Greek Meatballs with Mint, Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce

Greek Meatballs with Mint - Dinner Is Served

I’ve been in this weird food limbo lately. Totally a seasonal thing as we’re beginning to transition from almost the end of winter to almost the beginning of spring.  In Chicago that usually means wild weather and temperature swings that some days feel like summer and 24 hours later we’re back in the deep freeze.

This causes quite a conundrum for those of us who like to cook seasonally.  I’m a little over soups, stews and roasts but not quite ready to brush off the Weber grill.  These savory Greek-style meatballs fill the gap perfectly.  A touch of bright spring with fresh mint and a cooling yogurt sauce.  Simmered in crushed tomatoes and served with egg noodles adds comfort to the dish.

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Greek seasoning, fresh mint and the addition of ground lamb bring the Greek elements to the dish, but if lamb isn’t your thing, feel free to reduce or omit all together and just go with beef.  Either way, make sure you’re using the best quality meat, preferably grass fed and/or freshly ground.

The sauce could not be easier to throw together while the meatballs are simmering.  Just one container of good-quality Greek yogurt, fresh parsley and crushed garlic.  Also feel free to toss  a little crumbed feta cheese over everything to complete the meal. Greek Meatballs with Mint3 - Dinner Is Served

If you’re looking for a awesome meatball-making-tool, this Medium Scoop from Pampered Chef scoops up a perfect 2 TBS portion of meatball mixture every time.  Also perfect for cookie dough and melon ball scooping.  A “must have” for the well stocked kitchen and only $18!

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Until next time, eat well, be well and love lots.  Or, as they say in Greece: Yamas!

Greek Meatballs with Mint Cover - Dinner Is Served

Greek Meatballs with Mint, Tomatoes and Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 pound ground beef (either 90% or 85% lean)
  • 1/2 pound ground lamb
  • 1 1/2 TBS finely chopped fresh mint or 2 tsp dried
  • 1/2 cup soft bread crumbs (see Note 1>)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tsp Kosher salt (reduce to 1/2 tsp if using Cavender’s Greek Seasoning)
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Greek seasoning (either Savory Spice Mt. Olympus Greek Seasoning or Cavender’s All Purpose Greek Seasoning)
  • All purpose flour
  • 2 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 28-oz can whole, peeled tomatoes, undrained
  • 1/2 tsp dried basil

Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 carton plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley

Buttered Egg Noodles for serving (or buttered orzo or pita bread)

Crumbled feta cheese for serving (optional)


Combine ingredients for yogurt sauce and set aside.

For meatballs, combine beef, lamb, mint, breadcrumbs, eggs, onion and seasonings in a large bowl.  Mix gently until combined. Portion out about 2 TBS sized meatballs, rolling gently and place on a parchment lined sheet pan.  Place flour in second sheet pan or shallow dish.

Heat 2 TBS vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium high heat.  Roll about 10 meatballs in the flour.  Dust off the excess, then brown in the oil, shaking pan and rolling meatballs so that all sides brown.  Adjust heat as necessary to avoid scorching.  When meatballs are evenly browned.  Remove to a paper towel lined plate and repeat with remaining meatballs until they have all been browned.

Wipe out skillet and discard any oil or grease.  Empty can of tomatoes into skillet and using your hands, crush whole tomatoes.  Add in basil, then return meatballs to pan.  Bring to a simmer, then cover, reduce heat and continue cooking until meatballs are cooked through and tender (about 15-20 minutes).

Serve alongside buttered noodles or with pita bread, the yogurt sauce and a Greek salad.

Serves 4

 

Note 1> Food processors do a great job of turning every day bread into fresh bread crumbs.  Just coarsely break apart bread and pulse a few times.

 

 

Spring Lamb Stew w/ Spinach and Chick Peas

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Does it feel like I spend an inordinate about of time talking about the weather?  Mostly…COMPLAINING about the weather! Maybe it’s a “Chicago” thing, I don’t know.  Our seasons seem so jumbled lately.  A mild winter, followed by a cold spring and delayed summer. Or a blistering hot summer that carries on till fall.  As I write this post, I am staring out at a sea of mud and puddles in my back yard. Grey skies and drizzle.  Spring…sigh.

Thankfully, I always have a good recipe in my back pocket, to make us happy even when the weather is getting us down and this Spring Lamb Stew is perfect for those chilly spring evenings when winter just won’t let go.Spring Lamb Stew3 - Dinner Is Served

Especially if you’ve been stuck in the beef stew rut, this stew is a welcome change.  Very simple ingredients that require minimum prep time and best of all: it’s ready in a little over an hour!  I imagine if you have one of those fancy “Instant Pots”, you could probably pull this off in no time! Spring Lamb Stew - Dinner Is Served

Also love this recipe because it offers something a bit different that your typical “run of the mill” lamb stews.  Chick peas (See Resources section after recipe) and an abundant amount of fresh spinach at the end, add a nice touch of texture and color, not to mention health benefits!  If chick peas aren’t your thing, definitely feel free to substitute canned white beans.Spring Lamb Stew4 - Dinner Is Served

Also recommend serving over mashed potatoes or soft polenta to complete the meal and of course some red wine and plenty of candles to make you forget all about Mother Nature’s wrath.

