Saturday, December 21, 2013

Lamb Meatballs with Yogurt Sauce

This year most of my immediate family will be spending Christmas with us in sunny south Florida. It’s the first time in decades that we’re able to be together for the holidays, so it's cause for celebration!

Easy Midia Dolma
Our Christmas noon-time meal will be at a restaurant, but after that, everyone will come to our home to relax and catch up. Instead of a sit-down evening meal, we'll serve a casual buffet with some of our favorite nibbles – easy midia dolma, mini cheese boregs and paklava bites, to name a few. I plan to add a lamb meatball recipe to the mix as well. These are perfect as an appetizer, and can be cooked a day in advance to save time. (Recipe follows.)

Mini Paklava
We hope your Christmas will be filled with joy and memories you will treasure!

Lamb Meatball Appetizer
Lamb Meatballs with Currants and Pine Nuts – and - Yogurt Sauce

Mint-Yogurt Sauce Ingredients: (Best made one day in advance)
    1 cup plain yogurt
    1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
    1 garlic clove, minced
    1 Tbsp. lemon juice
    Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions for Yogurt Sauce:
   In a small bowl, mix the yogurt with the mint, garlic and lemon juice. Season the yogurt sauce with salt and pepper; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Meatball Ingredients:
    3 tablespoons dried currants
    3 tablespoons pine nuts, coarsely chopped
    ¼ cup coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
    1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 tsp. Aleppo red pepper, or paprika
    Kosher salt and pepper to taste
    1 ½ lbs. ground lamb (ground beef or ground turkey may be substituted)

Directions for Lamb Meatballs:
1. Place the currants in ¼ cup warm water for 5 minutes to rehydrate; drain and pat dry.
2. For a chunky texture, in a small mixing bowl, combine the currants, pine nuts, lemon juice, ground cumin, ground coriander, Aleppo red pepper, and Kosher salt and pepper.
(Alternately, for a smooth texture, combine these ingredients – except the meat - in a food processor to create more of a paste.)
 3. In a large mixing bowl, add the currant – seasoning mixture to the ground lamb. Using your hands, gently mix until well-combined.
4. Shape into balls using about 2 Tbsp. of the meat mixture for each. Set the meatballs on a plate, cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate until ready to cook. NOTE: Remove meatballs from refrigerator about 15 minutes before cooking.
 5. Lightly oil a non-stick skillet then warm it over medium-high heat. Add meatballs, without crowding the pan, and cook on all sides until meatballs are thoroughly cooked. Drain any excess fat from the skillet.
6. Place cooked meatballs on paper towels to absorb any excess fat, then place them on a parchment paper lined baking sheet in a warm (200°F) oven. Continue until all meatballs are cooked. Keep meatballs warm until ready to serve.
Serve immediately with mint-yogurt sauce.

NOTE: If cooking the meatballs a day ahead, refrigerate them in a covered container. Heat in a preheated 350° oven on a foil-lined baking pan for about 10 to 15 minutes or until warmed through; serve with mint-yogurt sauce.

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