Spring Lamb Meatballs with Mint, Pinenuts, and Tahini Sauce

These are not my mother’s meatballs. My mother makes meatball stroganoff, a luscious dish of panfried meatballs served in a rich mushroom sauce over egg noodles–it was a childhood favorite, but it’s heavy enough to be a once-a-year indulgence these days.

They’re not my go-to turkey meatballs, simmered without frying in tomato sauce, perfect for topping sandwiches or spaghetti.

These are a little more exotic, with pinenuts and fresh mint, a whisper of curry powder and a ground-lamb base. They’re a little dressed up, cocktail-party worthy, served with a garlicky lemon-tahini sauce (and a salad tossed in dressing made from the same sauce, thinned with a little olive oil, yogurt, and red wine vinegar.) They’d be lovely in a menu that included baked feta cheese and a plate of grilled zucchini and eggplant. Add a bowl of olives and in-season tomatoes and you’ve got a feast.

We didn’t have a party, though–instead, a rare night to ourselves, just us two bundled up in sweatshirts on the balcony. We ate the whole batch with a glass of this Oregon pinot noir–earthy and herbal, with flavors of cassis and wet stones. Though I usually think of subtle, delicate Oregon pinots as the perfect red wine for salmon (grilled rare), something reverberated nicely in this pairing–the zing of the mint, the spice in the wine, the warmth of the curry powder…it worked. The weather has changed, mostly. We’re walking outside without jackets, and sundresses are making their sidewalk appearance, but after a few minutes in the fridge, this may be the perfect spring sip. It’s not time for crisp white wine just yet. And it didn’t start raining until we’d cleaned our plates.

Lamb Meatballs with Mint, Pinenuts, and Tahini Sauce
adapted from 100 Perfect Pairings

7 1/2 tablespoons tahini
2 tablespoons yogurt
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 large egg
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
3 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh mint, divided
1  pound ground lamb
1/2 cup panko

In a small bowl, combine 2 tablespoons water with the tahini, yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, whisking to dissolve. Depending on the thickness of your tahini, you may want to add an additional teaspoon or two of water.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg. Add pine nuts, curry powder, scallions, pepper, 3 tablespoons of the mint, and the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Add the lamb and scatter the panko on top, then gently mix with your hands until well combined. Shape the mixture into about 20 meatballs, 1 1/2 inches in diameter. (You can shape the meatballs up to a day in advance and store them covered in the refrigerator. Return to room temperature before proceeding.)

Preheat the broiler and arrange a rack about six inches from the heat. Arrange the meatballs on a foil-lined baking pan or in a lightly oiled cast iron pan. Broil until cooked through and lightly browned, about 9-12 minutes, turning halfway through. (Meatballs can also be fried in a cast iron pan in two batches.) Serve meatballs with tahini sauce and garnish with additional mint, along with additional salt and pepper if desired.

In Lamb, meatballs, middle eastern, pinot noir

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