They're quick because they contain few ingredients and no starchy fillers, and you roll them small.
Harissa delivers a lot of flavor in just a few teaspoons. It is a North African spice paste, carried at an increasing number of grocery stores and at Mediterranean markets. Look for small cans; I like Le Cabanon brand. Transfer the can's leftovers to small freezer-safe resealable plastic food storage bags and freeze for up to 3 months. Add harissa to tomato soup, meat or vegetable sauces or dips.
The original recipe calls for lamb; we also tried this with coarsely ground dark-meat turkey and liked the meatballs just as much.
The yogurt sauce can be thin or thick, depending on whether you use regular or Greek-style yogurt. Serve with warm flatbread or stuffed into warm pita pockets; or with instant brown rice, a little pomegranate molasses on the side and slices of cucumber or pickled onion.
Make Ahead: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 7 days.
- 2 large cloves garlic
- Leaves and tender stems from about 14 stems (1 3/4 ounces) cilantro
- Leaves from 1 small bunch (3/4 ounce) mint
- 3 teaspoons harissa (see headnote)
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1 pound lean ground lamb (from the shoulder or stew meat; may substitute 1 pound coarsely ground dark-meat turkey)
- 1 cup plain low-fat or nonfat yogurt
- 1 lemon
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with 2 layers of aluminum foil. Have a large ovenproof pan or cast-iron skillet at hand.
Mince the garlic and place in a mixing bowl. Finely chop the cilantro (to yield at least 1/4 cup). Finely chop the mint leaves and place in a medium bowl; add 2 tablespoons of the chopped cilantro. Add the remaining cilantro to the mixing bowl.
Add 2 teaspoons of the harissa, the 1/2 teaspoon of kosher or sea salt and the 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper to the mixing bowl, then add the lamb and use your (clean) hands to thoroughly incorporate. Wet your hands and use them to roll 1-tablespoon meatballs, placing them on the lined baking sheet as you work. You should have 38 to 40 meatballs. (If you use ground dark-meat turkey, form into about 34 1 1/2-inch meatballs.)
Use nonstick cooking oil spray to lightly grease the pan or skillet; heat over medium to medium-high heat. When it is hot, add half of the meatballs and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, turning them gently to sear on all sides; they will not be cooked through. Transfer the foil sheet with the remaining uncooked meatballs to a cleared countertop. Use a slotted spatula to transfer the par-cooked meatballs to the remaining (clean) foil on the baking sheet. Cook the remaining meatballs, leaving them in the pan or skillet.
Return the first half of par-cooked meatballs to the ovenproof pan or skillet; transfer to the oven and cook for about 6 minutes or until the meatballs are browned on the outside and just cooked through.
While the meatballs are in the oven, stir the yogurt and the remaining teaspoon of harissa into the bowl of chopped cilantro-mint. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze in the juice to taste, making sure to keep the lemon seeds from falling in. Stir until smooth and well combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Divide equally among individual plates, with dollops of the sauce. Serve warm.
Adapted from "The Butcher's Guide to Well-Raised Meat" (Clarkson Potter 2011), by Joshua and Jessica Applestone and Alexandra Zissu.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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