Did you ever notice when someone brings meatballs to a party they are always a favorite. Whether they are Italian, Swedish or the Spanish albondigas, they disappear in a flash. Thinking of the fast approaching holiday season I decided to develop a twist on this popular classic. I am always in search of something different to serve and eat so I love to take an old standard and give it an unexpected bump of flavor.
As most of my recipe creations, I start with what I have on hand. Since I have friends who raise pastured sheep living five miles from me, I am fortunate to always have a supply of lamb in the freezer. If you are not so fortunate or do not like lamb (what?), you can substitute beef or turkey. Using that as the base, I added Mediterranean spices cinnamon and cumin and fresh herbs, mint, and flat leaf parsley. For texture and a nutty flavor, I toasted some pine nuts and threw them in the mix. The result was a bite of freshness bursting with flavor and crunch.
To enhance the meatball experience I paired it with one of my all time favorites, Tahini Sauce. As its name indicates, it is made with tahini (ta-HEE-nee), a thick paste made of ground sesame seed. It has been used as a base for dishes such as hummus and baba ghanoush for many years but has gained popularity for use in salad dressings and sauce for falafel and other street food.
MEATBALLS with PINE NUTS and TAHINI SAUCE
Makes 5 dz. small size
Recipe by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
2 lbs. ground lamb or beef
¾ c pine nuts, toasted
¼ c fresh mint, finely chopped
¼ c fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 t ground cinnamon
½ t ground cumin
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
½ c onion, finely chopped (1/2 c)
1T sea salt
1t freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare a baking pan (11×13 inch) by coating the inside with a small amount of olive oil.
- Put the meat, nuts, mint, parsley, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a bowl and toss together with a fork until fully incorporated.
- Using a small scoop, form them into balls and place in baking pan so they are touching each other.
- Bake for 15 minutes or until meatballs are firm and cooked through (165 degree internal temp)
- Remove from oven and allow to rest in baking pan for 5 minutes.
Serve with tahini sauce.
½ c roasted tahini sauce (sesame paste)
Juice of one large lemon
1 garlic clove, pressed or grated on micro-plane
1T fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped fine
1T fresh mint, chopped fine
Pinch of cayenne pepper
Sea salt to taste
Warm water to thin if needed
- Mix tahini with ½ of the lemon juice and remaining ingredients.
- Add additional lemon juice to taste. If consistency is too thick, thin with warm water or additional lemon juice.
- Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
The beauty of these bite-sized delights is they can be served in a pita as a sandwich with cucumber, tomato and lettuce and a drizzle of sauce, great for lunch or dinner, or served as an appetizer with the sauce as a dipper. They carry well and need not be served hot. They are delicious at room temperature making them a perfect addition to any party. Short on time? Make ahead! You can completely make these a couple of days in advance, cover and store in the refrigerator, and just warm them a bit before serving.
I think you will agree, this recipe is a keeper. Crunchy, fresh and full of spicy warmth, your family and party guests are sure to be feeling it when you serve these small flavor bombs. Until next time, I would love to hear how you are spreading the love at your house, one dish at a time. A bite-sized bit of love is flowing from my kitchen to yours. Always, Jeanne