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Lean turkey has become “the thing” lately in Weight Watchers groups.

If you are familiar with Weight Watcher’s point system, lean turkey is now  points! Skinless white meat turkey is a rich source of protein, low in fat, and also a source of iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B6 and niacin. Let’s have at it!

I’ve been working on several ground turkey recipes over the past few months. Here’s a turkey meatloaf with some fennel seeds added for flavor interest. At a recent wine tasting in Solvang at Lucas & Lewellen’s Tasting Room, I stumbled upon a really good pairing for this dish.

Turkey Meatloaf

1 lb. ground lean turkey

½ large onion finely diced

1 green bell pepper, finely diced

1 c. fresh bread crumbs

1 egg, slightly beaten

3 Tbsp. ketchup

¾ tsp. fennel seeds, crushed

Cajun spice blend (like Tony Chachere), or garlic salt

Marinara Sauce

28 oz. can whole tomatoes

¼ c. red wine

Cloves, garlic crushed and finely diced

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

2 Tbsp. fresh basil, chopped

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1 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped

Combine ground turkey, diced onion and bell pepper, bread crumbs, egg, ketchup, and spices and blend thoroughly.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Transfer to a 9-by-13-inch casserole and form into a loaf so that the sides as well as the top is exposed to the heat. This will help the browning process.

Place the meatloaf into the oven when it reaches 350 F and bake for 1 hour.

Meanwhile, prepare the marinara sauce.

Puree canned tomatoes in a blender. Add all remaining ingredients except fresh basil and parsley and buzz again. Pour into a 2-quart saucepan under medium heat and bring to a slow boil. Remove from heat.

Stir in fresh basil and parsley just before serving. You’ll be surprised how bright the herbs are by saving them to the very end and adding them just before serving.

Plate meatloaf and serve with marinara sauce. I like to let people ladle the sauce themselves. Invariably, someone will ask, “Do you have any ketchup?” Oh well.

Pair this meatloaf and marinara with Lucas & Lewellen’s 2014 Santa Barbara County Cabernet Franc. It’s got something on the nose that reminds me of fennel, or something similar, and will pair well with the meatloaf, while standing up to the sauce with its firm structure and smooth body.

Cabernet franc is a very old variety which is still dominant in parts of the Loire Valley and Bordeaux. Warm summer temperatures allowed these grapes to fully ripen, giving this wine color, body, flavor and aroma. This cabernet franc is a beautiful deep ruby color and slightly oaky. It exhibits themes of warm earth, dark chocolate, and sage followed by ripe, chewy tannins and a long rich finish.

Enjoy!

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John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at sacredmeals@comcast.net.

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