I discovered this dish at one of my favorite Greek food blogs and knew I had to try them one day. Until I can pony up the cash for a trip to Greece, cooking more Greek food at home will have to do. The dish is charming, rustic, and man does it hit the spot: lamb meatballs in a sauce of tomato and olives.
I was very tempted to add a little more here and there to pump things up a bit, but resisted the urge and am glad for it. The ingredients make this sound simple in flavor, but it is really to the benefit of the final product–the sharp flavor of cumin cuts through the distinct, delightful lamb flavor, which all just sings in a mellow, but perfectly complementary sauce focused on tomato and olive (lamb and olive is a combo that always nails it for me). The sauce takes on the richness of the olives and a pleasant, meaty flavor that makes it just perfect next to the meatballs. I don’t want to call the flavors subtle, however, adding more could blow some of the nuance away. Plus, this is a fantastically simple dish to put together–a good trick to have up your sleeve if you need to put a quick dinner together during the work week.
Also, very worth a mention: ever since I moved to North Carolina, I’ve had a surprisingly tough time finding quality lamb. Much to my delight, the fine folks at Lava Lake Lamb sent a very generous care package my way. I am always eager to support ranchers and farmers who are doing good things and putting out quality meat/produce, and these guys blew me away as far as their selection and the flavor of their lamb (expect more lamb posts in the coming days/weeks). If you’re a lamb lover like I am, they’re worth your time–thanks, Lava Lake!
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4 Tbsp red wine
- 1 tsp of salt
- 1 tsp of black pepper
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- Tomato Sauce
- 2 large tomatoes
- 2 large shallots
- 1 tsp tomato paste, diluted in 1 cup of water
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 cup green olives
Begin by preparing the meatballs. This is incredibly simple: finely mince the garlic and combine that with all of the remaining meatball ingredients in a bowl until nicely mixed.
Shape the meat mixture into oblong meatballs.
Heat up a large skillet (medium-high) and add a bit of olive oil. Brown the meatballs on all sides (roughly 2 minutes per side). Don’t crowd them–work in batches if necessary. Remove the browned meatballs from the pan and set aside for now.
Now, prepare the sauce. Very finely mince the shallots and sauté over medium heat. After about 5 minutes, add the very finely diced tomatoes and tomato paste mixture. Scrape any browned bits from the pan. Raise to a boil and then drop the temperature down to a simmer for about 10 minutes (or until the sauce has thickened to your liking).
With the sauce ready, return the meatballs to the pan with the sauce. Also add the olives and allow this to simmer (loosely covered) for 10 minutes.
These go great with either fried potatoes, rice, or buttered noodles. Enjoy!