Easy to make, with a beautiful color combination of the pistachios and pomegranate seeds. Ground dark-meat chicken thighs or fish fillets can be substituted for the ground lamb.
Serve with rice or noodles.
Make Ahead: The meatball mixture needs to be refrigerated for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
Servings: 30 - 45 meatballs
- For the meatballs
- 1 small onion, peeled and cut into quarters
- 1 1/2 cups shelled, roasted, unsalted pistachios, coarsely chopped, plus more for garnish (may substitute shelled hazelnuts)
- 1/2 cup plain dried bread crumbs
- Leaves from 1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped (1 1/2 cups packed)
- Leaves from 1 small bunch tarragon (1/2 cup loosely packed)
- Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime (1 tablespoon)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons sea salt
- 2 pounds lean ground lamb (may substitute boneless, skinless chicken thighs or fish fillets)
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil, melted unsalted butter or ghee
- 1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds, for garnish (available in containers at Whole Foods Market and Harris Teeter locations)
- Basil or mint leaves, for garnish (optional)
- For the glaze
- 3/4 cup pomegranate molasses, such as Sadaf brand
- 1/4 cup honey (may substitute grape molasses)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
For the meatballs: Combine the onion, pistachios, bread crumbs, parsley, tarragon, lime juice, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, cumin and sea salt in the bowl of a food processor; pulse to form a grainy paste. Transfer to a mixing bowl.
Add the ground lamb and egg; use clean, damp hands to knead the mixture for a few minutes, being careful not to overmix. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 day.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Use the oil or butter or ghee to grease a wide, nonreactive baking dish.
Shape the meatball mixture into 30 to 45 bite-size balls (about 1 1/2 teaspoons each). Place the meatballs in the baking dish and turn them to coat with the oil, leaving space in between. Bake for 10 minutes; the meatballs might look a little pink.
For the glaze: Meanwhile, whisk together the pomegranate molasses, honey, salt, black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes in a mixing bowl. Taste the glaze and be sure that it has a good balance between sweet and sour; add honey if the pomegranate molasses you have used is too sour.
Reduce the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Pour the glaze evenly over the meatballs; bake for 5 minutes to infuse them with the flavor of the pomegranate. Taste the glaze again; add honey or pomegranate molasses as needed to balance the flavors. The meatballs should be cooked through. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees to keep the meatballs warm until ready to serve.
Transfer the glazed meatballs and their pan juices to a deep serving dish; garnish with the chopped pistachios, pomegranate seeds and sprigs of basil or mint, if desired.
From "Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies, 25th Anniversary Edition," by Najmieh Batmanglij (Mage, 2011).
Tested by Frances Stead Sellers.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.