Are your taste buds tired of the same old same old?
Looking to spice up your dinner menu a bit this week?
Good, because this dish is gonna transport you to a brave new culinary world, and will totally rock those bored buds of yours.
I stumbled across this recipe in Bon Appetit some time ago and it immediately caught my eye. It also made me think of my friend Joumana and her awesome blog, Taste of Beirut, because I couldn't help but think that this was the kind of food she grew up on…..lucky girl. Sadly, I never got around to making the dish and sort of forgot about it until Joumana recently posted her own recipe for muhammara, a Syrian red pepper sauce. Hers looked so good that I knew I had to go back and find this recipe and finally give it a try…I am SO GLAD I did.
Grid and I slapped this dish together in pretty short order the other night. I set him loose on the muhammara and the yogurt sauce while I quickly sauteed the onions and formed the lamb meatballs. As we got a late start on things, we cooked off the meatballs in 2 skillets, one for each of us, in order that we could get through the bunch of them quickly. We served ours in lavash bread which was the only flatbread I could find at the market that day, it was OK, but a somewhat thicker Arabic bread, or an Indian naan bread would have made our sandwiches even tastier, and a little more stable.
All I can say is that eating this dish is like having a party in your mouth. The meatballs pack a punch from paprika and cayenne, but also offer a cooling sweetness from the fresh mint. The sweet-spicy combo of the muhammara and the caramelized onions, and the silken yogurt sauce temper the kick of the meatballs and bring the dish into delicious balance. My only suggestions (in addition to finding a better flatbread) would be to make a 1/2 batch of the yogurt sauce, and a double of the muhammara, as we found the proportions of the two as written in the recipes below a bit off, leaving us with extra yogurt sauce and not quite enough muhammara. You may want to ratchet back on the paprika and cayenne if you have anyone really sensitive to spice. We actually used 2 tablespoons sweet paprika and 1 tablespoon pimenton (smoked paprika) when making ours for a little extra dimension somethin'.
Enjoy! – Steve
- 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
- 2 tablespoons tahini (sesame seed paste)*
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 1/2 cup minced fresh mint
- 1/4 cup coarsely grated onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 11/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 12 5-to 7-inch-diameter soft round Middle Eastern flatbreads (preferably with no pocket)
- 2 tablespoons (or more) olive oil, divided
- 2 large onions, halved through core, cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices
- 1/2 cup finely chopped drained roasted red peppers from jar
- 1/2 cup water
- 2 tablespoons (or more) pomegranate molasses**
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
For yogurt sauce:
- Stir all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Cover and chill.
- Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix lamb and next 8 ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange on sheet.
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Place large sheet of foil on work surface. Heat large nonstick or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add flatbreads to skillet 1 at a time; cook until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Enclose in foil; place in oven to keep warm.
- Heat 1 tablespoon oil in same skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, about 8 minutes.
- Transfer onions to 1 side of large rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.
- Add 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet; heat over medium-high heat. Sauté half of meatballs until just cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs, adding oil to skillet if dry. Reserve skillet.
- Add roasted peppers to reserved skillet; stir 1 minute. Add 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses. Bring to simmer, scraping up browned bits. Cook until reduced to 2/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Mix in parsley. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and more pomegranate molasses, if desired. Transfer to small bowl.
- Arrange onions and meatballs on platter. Serve with warm breads, yogurt sauce, and muhammara.