June 14, 2013

Gyro Meatballs

The June Daring Cooks’ challenge sure kept us rolling – meatballs, that is! Shelley from C Mom Cook and Ruth from TheCrafts of Mommyhood challenged us to try meatballs from around the world and to create our own meatball meal celebrating a culture or cuisine of our own choice.

When I was growing up, my town had an indoor flea market. On Saturdays and Sundays, the market would fill with vendors selling everything from live goldfish to scarves, stickers, jewelry and cassette tapes. I loved walking through the market, seeing how far I could stretch the few dollars I'd earned from mowing the lawn or babysitting my little sister.

The back of the market was where the food vendors set up. Decades later, I still remember the mouthwatering smells coming from the Greek stall. It was the gyros, in particular, that I ordered time after time. I loved the combination of fragrant, spit roasted meat, sliced thin and tossed onto a pillowy pita, topped with lettuce, tomato, onions, and garlicky tzatziki. That's the flavor I tried to recreate for this months' Daring Cooks' Challenge, which asked us to create an international meatball. 

I searched online for a gyro recipe, to see what spices give gyros their distinctive flavor. The recipe I found called for Greek seasoning, which I didn't have. According to a note in the recipe, Greek seasoning is a combination of "coarse flake salt, granulated garlic powder, Tellicherry black pepper, onion powder, Greek fancy oregano and powdered lemon peel." I pulled together most of those ingredients and substituted as best I could for things I didn't have. 

The resulting meatballs were good. They were moist and flavorful and satisfying wrapped in naan and topped with the traditional gyro accompaniments. But they didn't quite capture the flavor I was looking for. That indoor flea market shut its doors years ago. So I guess I'll have to keep searching for a gyro that lives up to the one in my memories.

Finely chop onion in food processor.

Add seasonings.

Pulse until onions and seasonings are well combined.

Using your hands, combine onion mixture with ground beef.

Roll into golf ball sized meatballs.

Working in batches, cook meatballs in skillet until browned on all sides, but not cooked through.

When browned, transfer meatballs to a baking sheet.

Bake until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve on pita bread or naan, with tzaziki, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Gyro Meatballs

Adapted from recipes by Kalyn’s Kitchen and allrecipes.com

1 small onion, cut into chunks
1 pound ground beef (or a combination of beef and lamb)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried marjoram
1 tsp ground dried rosemary
1 tsp ground dried thyme
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 Tbsp Greek seasoning (or use a combination of garlic powder, onion powder, salt, black pepper, dried Greek oregano and powdered lemon peel)

For serving: soft pita or naan, tzaziki, lettuce, tomato, onion

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.    Put onion in food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add all seasonings to onion. Pulse until onion and seasonings are well blended.

3.    Place the ground beef into a large bowl. Add the onion mixture. Mix together with your hands until well combined. Roll into golf ball size meatballs.

4.    Heat canola oil in a large frying pan. Working in batches, cook meatballs until browned on all sides, but not cooked through. Transfer meatballs to a sheet pan.

5.    When all the meatballs are browned, place the sheet pan in the oven. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through but still moist.

6.    To serve, put meatballs on pita bread. Top with tzaziki, lettuce, tomato and onion.

Makes about 20 meatballs.

June 2, 2013

Green Goddess Dressing

It's 92 degrees outside. And it's lunchtime. What do I feel like eating? Not much (a very unusual situation for me). Still, I know that I better eat something filling. The rest of the day is going to pass in a blur and I'm trying not to snack. So whatever I eat now has to keep me going until dinner.

Light but filling. Substantial but not heavy. I don't normally turn to salad. But today I'm making an exception. That's because I've got a good dressing to go on top.

Green goddess. What a great name for a salad dressing. It's a delicious concoction of herbs -- traditionally tarragon and chives -- along with some mayo for heft, scallion for bite, and lemon juice and sour cream for tang.

I hear what you're saying. That sour cream and mayo is going to take a healthy salad and turn it into a Big Mac in a bowl. But this variation of green goddess substitutes avocado for most of the mayo and sour cream. Avocado provides fat (good fat) to keep the dressing creamy. And it keeps the color intact. It is green goddess, after all.

Oh, and you'll notice that I didn't call it green goddess salad dressing. That's because this cool and creamy dressing would also taste great over poached fish or grilled chicken, or as a dipping sauce for raw veggies.

Gather your ingredients.

Put everything except the sour cream into a food processor.

Blend until smooth.

Add the sour cream and blend again until the sour cream is just incorporated.

Pour over salad and enjoy!

Green Goddess Dressing

1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/2 cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/2 ripe avocado, diced
1/8 cup lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp kosher salt
black pepper
1/4 cup sour cream

1.    Place all ingredients except sour cream in the bowl of a food processor. Blend until smooth.

2.    Add sour cream. Blend until just incorporated.

3.    Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Note: All ingredients can be adjusted to taste.

Serves 2 to 4