Until next time, be well, eat well and love lots!20170326_014157478_iOS

~Spring Lamb Stew with Spinach and Chick Peas~

  • 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pounds of lamb stew meat, cut into 1-inch pieces (see Note>)
  • Garlic powder, Kosher salt and coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3 TBS olive oil
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups pieces peeled carrots (1/2-inch pieces)
  • 1 15-ounce can chick peas (or canned white beans), drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • 1 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1 8 or 10-ounce package ready-to-use spinach leaves
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Piece of parchment paper, cut to fit inside pot

Pat the meat dry with paper towels and season all over with garlic powder, salt and pepper.  In a large pot, heath olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering.  Add stew meat in one layer and leave undisturbed for about 5 minutes. Then turn and continue browning about five more minutes.  Add onions and carrots and continue to brown, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften (about 5 minutes longer).

Stir in tomato sauce, chicken stock, chick peas and lemon juice and bring to a simmer. Carefully lay parchment paper over the surface of the stew.  Cover with lid and reduce heat.  Simmer until stew meat is tender, about 1 hour.

Remove lid and discard parchment paper. If stew seems too dry, just add a little more stock to your liking.  Add spinach by the handful, stirring. Cover and cook until spinach wilts, about 4 minutes.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve over mashed potatoes or polenta, with lemon wedges.

Serves 4

NOTE> Lamb shoulder chops are usually your best bet for stew meat, unless your butcher or grocery store happen to have meat already cut up.  If purchasing shoulder chops, be sure to purchase about 2# to yield 1 1/4# of stew meat.

-RESOURCES-

chickpeas

Evidence of chicken pea (aka garbanzo bean) consumption dates back to thousands of years B.C. This legume is known for its versatility, health benefits (high in fiber, iron and protein) and is used widely through many different cuisines.  They can be roasted, added to soups, stews, salads and pureed for dishes like my world famous hummus.

Canned chickpeas are widely available but the quality varies, as this tasting panel from Fine Cooking Magazine discovered.  Their #1 pick: Goya brand chick peas, followed by Pastene (a brand I have never seen here in the Chicago area).  I also think La Preferida brand to be superior as well.  So next time you’re in the market for best quality canned chick peas, head to the Hispanic section instead of the canned vegetable aisle!

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Marinated Red Onions, Dill, and Feta

As an amateur food blogger, I struggle with the balance of photos versus prose.  That Pioneer Woman sure does go for the photos, doesn’t she!  Every ingredient is beautifully photographed, right down to the pinch of salt.   Some find that helpful and others may find it annoying.  Either way, her photo-happy blogging resulted in two cookbooks along with a show on Foodnetwork.  Maybe photo bombing is the way to go!
Unfortunately I am no Ansel Adams in spite of having a pretty slick camera.  I also have very little patience for dropping my knife and setting up the perfect shot or rearranging my garnish before I dive in and eat.  With me, it’s pretty much one photo and lots of prose.  The down side of that is I am so darn fussy about my writing, it can take me hours to compose a blog post, check for typos and glaring grammatical errors, such as the run on sentence I am now writing.
So this time around let’s do a bit of both: a few photos and a few words of praise for this fabulous, fresh summer meal.  Love the burgers and marinated onions.  And I could seriously sit down and devour an entire plate of feta cheese drizzled with dill and olive oil.
Now for the photos, then the recipe.  See how easy this is!

Ingredients assembled and yes that fresh dill is from my garden!

Marinated onions – aren’t they pretty!

Tangy feta with olive oil and fresh dill. Major yum!

Grilled Lamb Burgers with Marinated Red Onions, Dill, and Feta

1-1/4 lb. ground lamb (or a mixture of ground lamb and ground beef)
1 1/2 tsp. sweet paprika
2 tsp. dried oregano
1 small clove garlic, minced and mashed to a paste
Kosher salt + a pinch of black pepper
6 oz. feta, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 8)
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbs. chopped fresh dill
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 Tbs. red-wine vinegar
1 teaspoon granulated sugar
4 plain or whole-wheat pita breads, warmed
4 thin slices tomato
8 thin slices English cucumber

Prepare a medium charcoal or gas grill fire. Clean and oil the grill grates. Gently mix the lamb with the paprika, oregano, garlic, and 1 tsp. salt. and a pinch of pepper.  Form into four 1/2-inch-thick patties (this can be done several hours in advance).
On a large plate, lay out the slices of feta and sprinkle with the olive oil and 1 Tbs. of the dill. In a small bowl, toss the onion with the vinegar, sugar, 1/2 tsp. salt, and the remaining 1 Tbs. dill, and let sit for10 to 15 minutes or up to an hour at room temperature.
Grill the burgers on one side until they have good grill marks, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until it has good grill marks, too, and the burgers are just light pink inside (make a nick with a paring knife), about 5 minutes for medium doneness. Serve the burgers in the warmed pita with the feta, tomato, cucumber, and a heaping teaspoon of pickled onions.
Serves 4

Lamb Patties with Yogurt Sauce

 

Sauce

1 carton (8 oz) plain yogurt, preferably Greek-style

½ cucumber, peeled, diced

1 TBS grated onion

1 Tsp. fresh mint leaves

¼ tsp each: prepared horseradish, salt

 

Patties

1 pound ground lamb (or ½ lb each: ground beef round, ground lamb)

1/3 cup each: dried coarse bread crumbs, milk

1 egg

1 TBS chopped fresh parsley

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

4 pita pocket breads, split open on one end

Lettuce leaves, tomato wedges

 

For sauce, mix all ingredients in small bowl.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

Mix lamb, bread crumbs, milk, egg, parsley, garlic, salt and pepper in large bowl.  Shape into 4 patties.

Pan-fry in large non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned on both sides and medium-rare in center, about 8 minutes.  Serve immediately in pita bread topped with lettuce, tomato wedges and yogurt sauce.

 

Serves 4