I have a love affair with meatballs due to the fact that they are endlessly adaptable and absurdly easy. These are a tiny bit more labor intensive then your everyday turkey or beef meatball with red sauce but it's worth it. The chile sauce which you might think is unnecessary is totally necessary - it provides the perfect smoky and acidic counterpart to the gaminess of the lamb and any leftovers make for a pretty swell sandwich spread.
Chile-Cumin Lamb Meatballs
Recipe adapted slightly from Bon Appetit
3 pasilla chiles, seeds removed, chopped
1½ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet smoked paprika
1 garlic clove, chopped
½ cup olive oil
Meatballs and Assembly
¼ small onion, chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
¾ teaspoon fennel seeds
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more
1 large egg
1¼ pounds ground lamb
1 tablespoon rice flour or all-purpose flour
4–5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
½ English hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1½ tablespoons Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup plain sheep’s-milk or cow’s whole-milk yogurt
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
Crushed red pepper flakes (for serving)
Chile Sauce: Toast chiles, red pepper flakes, and cumin seeds in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing occasionally, until fragrant and cumin seeds are golden, about 3 minutes. Let cool. Working in batches, finely grind in spice mill, then transfer to a blender.
Add vinegar, paprika, and garlic to blender and blend until smooth. With motor running, gradually stream in oil and blend until combined. Transfer to a large bowl; season with salt.
Do Ahead: Chile sauce can be made 2 days ahead. Cover and chill.
Meatballs And Assembly: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Pulse onion, chopped garlic, parsley, oregano, sage, fennel seeds, coriander, cumin, and 1 Tbsp. salt in a food processor, scraping down sides as needed, until finely chopped. Add egg, lamb, and flour and pulse until evenly combined. Form lamb mixture into 1 ½" balls. Drizzle with olive oil and transfer to the oven.
Cook meatballs for 15 - 18 minutes or until cooked through. Transfer all meatballs to bowl with chile sauce and toss to coat.
Toss cucumber in a medium bowl with lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, and remaining 2 Tbsp. oil; season with salt and pepper.
Spoon yogurt into bowls. Evenly divide meatballs among bowls; top with dressed cucumber and mint and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.