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.
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.
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.