August 26, 2013
Ground lamb is one of my secret protein weapons. It steps up an everyday burger, makes kebabs a snap, and ups an ordinary meatball. It’s also much easier on the budget, at $6-8 per pound; it’s a great way to serve lamb without a pricey rack or loin. Ground lamb is also less gamey tasting—which makes it a great introduction to lamb for your pickier eaters (young and old).
Packed with wonderful Mediterranean spices, these Moroccan lamb meatballs have been a hit at multiple dinner parties. Adding sautéed shallots to the meat mixture keeps it moist– a handy trick I also use for my ground beef burgers. Don’t let the toasting and grinding of the spices scare you off – it’s an easy step that completely enhances the flavor.
I make these often for entertaining because you can cook them before guests arrive, keeping them at room temperature until you’re ready to serve. If you want to heat them up a bit before you eat, put them in a low 200-degree oven for 10 – 15 minutes before serving time. These meatballs are great on their own, but pairing them with my tomato jam and easy yogurt dressing will make you look (and taste) like a culinary rock star. To complete the meal, serve with my Tasty Zucchini and Quinoa and you’re golden.
Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatballs
Makes one dozen meatballs
1 pound ground lamb
1 shallot, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon Ras el hanout*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Easy Greek yogurt sauce (recipe below)
* Ras el hanout is a Moroccan spice blend you can find it at Whole Foods or specialty or middle eastern food shops.
Over medium heat, toast spices in a dry pan until golden and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Pound all the toasted ingredients in a mortar and pestle until it resembles a fine grain.
Add about one tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and sauté minced shallots on med/low for ten minutes. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.
Using your hands, mix together ground lamb, spice blend and shallots until combined. Using an ice cream scooper (2 tablespoon size), scoop out and form your meatballs.
When ready to cook, in a 12″ cast-iron skillet or large sauté pan over medium heat, heat remaining olive oil. Once the oil hot, place meatballs arranging so they each have enough room — if you don’t have a 12″ skillet or use a smaller sauté pan but you’ll have to cook them in two batches . Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, rotating until golden brown all over.
Serve on lettuce leaves (I used butter head here) as a wrap with sliced avocado and a dollop of each tomato jam and easy greek yogurt sauce (see below), sprinkle with fresh cilantro and enjoy.
Easy Greek Yogurt Sauce
Makes 1 cup
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
Zest of 1 lemon
Healthy pinch of salt
Scant pinch of cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon best quality olive oil
Mix the all ingredients together and taste for seasoning.