Who doesn’t love meatballs, right?!? I remember the ones my mom made when I was a kid. She used recipes from both our Greek and Italian American neighbors.
The Greek version still excite me, full of flavors from spices, herbs and feta cheese. To celebrate spring I recently made a rendition of Greek meatballs, also known as Keftedes and paired the overall dish with red wines from Provence.
Let me tell you about the dish then I’ll share the easy recipe.
Keftedes are ground meats (commonly lamb or beef) with an assortment of spices grilled on a skewer or made into balls and fried. I often bake them and did here as a spring rain arrived the evening I made them.
Endless variations from region to region include common additions: onions, garlic and oregano. My favorite way to serve them is with various spreads, cheese, vegetables and naan bread.
They are similar to koftas, which span the Eastern Mediterranean and Central and South Asia, and also contain a variety of spices.
To my keftedes I added garlic, cumin, cilantro and oregano, and served them on a plate with hummus, cilantro avocado sauce, tzatziki, crumbled feta, and home-made naan bread. Nope, not pita here!
The cilantro avocado sauce is probably more Persian however I tend to be a mixer and it was deee-licious.
When I recently paired these with red wines from Provence, the richness of, and spices in all the dish components mirrored the same in the wines, the spices playing off of each other. That was really a fantastic pairing!
If you want to cut down on kitchen time, purchase your favorite hummus and tzatziki, although both are easy to make.
But making your own cilantro avocado sauce is essential. This sauce is darn good with several things!
- 1 small yellow onion, minced (make sure to mince small)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon oil (avocado, canola or olive)
- 1 pound ground lamb or beef
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped on the finer side
- Sea salt
- CILANTRO AVOCADO SAUCE:
- ½ of a ripe avocado
- ½ cup plain Greek yogurt or plain kefir
- 1 cup (packed) fresh cilantro leaves
- 4 romaine lettuce leaves roughly chopped
- juice from 1 small lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
- Water, as necessary
- PLATE ADDITIONS:
- Plain hummus
- feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
- Cucumber slices and arugula
- Olive oil, for drizzling
- Naan bread (see recipe link above)
- Preheat oven to 425 F. Set out a baking sheet.
- Place oil in a sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic; sauté until translucent and just starting to brown. About 5 minutes. Remove and let cool while you proceed.
- Add lamb or beef, cumin, oregano, smoked paprika, cilantro and a pinch of salt and pepper to a bowl; mix to combine.
- Roll the meat into balls roughly the size of 2 tablespoons (makes about 12, give or take). Place on the baking sheet.
- Transfer to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes or until the meatballs are browned. (See notes)
- Make the cilantro avocado sauce- Start with just 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Combine that, and all other ingredients in a food processer or blender and blend until creamy. Taste and adjust, adding more lemon juice as desired. Add water to thin the sauce as necessary, 1 tablespoon at a time. You want the consistency to be barely pourable. Scrape into a bowl and set aside.
- To serve, spread the hummus, Tzatziki, and cilantro sauce on plates. Add the keftedes, feta (it's under the greens on the plate in the photo here), cucumber, and any type of salad greens.
I always line my baking sheet with parchment paper for easier clean up.
Putting a little oil on your hands before forming the meatballs helps keep the mixture from sticking.
I turned the keftedes over at about 10-12 minutes when the bottom started to brown.
For the Cilantro Avocado sauce, if after tasting, you think it needs more or any of the ingredients, then add them! I like the sauce lemonier while my hubby likes it with more avocado.