Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Beef, Lamb + Rice Meatballs with Mint Tzatziki

Soooo... I was on the fence about posting this recipe because the photos came out poopy soupy. We had friends over, I was rushing, and it was getting dark out, and all that resulted in some seriously lackluster food photography. But since the meal itself turned out so extra scrumptious, I figured I'd tell you guys all about it anyway.

We're hoping to buy a second income property by the end of the year (woohoo!), which means that we've been trying our best to watch our spending. Some weeks have been better than others, but overall, it's been a nice challenge to try and cook more budget-friendly meals. I probably only prepare meat about 2-3 times a week because it is so costly, and because even as a committed carnivore, I really don't feel that meat is necessary every single day. 

I had been in the mood to whip up some lamb meatballs, but since lamb isn't exactly easy on the wallet, I held back. And then it hit me that mixing beef in would not only make the meatballs cheaper, but it would also provide a milder flavor for those who tend to find lamb to be too gamey. Additionally, I tossed some rice into the mix to really make the recipe stretch. With just half a pound each of ground lamb and ground beef, I was able to feed 4 adults and 2 small kids. Genius, if I do say so myself. 

Although these meatballs were inspired by mediterranean cuisine, in no way would I consider them to be traditional or classic. Like most of my dishes, they're basically a result of a whole bunch of random ingredients thrown together. If you'd prefer to go all lamb or all beef, then go for it; these are virtually impossible to mess up.

Beef, Lamb + Rice Meatballs

olive oil
1 small or 1/2 of a large yellow onion, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
1/3 c. of dried cranberries
1 1/2 c. of white wine
1/2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 lb. ground beef (chuck or sirloin, whichever you prefer)
1 1/2 c. cooked long grain white rice
2 tbsp. of pine nuts
2 tbsp. of chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 egg
salt + pepper

Sauté your chopped onion in some olive oil until it starts to become translucent. Add your garlic and cranberries, and sauté for 1-2 minutes more. Pour in your wine, and simmer on low heat until all of the liquid has evaporated. Put this mixture aside, and let cool.

Set oven at 375º. In a large mixing bowl, combine both meats, onion and cranberry mixture, rice, pine nuts, parsley, and egg. Season liberally*. Using your hands, bring all the ingredients together. Once everything is thoroughly combined, form the mixture into meatballs (I got 17 meatballs that were about 1 1/2 in. in diameter), and line them on a foil-lined and greased baking sheet. Bake until they're golden and sizzling. Timing will depend on the size of your meatballs; mine took roughly 20 minutes. 

Serve with Mint Tzatziki (recipe below) and some grilled or roasted summer vegetables. 

*If you're unsure about your seasoning, you can always fry up a mini patty to use as a taste test. Remember, you can always add more, but over seasoning is a tough mistake to fix.

Mint Tzatziki

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 c. of greek yogurt
1/2 c. of sour cream or creme fraîche
1 tbsp. of chopped dill
1 tbsp. of chopped mint
juice of 1/2 lemon
splash of olive oil
dash of salt

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse a few times until combined. Pulse for longer periods if you prefer a smoother tzatziki. Refrigerate for a few hours/overnight before serving. 

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