I’m part Greek (remember? — we discussed it here), which means a few things: a) I have relatives named Athena, Agamemnon, Helen, and Tonis, b) I prefer feta in my pasta salad, and c) I grew up on pastitsio instead of lasagna. Oh, and d) I love lamb. I really love lamb. My heart goes pitter-patter at the thought of lamb anything (gyros, kebabs, etc.), so you can see why there was no way I could resist lamb and prune meatballs when I came across them in my new go-to cookbook, Chocolate and Zucchini. Lamb is my meaty, delectable cryptonite.
A lot of people aren’t into lamb meat, citing its distinct flavor and the undeniable cuteness of its, er, source. But I would urge anyone who’s on the fence about lamb and (of course) those of you who feel as passionate about lamb as I do to try this recipe. The prunes give the lamb a nice, subtle sweetness, and the orange zest adds a bit of brightness to the dish. These taste amazing with sour cream or Greek yogurt, nestled among a bowl of fluffy couscous.
If you’re feeling particularly Greek after polishing off a bowl of these meatballs, I won’t tell anyone if you smash a plate on the ground and shout, “Opa!” Just make sure it’s your own plate first, and not your Mom’s. Lesson learned is all I’m sayin’.
Lamb and Prune Meatballs
Courtesy of Chocolate and Zucchini
1 lb ground lamb meat (I found mine prepackaged at the butcher’s counter at Harris Teeter)
12 good-quality dried prunes, pitted and finely chopped
2 small shallots, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1/4 cup (packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped, plus a few for garnish
1 tablespoon (packed) freshly grated and finely minced orange zest, from about 2 oranges
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the meat, prunes, shallots, garlic, parsley, orange zest, allspice, egg, the 1 tablespoon olive oil, the salt, and pepper. Mix well with a fork. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes, or up to 8 hours.
2. Remove the bowl from the refrigerator. Wash your hands well, and keep them damp. Scoop out rounded tablespoons of the mixture and roll them into balls between your palms. Set aside in a single layer on two plates until you’ve used up all the meat. Wash your hands thoroughly again.
3. Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add half of the meatballs in a single layer without crowding. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring the meatballs gently around the pan to brown them all over. Set aside on a clean plate and cover with foil while you cook the second batch. Return the first batch to the pan, cover, and reheat for 2 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with parsley, and serve with couscous and Greek-style yogurt or sour cream.