05 August 2014
Lamb meatballs with chive tzatziki
As most of you know, although the typical meal at our house is either vegetarian or vegan, I am actually an omnivore. Meat happens on limited occasion. This was one of them.
This time, I wanted to make a freezer stockpile of little juicy meatballs to use for emergency solo lunches. I wanted them to be full of flavor, but not so particularly spiced that I couldn't use them for a variety of applications. So I grabbed some lamb (the best of all red meats), added a handful of garlic, onion, and parsley, and went to town.
I decided to oven-bake these instead of frying them for several reasons. First, baked items cook with minimal attention. Second, you can sidestep the otherwise unavoidable barrage of hot fat particles burning you intermittently and greasifying everything in your kitchen. Third, this batch was big enough that it wouldn't all fit in my biggest frying pan at once. However, if you want to brave all these issues, you can absolutely cook these guys in the frying pan or cast-iron skillet of your choice. The latter would certainly let you achieve an excellent crust!
If you don't like lamb, you can go for pretty much any other ground meat you prefer, or use a blend of different meats. If you're planning on going for a very lean meat, such as ground turkey, you may want to mix it with some ground pork, so the fat content is still high enough to make a juicy meatball.
And, of course, you can always double or triple the recipe if you want to have meatballs in the freezer for the next few months. Either freeze the cooked meatballs in one layer on a cookie sheet and remove to a freezer bag when solid, or portion them into containers and freeze them that way. It's all good.
Makes 4 dozen small meatballs or 2 dozen large meatballs.
2 pieces bread to make approx 3/4 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk or another soaking liquid of your choice
1/2 small red onion
4-5 cloves garlic
1/2 red, yellow, or orange bell pepper
a mushroom or two if you have them lying around
1/4 bunch (approx 2 tbsp) chopped parsley
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp dried red New Mexico chile/your choice of red pepper flake
as much freshly ground pepper as you desire
1 lb ground lamb
Preheat your oven to 350F.
Start by making breadcrumbs. Grab a couple slices of bread and finely chop them with a chef's knife or in a food processor. Of course, if you have premade breadcrumbs around, you can definitely use those instead.
Put your breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Add your milk and let the breadcrumbs soak it up while you prep your other ingredients.
Mince your red onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, and parsley as finely as you can. It's important to chop everything super-finely so your meatballs cohere well. Again, if you have a food processor, you may want to use it.
Add all your chopped veg and herbs to the bowl, along with your salt, pepper, chile, and ground lamb. Mix well, using your hands to distribute all the different elements as evenly as possible.
Form your meatballs by pinching off a small chunk of your meat mixture and patting or rolling it together. I like small meatballs, so I made mine a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball. You can go up to the size of a golf ball or even larger if you prefer. Arrange your meatballs in rows, either on a rimmed cookie sheet or in a glass casserole dish with sides.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until your meatballs are cooked through but still juicy and tender inside. If you're making much bigger meatballs, you'll probably need to extend the cooking time to 30 or 35 minutes. They will be brown on the outside and exuding several tablespoons of hot liquid fat. (This is why it's important to use rimmed cookie sheets instead of flat ones.) If you like, pour off the fat and save it for sauteing greens later. Won't that be excellent?
Test for doneness by cutting a meatball in half, checking the color, and eating it. The tray above needed just a few more minutes in the oven to be fully browned.
Now you can either eat your meatballs right away or freeze them for later. I kept a few out for immediate eating and froze the rest, portioned out into small containers. This way, I'll be able to defrost and reheat one container's worth at a time. Then they'll go into soup, into a pasta sauce, on top of a big salad, or into a sandwich. Hooray!
What did I do with my first serving of meatballs? I put them in a wrap and had the most satisfying lunch on the planet.
I made a tiny batch of tzatziki to go along with my meatballs. There was no fresh dill in the house (although there is now plenty of dried dill around!), so I decided to change it up with some chives. Super simple.
Chive tzatziki for one
2 tbsp Greek yogurt, labneh, or strained full-fat yogurt
~2 tbsp chopped chives
~2 tbsp shredded or julienned cucumber, seeds removed
salt and pepper to taste
Mix all your ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings. Voila!
Next, use it to make:
A delightful lamb meatball wrap
flatbread, tortilla, pita, or naan of your choice
Warm a piece of flatbread in the toaster oven until flexible. This should take about 2-3 minutes at 275F. You can also do this on the stovetop in a frying pan.
Fill the warm flatbread with leaf lettuce, meatballs, tzatziki, avocado slices, and any other vegetable that sounds good to you.
Roll it up, skewer it with a toothpick or encase it in foil, and eat it with gusto.
Hooray! A delicious and satisfying lunch.
What are your favorite sandwiches lately?