Posted by: CJW | July 23, 2010

Spiced Lamb Meatballs

Recently, John and I used a gift card to a restaurant run by local restaurant emperor Tom Douglas. On the menu, they specified that the arugula was “Beacon Hill arugula.” This was amusing news to us as John’s arugula has been fiestier than ever this year– you hack it to pieces and it grows back within 3 days. It’s intensely peppery (in a delicious way) and has a texture that I’m not quite sure how to describe: kind of meaty really, more give to the teeth than arugula we otherwise get from the CSA or from the store. We wonder what it is about the soil in our BeHi neighborhood that is apparently producing such amazing arugula but I don’t want to think too much about it in case that means we’re getting some strong pollutants in our soil, leaching over here from the South Park area.

I bring this up because between our garden and our CSA so far this summer, I have been hard pressed to think of different ways to use up arugula. Good thing John’s declared it to be his favorite green. With this dish, I decided to make some spiced lamb meatballs and sit them up on some crunchy arugula with a drizzle of tzatziki. It was during one of the few very hot days we’ve had out here so I craved that cooling crunch of cucumber, yogurt and fresh greens when contrasted with spices like cinnamon, fennel, and cumin.

I set to work by combining ground lamb with those spices, a bit of grated onion for flavor and moisture, lots of fresh herbs, and for a hint of sweetness and contrasting texture, a little surprise– reconstituted golden raisins. I browned the meatballs in a pan before setting them in the oven to finish cooking through. The meatballs stood tall on a large handful of fresh arugula (a mix from our CSA and our garden), were dutifully drizzled with the yogurt/cucumber sauce, and topped off with more fresh herbs. With an additional side of crispy, pan-fried smashed baby red potatoes, this was such a fun tribute to Greek food and an entire meal– starch, meat, and vegetable– all on one plate. Lesser cleanup on a hot day is just fine with me!

Note: I bet these meatballs would be even better with the buttery, nutty crunch of pine nuts. Try adding maybe 2-3 tablespoons of them to the meatball mixture. This recipe can feed 3-4.

Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 tablespoon Montreal steak seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon each ground cumin and fennel seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon each fresh mint, parsley, and oregano, chopped
  • 1/2 small white onion, grated
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • olive oil
  • 1 bunch arugula leaves

Tzatziki

  • 6 oz plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 inch piece of cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced (yields about 1/2 teaspoon)
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 1 teaspoon each chopped mint and parsley
  • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a small bowl, add raisins and cover with water. Microwave on high for 1 minute or until water is steaming. Set aside, letting sit for at least 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine ground lamb, steak seasoning, cumin, fennel, cinnamon, 1 tablespoon of each of the fresh herbs, grated onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, and garlic. Drain the raisins and add to the mixture. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredients together until just combined, being careful not to over mix. Roll into 1 inch meatballs– you should get 17-18 in total.

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. When oil is hot, add 1/2 of the meatballs and brown on both sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. Set the meatballs on a foil lined baking sheet while you brown the second batch. When browned, add the remaining meatballs to the baking sheet and bake in oven for 7-10 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

While meatballs bake, combine the ingredients for the tzatziki in a small bowl, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. When meatballs are done cooking, plate 4-5 meatballs on a large pile of washed and spun dry arugula leaves. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of tzatziki on top, then sprinkle with remaining teaspoons of fresh herbs. Serve remaining tzatziki at the table if diners wish to add more.

CSA Count: 1

Arugula

Garden Count: 3

Arugula, mint, and oregano

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