Defying Description

This meal combined a few favorites—meatballs, fresh pita, and garlicky yogurt sauce. I’m not sure what to say about it other than my guys thought it was alright, but I loved it and it made great leftovers for my lunches the next few days. I did adapt the recipe’s Middle Easternish (or is that Mediterraneanish?) flavors slightly for our tastes, most notably omitting the fennel seed, which is my bane in most sweet Italian sausages. As for the sauce, there were originally two: a yogurt dressing with cumin and a vinegar-based mint drizzle. I made my own variant, whisking drained yogurt with minced garlic, preserved lemon peel, dried mint from my garden, a little salt and sugar, and enough olive oil to make it manageable.

Pork Meatballs with Yogurt Dressing

I grind all my own spices in small batches of a few tablespoons at a time, so I just used the last of the ground cumin and coriander I had on hand already, probably a bit less than called for. I also ground the pork myself from boneless country ribs. Finally, the original recipe called for the use of a food processor, stand mixer, a saucepan and two different sized skillets, as well as various bowls; I used the processor, one large saute pan, and a mug for the yogurt sauce, which made a huge difference in the clean-up required. Putting the ground pork in the food processor, although briefly, also gives it a finer texture that is particularly reminiscent of lamb gyro meat, especially when combined with yogurt sauce and pitas.

For yogurt dressing
1 C full-fat Greek yogurt
1 T preserved lemon peel, minced
1 tsp dried mint
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1 T sugar, or to taste
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For meatballs
1 C crustless bread, torn into pieces (I used homemade breadcrumbs straight from the freezer)
2 T milk
3 T olive oil
Half a large onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 T cumin seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds, optional
1/2 tsp hot red-pepper flakes
2 1/2 lb ground pork, chilled
1 T kosher salt
2 tsp finely chopped parsley leaves
1 T finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 tsp dried)
4 T butter

For yogurt dressing, combine all ingredients, slowly whisking in oil last. Season to taste with salt and pepper, cover and refrigerate.

For meatballs, dump bread crumbs and milk in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse briefly. Meanwhile, combine coriander, cumin, fennel and pepper flakes in small skillet over medium heat and stir until lightly toasted and fragrant; remove from heat and grind to a powder in a spice grinder. Combine 1 T of oil with onion in a large saute pan over medium heat. Stir until sizzling, then stir in spices, cover, reduce heat to low and cook until onion is softened but not colored. Transfer to food processor with bread mixture and purée.

Dump the meat, salt, oregano and parsley in with the bread mixture, and pulse briefly, just until it all comes together. Form 1″ meatballs with your dampened hands or use a 2 T disher.

Return the saute pan to medium heat; add butter and remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. When butter has melted, reduce heat slightly and begin adding meatballs, allowing them to brown on the bottom, then turning gently to continue browning on all sides. Work in batches, transferring meatballs to a platter when they are cooked. To serve, stuff into pitas and drizzle with yogurt dressing. (I added some quickly sautéed orange bell pepper for an added dimension.) Serves 4-6.

Source: Adapted from The Wednesday Chef.

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