Monday, January 13, 2014

lamb meatballs with yogurt and pomegranate sauce.

I'm here to make a case for lamb since I don't think it gets the respect it deserves.  Beef and pork get most of the culinary love and it really makes me sad since lamb is rather wonderful.

Most people think of lamb as a spring food but for me it's the essence of winter eating.  Lamb pairs brilliantly with lots of warm Middle Eastern spices, and I find warm spices are best suited for cold wintry evenings.  These lamb meatballs are the best weeknight winter meal ever.  They come together in under 30 minutes, yet they taste as if you spent hours on them.  They exude elegance (the pomegranate sauce make s me swoon, so chic) and they smell so damm good as they cook.  The spice mix used here is assertive yet not overpowering and the yogurt sauce provides a nice bright and tart contrast to the spiced meat.  These work well stuffed in pitas for an easy weeknight dinner but I also love them served atop baby spinach as a substantial and unique salad (the yogurt sauces serves as an excellent salad dressing in that case).  

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt and Pomegranate Sauce
Recipe adapted from Serious Eats 

Serves 4

For the Lamb Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
½ cup chopped fresh mint leaves
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oil

For the Yogurt and Pomegranate Sauce

5 ounces Greek yogurt
1 ½ tablespoons milk or water
½ cup pomegranate seeds
¼  cup chopped fresh mint
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (optional)
½ teaspoon Aleppo pepper (optional)

4 pitas, warmed

For the lamb meatballs: In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, fresh mint, cayenne, cumin, coriander, Aleppo pepper (if using), cinnamon, salt, and garlic. Mix together with your hands until thoroughly mixed and slightly sticky. Form mixture into 16 balls, approximately two inches wide.

Adjust top oven rack to six inches below the broiler. Preheat broiler to high. Add oil to rimmed baking sheet. Add the meatballs, and roll them around until they are coated in the oil. Arrange in two rows in such a way that they will cook evenly under the broiler element. Transfer pan to the broiler, and cook until meatballs are browned on the top, 4 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove the pan, and use a pair of tongs to flip the meatballs. Return pan to the oven, and cook until browned on the other side, another 4 to 5 minutes. Remove and set pan aside.

For the yogurt and pomegranate seed sauce: In a medium bowl, whisk together the yogurt and milk. When smooth, add pomegranate seeds and fresh mint. Stir well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drizzle the pomegranate molasses and sprinkle the Aleppo pepper over the top.  Stuff each pita with about a quarter of the sauce and four of the lamb meatballs. Serve immediately.

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