has learned from her rich life in food. After preparing thousands of meals for bestselling cookbooks and as a private chef all over the world, she knows that celebrating the small achievements is the sure way to become a comfortable, intuitive, and inventive cook. Small Victories puts all of those years of learning into your hands, no matter how new to cooking or how practiced you are.

In these pages, Julia shares not only more than 95 recipes but also hundreds of recipe variations and many more lessons to demystify the process of truly great cooking. (Try adding a few drops of water to your egg-cooking pan to create perfectly runny yolks without undercooked whites, or boiling potatoes before roasting them for the crispiest exterior.) Not one for fads or flashy techniques, Julia teaches the basic lessons of cooking and the endless inspiration that flows from even one small victory. And her recipes are delicious!

More than 160 mouth-watering photographs from acclaimed photographers Gentl + Hyers provide beautiful instruction and inspiration, and a gingham spine elevates this kitchen resource into an alluring gift for both beginners and accomplished home cooks.

Refreshingly original and unabashedly personal, this encouraging book simplifies the process of making food.

Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs, is available at and

Turkey + Ricotta Meatballs

Serves 8, or 4 with lots of leftovers (makes about 30 meatballs)


The first thing I ever cooked for my wife, Grace, were these meatballs. I made the mixture
at my apartment, then packed it up with a box of pasta, ingredients for sauce, and a pot (she
told me she had only a skillet) and took it all to her apartment . . . which soon became my
apartment, too. A small victory here is not only about getting someone to marry you (!),
but also about making meatballs that are incredibly light and tender by incorporating a generous
amount of ricotta cheese in the mixture. In fact, I’ve found that by adding ricotta, you
can skip the usual bread crumbs and eggs (which also makes this recipe gluten-free, if that’s
important to you)—I love any addition that allows you to let go of a few things.

Another small victory is baking the meatballs instead of frying them. It’s much less messy and so
easy—win-win. Please note that while most of the recipes in this book serve four, I’ve made
this one a bit larger because whenever I make meatballs, I like to make a ton so that I can
freeze some. That way, I can have meatballs on the spur of the moment. I thought you might
like that too, but feel free to cut the recipe in half if you prefer. Serve the meatballs with
pasta, polenta, rice, garlic bread, or just on their own! Whichever way you choose, be sure
to sprinkle them with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese.


Two 28-oz [794-g] cans whole peeled tomatoes

7 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

7 garlic cloves; 4 thinly sliced,

3 minced

Kosher salt

1 cup [40 g] fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

1 cup [40 g] fresh Italian parsley leaves, finely chopped

1 ½ cups [300 g] fresh whole milk ricotta cheese

1/2 cup [50 g] finely grated Parmesan cheese

2 lb [900 g] ground turkey (preferably dark meat), at room temperature


Pour the contents of the tomato cans into a large bowl (set the cans aside) and crush the tomatoes
with your hands (this is a messy but fun job, and a very good one for children). Rinse one of
the cans with about ¼ cup [60 ml] water, pour it into the second can and swish it around to
get all the excess tomato out of the cans, and then pour the water into the tomato bowl.

In a large saucepan or pot over medium-high heat, warm 3 Tbsp of the olive oil, add the
sliced garlic, and cook, stirring, until it begins to sizzle, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes
and a very large pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer,
stirring every so often, until it is slightly reduced and has lost any tin-can taste, about
30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 425°F [220°C]. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Drizzle
2 Tbsp olive oil on the baking sheet and use your hands to rub it over the entire surface of
the sheet. Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the minced garlic, basil, parsley, ricotta, Parmesan, turkey, and
1 Tbsp salt. Blend everything together gently but authoritatively with your hands (they’re the
best tool for the job) until well mixed. Then, use your hands to form the mixture into golf
ball–sized meatballs; the mixture will be sticky, so wet your hands with a bit of water to help
prevent the meat from sticking to them. Transfer the meatballs to the prepared baking sheet as
you form them (it’s okay if they are touching a little). Drizzle the meatballs with the remaining
2 Tbsp olive oil and roast until they’re browned and firm to the touch, about 25 minutes.

Use tongs or a slotted spoon to transfer the meatballs to the simmering sauce (discard whatever
juice and fat is left on the baking sheet). Cook the meatballs for 10 minutes in the sauce (they
can be left in the gently simmering sauce for up to 1 hour) and serve.


FOR SAUSAGE AND RICOTTA MEATBALLS, instead of ground turkey, use 2 lb [910 g] of your favourite sausage meat. Just take it out of its casings and proceed as directed. I like using half sweet and half spicy Italian sausage.

FOR A SLIGHTLY MOROCCAN RIFF, use ground lamb instead of turkey and finely crumbled feta instead of Parmesan. Leave out the ricotta. Add a handful each of toasted pine nuts and raisins to the mixture, and use mint instead of basil. Add a cinnamon stick to the tomato sauce (remove it before serving the meatballs).

Recipe taken with permission from Small Victories: Recipes, Advice + Hundreds of Ideas for Home Cooking Triumphs, published by Chronicle Books.


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