Lebanese Meatballs ~ you can’t help but fall in love with these tender beef and lamb meatballs made with tons of fresh herbs, spices, and tangy goat cheese!
I know. These look really good, don’t they? Little spiced meatballs are one of the things I make over and over again. But I do try and experiment with something a little different each time. This time I made them a little spicier and a little greener. I don’t know why, but flavors tend to get sucked up by ground meat dishes like meatballs and meatloaves. It helps to have a pretty heavy hand with the seasonings if you want the flavors to come through in the end.
We had these meatballs with the Hummus and Laffa Bread the other night. I like meatballs because you can have just a little meat as part of a mostly vegetarian dinner.
And once you have the meatball ‘formula’ down, you can tweak it any way you like. My formula is an egg and half a cup of some kind of bread crumb for every pound of ground meat. The rest is up for grabs.
For these meatballs I added a little extra in the way of spices—cardamom, cumin, allspice and lots of salt and pepper. Cinnamon can be substituted for the cardamom if you don’t have any. I love the exotic combinations of spices in Middle Eastern meats. You can experiment with other spices, too, like paprika, coriander, turmeric, ginger, nutmeg and chilies.
I also used a heavy hand with the greens…scallion, parsley and mint.
Just for a little more flavor and texture I added some crumbled goat cheese. You could also use feta.
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs (grind some fresh in your mini processor if you have any bread lying around, or use prepared crumbs)
- 1/2 cup finely crumbled goat cheese (you can use feta)
- 1/2 cup finely chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped mint
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp ground cardamom (or cinnamon)
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp olive oil for browning
- pine nuts for garnish
- 2 cups yogurt
- 1/4 cup tahini (optional)
- 1/2 cup cilantro, parsley, mint, or a combination, finely minced
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- salt to taste
- Set oven to 350F
- For the meatballs: Put everything except the olive oil into a large bowl. Make sure you egg is pre-beaten. With as little manipulation as possible, combine all the ingredients thoroughly together. The less you work the mixture the more tender your meatballs will be.
- Form into small balls and set on a plate. Using a scooper makes the process clean and easy. Mine was 1 3/4 inch.
- If you want to do this part ahead, you can, just cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate till you're ready to cook.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet and brown the meatballs, in batches, for several minutes, turning them once or twice in the pan.
- Transfer the meatballs to a baking sheet and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes, until done. The time will depend on the size of your meatballs, I like to use my cooking thermometer to check one; it should read about 160 degrees. They will continue to cook a bit after they're out.
- For the sauce mix up all the ingredients and thin with a little milk if it seems too thick. This can be made ahead.
- Serve the meatballs with the sauce and a few pine nuts for garnish.