I don’t know about you, but sometimes I want a change from the old favorites – something that will provide some variety while not sacrificing the satisfaction factor. And what could be bad about meatballs? Well, these are Greek meatballs. Simple to make, and very good in a subtly spiced tomato sauce with olives.
I found myself with a pound or so of ground lamb after making another dish, and went looking for something to do with it. Based on a recipe from an old Greek cookbook I had, this one is my own take on “soutzoukakia.”
For the meatballs:
2 potato rolls (hot dog or hamburger type)
1 lb ground lamb
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tsp ground cumin (I highly recommend grinding it fresh in a spice grinder or a mortar&pestle)
1 egg lightly beaten
¼ cup all purpose flour
salt & fresh ground pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil for frying
Soak the rolls in a little bit of milk for a few minutes, then drain and squeeze out excess. In a large bowl combine the rolls, lamb, garlic, cumin, egg, salt, and pepper and mix with your hands. Sorry, meatballs have to be mixed by hand – get over it. If you mix with a spoon or a kitchen machine you won’t get the right texture.
After mixing, take small handfuls of meat (a little bigger than a golf ball) and roll them into an oblong shape like a small sausage. When all the meat has been used, put the flour on a large plate and roll the meatballs in the flour to coat.
In a large deep skillet, heat 3 Tbsp oil and fry the meatballs until they are uniformly golden. Lift them out and put them in a bowl. Discard the oil and wipe the pan clean.
For the sauce:
1 tsp cumin seeds
14 oz can diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp tomato paste diluted in 2/3 cup hot water
½ tsp dried Turkish oregano
16 pitted green olives, rinsed with water
Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil over medium heat in the skillet. Add the cumin seed and stir briefly to flavor the oil. Add the tomatoes and diluted tomato paste and bring to a simmer. Add the meatballs, oregano, and olives. Season with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Stir to coat meatballs with sauce, then cover and simmer for half an hour. Similar to other meat dishes in tomato sauce, they’re even better the next day – so if you can stand waiting, cool them off and refrigerate for 24 hours in the sauce, then reheat. These are great over rice with a Greek salad!