October 17th, 2012
Do you tire of me carrying on about meatballs? (I hope that’s the first time you’ve been asked that question!) A quick scan of my Indian Spiced Meatballs post reveals that I’m a serious fan. And who wouldn’t be? Meatballs are a wonderful early finger food, a great way to introduce animal protein, and also a grown up favorite, whether at dinner or a cocktail party. Meatballs are pretty much a perfect all-around family food.
This recipe is a quick adaptation of the Greek-Style meatballs that my grandmother made for me when I was little. When she—and, really, all Greeks—make meatballs with rice, they are usually cooked in an avgolemono (egg-lemon) sauce. It’s delicious, but requires a bit of extra cooking time. When Greeks whip up quick sautéed meatballs like these they typically skip the rice and serve the meatballs plain or in a quick-cook tomato sauce.
I combined both approaches to make this super easy, quick cook meatball that has the added grain which makes these a more complete meal for little ones. My approach cuts cooking in half, to just shy of 30 minutes, especially when you see my trick for dealing with the onion and garlic.
These meatballs make a perfect weeknight meal served with a Greek salad. Ever heard of horiatiki? It translates “country salad” and is a type of Greek salad made without lettuce. At its most simple, horiatiki is just chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and crumbled feta. I like to add chopped red peppers, drained chick peas and scallion, too. Skipping the leafy greens makes this salad easy for kids to share.
So, all in, you can have meatballs with rice and a salad with cheese and chickpeas—a complete meal!—in about 30 minutes. It’s pretty genius. Don’t believe me? Watch:
Quick Greek-Style Meatballs
(Can be shared with finger food eating kids 10+)
Makes about 18 golf-ball sized meatballs
½ lb ground beef
½ lb ground lamb (you can substitute more ground beef or ground pork)
1/3 cup uncooked long grain rice (parboiled works best)
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
½ small yellow onion, finely chopped or grated
1 packed tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Pinch ground cinnamon
Pinch ground nutmeg
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup of water or broth
Chopped parsley, for garnish
1. In a large mixing bowl, using your hands, combine ground meat, rice, garlic, onion, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper until all of the ingredients are evenly distributed. Roll mixture into golf ball-sized meatballs.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet set over medium flame. Add meatballs, making sure not to overcrowd (you may have to cook the meatballs in batches). Brown the meatballs on one side, for about 3 minutes, then flip and brown on the other side. When all sides have browned, add water or broth and cover. Cook until meatballs are cooked through and rice is tender, 15-20 minutes. Cut meatball into age appropriate bite sizes for finger food eating children. Garnish the remaining meatballs with parsley for grown ups.