spiced lamb meatballs with yogurt tahini sauce and tabouleh

The blend of fresh herbs and multiple spices lends this dish an incredible depth of flavor. The meatballs are made with a mix of fresh parsley, fresh mint, ground cardamom pods, and one of my favorite spice blends - Baharat - which means "spice" in Arabic and is an all-purpose seasoning used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Lemon zest, red wine vinegar, and crisp fresh vegetables in the tabouleh salad help to cut through the richness and fat of the meatballs and tahini sauce. The tabouleh shares many of the same ingredients as the meatballs, which helps the two dishes complement one another. I would recommend pairing this dish with a full-bodied red wine such as a Syrah or Cabernet, or you could go with a spicy Zinfandel. 

 

  • Ground lamb (1 pound)

  • Red onion (1 cup total, finely diced; 1/2 cup for meatballs plus 1/2 cup for tabouleh)

  • Bread crumbs (1/3 cup)

  • Egg (1 egg, lightly beaten)

  • Fresh parsley (1 cup total, finaly chopped; 1/2 cup for meatballs plus 1/2 cup for tabouleh)

  • Fresh mint (1/2 cup, finely chopped)

  • Feta cheese (1 cup total, finely chopped; 1/3 cup for meatballs plus 2/3 cup for tabouleh)

  • Fresh ginger (1 teaspoon, finely chopped or pureed)

  • Fresh garlic (1 teaspoon, finely chopped or pureed)

  • Lemon zest of 1 lemon (separate half for meatballs and half for tabouleh)

  • Lemon juice of 1 lemon (approximately 4 tablespoons; reserve 2 tablespoons for meatballs, 1 tablespoon for tabouleh and 1 tablespoon for sauce)

  • Freshly ground cardamom (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Baharat spice (1 teaspoon)

  • Salt (1 teaspoon total; 1/2 teaspoon for meatballs plus 1/2 teaspoon for tabouleh)

  • Ground pepper (1/2 teaspoon)

  • Ground sumac (1/4 teaspoon for garnish on the meatballs)

  • Pearl couscous (1 cup)

  • Cucumber (1 whole, chopped into bite-sized pieces)

  • Baby tomatoes (1 cup whole, each tomato chopped in half)

  • Toasted pine nuts (1/4 cup)

  • Olive oil (2 tablespoons)

  • Red wine vinegar (1 tablespoon)

  • Tahini (1/3 cup)

  • Plain Greek yogurt (1/4 cup)

  • Water (2-3 tablespoons)

 

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  2. In a large mixing bowl, blend with your hands the ground lamb, 1/2 cup of red onion, bread crumbs, egg, parsley, mint, 1/3 cup of feta cheese, ginger, garlic, half of the lemon zest, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, cardamom, Baharat, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and ground pepper. The meatball mix should start to hold together and should not be too sticky. 

  3. Form the meatballs into golf ball-sized balls with your hands and set on a plate to rest.

  4. Heat 1 and 1/2 cups of water in a saucepan on the stove, with a drizzle of olive oil and sprinkle of salt in the water for seasoning. Once the water is simmering, add 1 cup of dried pearl couscous and cover. Cook for 7 or 8 minutes, until water is absorbed. 

  5. Remove the couscous from heat and fluff with a fork and let cool.

  6. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron pan on the stove. When the oil and pan are hot, nest the meatballs into the pan. Do not overcrowd the meatballs.

  7. Brown the meatballs on high heat on one side for 3 to 4 minutes; using tongs, flip the meatballs and brown on the other side for 2 to 3 minutes.

  8. Transfer the cast iron pan to the oven and finish cooking the meatballs for 12 minutes.

  9. While the meatballs are cooking, mix in a separate mixing bowl the remaining 1/2 cup of red onion, 1/2 cup of chopped parsley, 2/3 cup of feta cheese, remaining half of the lemon juice and lemon zest, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, chopped cucumber and tomatoes, pine nuts, olive oil andred wine vinegar. Toss with a large wooden spoon until well blended. 

  10. Add the couscous when slightly cool to the salad bowl. Blend and taste for proper seasoning. Adjust salt, lemon juice, and/or vinegar as desired. 

  11. Transfer tabouleh salad to a serving bowl and set aside.

  12. In a small bowl, mix tahini, yogurt, water, and remaining 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

  13. Remove meatballs from the oven when they are done. Drizzle tahini-yogurt sauce over the hot meatballs and garnish with additional chopped parsley, pine nuts, and sumac. Serve family style in the cast iron pan.