April 3, 2014

Lamb Meatballs, Two Ways

This is a long post but bear with me.

In the past year or so I have realized that I LOVE lamb. Like I want to eat it all the time. I don't, but if it is an option when we go out to eat I will generally order it in some form. But that being said, I had never attempted to cook anything with lamb.  This little meatball recipe sure did make me happy and I am looking forward to eating the leftover stew tonight and cooking with lamb again soon!

If you are not accustomed to lamb, this stew definitely does not have an overwhelming lambiness to it, but the essence is there.  This stew is a perfect springtime dish because though it does have the lamb, it is really pretty light, filled with greens, and beautiful to look at, thanks to the red chard stems. Another thing I love about meatballs in general is that you can make a ton of them all at once and then use them however you see fit! I saved some out of the stew for us to have pita wraps the second day, which breaks up the monotony of eating the stew for multiple days in a row. If we would have had more lamb I might have doubled the recipe and froze a bunch, but alas we were not able to get much lamb. This type of double duty cooking is my fave and is a good way to not waste food!

I mixed together a couple different meatball recipes because the original stew recipe meatballs sounded too plain and the other one from The Oregonian Cookbook had a lot of different seasonings I thought would work well, so I omitted just one (dill) and used slightly less of all of them.  It worked out beautifully.  Also I did not use orzo, as the original recipe suggested, but instead tossed in some leftover rainbow Israeli cous cous that I had in the fridge. It was perfect!

First up, the stew:

Lamb Meatball and Swiss Chard Stew
Adapted from Real Simple and from The Oregonian Cookbook
Serves 4-6

For the Meatballs:
1 lb ground lamb (our butcher did not have a full pound of lamb so I amped down all the ingredients somewhat.)
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp dry oregano
1/4 tsp dry thyme
3/4 tsp cumin seeds, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 Tbsp olive oil

For the Stew:
1 large bunch Red Chard, stems chopped and leaves sliced, separated
5 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup small pasta such as orzo, stars, leftover Israeli cous cous, which is what I used
salt and pepper 
plain yogurt for serving (optional)

Make the meatballs:
1. Combine the eggs, garlic, bread crumbs, paprika, oregano, thyme, cumin, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. Add the lamb and gently mix with your hands until just combined. Form the mixture into meatballs about an inch in diameter (I had 28 meatballs out of about 2/3 lb).

2. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs in a single layer, turning occasionally, until browned all over, 4 to 6 minutes (longer if your meatballs are larger). Transfer meatballs to a plate and reserve the pot to make the stew!

Make the stew:
1. Once your meatballs are removed from the pan, turn down the heat to medium and toss in the chopped chard stems.  Cook, stirring, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes.  

2.Add the chicken broth and reserved meatballs (save some for another use if you wish!) and bring to a boil.  Toss in your uncooked pasta if you are using orzo or some such (if you are using something leftover like I did, toss it in with the chard in the next step!). Reduce heat and simmer to let the flavors meld and the pasta cook, about 10 minutes or until the pasta is to your desired consistency. 

3. Once the pasta is cooked, fold in the chard leaves (and your pre-cooked pasta if that is what you are using). Serve warm topped with the yogurt, if desired.  

Look how pretty!
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The next day, take those leftover meatballs that you did not toss into your stew and make a pita sandwich with roasted veggies and a super delicious cucumber mint yogurt sauce on the side! You will not be disappointed with this 'leftover' meal!  You can use any veggies to roast, but I thought the sweet potato and asparagus were especially good with the yogurt sauce. I also put some of this sauce on my meatball gyro because dang it was delicious!

Lamb Meatball Gyro with Roasted Veg and Cucumber Mint Yogurt sauce
Adapted from The Oregonian Cookbook 
Serves 2

For the vegetables:
1 sweet potato
1 small bunch asparagus
olive oil
salt and pepper

For the yogurt sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1 small cucumber, peeled and finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh mint
1 tsp lemon zest
1 teaspoon kosher salt

For the pita
8 - 10 already cooked lamb meatballs (see above!)
2 pita breads
Roasted garlic hummus (I like King Harvest brand)
1 Roma tomato, sliced
2 leaves romaine or butter lettuce, chopped
crumbled feta cheese
1. Make the yogurt sauce and let it hang out for a while to get extra delicious. Place the yogurt in a medium bowl. Stir in the cucumber, herb, lemon zest, and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. (This yogurt sauce recipe makes a bit more than you will likely use at one time so chop it in half or use it for something else! dip, salad dressing, another gyro-type thing, etc.)

2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop your sweet potato into small bite sized chunks. Snap off the hard ends of the asparagus. Toss them all with olive oil, salt and pepper, and a bit of paprika. Roast in the oven until both are softened perfectly, about 15 minutes, tossing them around once or twice if you think of it. 

3. While the veggies are in the oven, warm up your meatballs. You can either toss them onto the sheet pan with the veggies or toss them into a skillet on the stove on medium heat. You just want to warm them up to 165 internal temp.

3. When your veggies are cooked, remove them from the oven and throw your pitas into the still warm oven to soften them and warm them up.  

4. Spread 2 Tbsp of hummus on each warm pita. add the lettuce and tomato slices.  Place on your warmed meatballs and sprinkle with feta cheese.  Put some of the veggies on the side with a big dollop of cucumber yogurt sauce and gobble it up! I put some of the sauce on my meatballs too because it was just so delicious!

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oh and here is a video of making the meatballs and stew!

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