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Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Minted Apricot Glaze

Today’s recipe is brought to you by school taxes and my freezer stash. School taxes were due this month. It’s a tax worth paying for the high quality education that my school district offers, which my children will most likely benefit from in the near future. But it’s like a punch in the gut every time that bill arrives.

With Christmas practically knocking at our door, I’ve been trying to reduce the impact of that big extra tax bill by cutting a few other things in this month’s budget…like groceries. This means that we’re mostly feeding off the freezer this month.

My husband’s intense love for lamb burgers means that our freezer is well stocked with ground lamb. Our grocery store irregularly stocks ground lamb, so when they have it, I buy it. And when I opened my freezer in search of cheap dinner, ground lamb it was! But I just wasn’t feeling like lamb burgers or even gyro salad, though my husband would have been eager for either. I was in the mood to experiment.

So, playing off of Moroccan inspired flavors, I came up with these delectable meatballs, which my husband talked about for three days afterward. Ground lamb gets combined with dried apricots, a touch of sweet honey, cinnamon, and cumin. Sliced almonds add an interesting texture to the otherwise tender meatball. Then, they’re tossed in a buttery apricot glaze with a touch of fresh mint. I served mine over couscous. They were good. Really good. We’ll be eating them again soon.

Focus on Technique – Tips for Tender Meatballs

Everyone loves a tender, flavorful meatball. Here are a few tips for crave-worthy meatballs:

  • Use ground meat with a bit of fat. If using beef, look for 80/20 ground chuck. The fat will add flavor and moisture. If using a leaner meat, like ground chicken, add some additional vegetables, such as chopped onion, celery, or peppers to add moisture.
  • Increase your egg to meat ratio. I tend to use two eggs per each pound of meat. Add enough bread crumbs as necessary to bind the mixture. About 1/4 cup of bread crumbs per egg usually does the trick.
  • Be careful not to overwork the mixture. Mix only enough to evenly disperse the ingredients. To reduce the need for over-mixing, combine all of your other ingredients before adding the meat.
  • Season, season, season – salt, pepper, garlic, cheese…give those meatballs some flavor!
  • Try adding a slice of soaked, then crumbled day-old bread to your meatballs. Though I have not personally tried this strategy, it’s a sworn by trick to others…so there’s got to be something to it!

What are your favorite meatball tips?

Moroccan-Spiced Lamb Meatballs in a Minted Apricot Glaze

Ingredients

  • 1 small or 1/2 medium onion, very finely diced
  • 10 dried apricots, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced almonds
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 pound ground lamb

For the glaze

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 cup apricot preserves
  • 3-4 fresh mint leaves

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Wipe a baking sheet with a little oil or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Combine the chopped onion, apricots, almonds, honey, salt, cinnamon, cumin, black pepper, eggs and bread crumbs (everything except the meat) in a large bowl, until evenly blended. Add the meat. Use your hands to combine the mixture, just enough to evenly disperse the ingredients.

Form the mixture into balls, about 1 1/2″ in diameter. Place them on the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cooked through.

For the glaze, combine butter, apricot preserves and mint leaves in a pan over medium heat. Stir until well combined and warmed, about 3 minutes. Toss the meatballs in the glaze before serving.

Makes about 24 small meatballs

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Cocktail Meatballs Three Ways

When it comes to any type of sport, I’m more of a go-to-a-game kind of person than a sit-on-my-couch-cheering-and-cursing kind of person. There’s a whole atmosphere to being at a game. There are people passing out beer and food. There’s music and singing. There are people doing ‘the wave’. And I really like ‘the wave’. I like the whole experience of attending a game. But watching sports from my couch…boring.

So, sports-watchin’…not really my thing. But game day snacks…totally my thing! We’re throwing a little super bowl party this year, because it’s a great excuse to have some friends over and enjoy some tasty food. We’ll eat. We’ll drink. We’ll laugh. We may even do the wave.

I’ll be serving of few of my old favorites, specifically¬†chicken wing dip, creole-deviled eggs, and spinach dip along with a few new items, like pepperoni pizza monkey bread (doesn’t that sound delicious??) and these cocktail meatballs in three different sauces.

We’ll start with a basic, versatile meatball, made with a mix of beef, pork, and turkey, then we’ll dress them in three different, but equally delicious, sauces. Make one, two, or all three! These meatballs can be made ahead of time, tossed in their sauce and refrigerated or frozen until use. Reheat in a 350 degrees oven for 15 minutes or so, until heated through. Meatballs can be reheated from frozen, but allow for extra time.

**Each sauce recipe makes enough to thoroughly coat 1/3 of the meatball recipe. Doubling any of the sauce recipes should make enough sauce for the entire meatball batch.

Basic Cocktail Meatball

Ingredients

  • 1 pound ground beef
  • 1 pound ground pork
  • 1 pound ground turkey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine all ingredients until well blended. Roll the mixture into balls, about 1″ diameter. Place the balls in a single layer on baking sheets which have been lightly rubbed with a bit of olive oil. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until fully cooked.

Makes about 90-100 meatballs

Honey Mustard Sauce

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup spicy brown mustard
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Sweet and Sour Pineapple Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pineapple preserves
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Directions

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Pour over the meatballs.

Thai Peanut Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons red curry paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • Salt, to taste
  • 3 green onions, chopped

Directions

Combine all ingredients, except green onions, in a saucepan over medium heat until smooth. Stir in most of the green onions, saving some for garnish. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or additional red curry paste, as desired. Pour the sauce over the meatballs. Garnish with remaining green onions.

And if those meatballs don’t do it for you, check out these previously posted Gourmand Mom meatballs…

Buffalo Chicken Meatballs

Cranberry Chipotle Meatballs

Asian Style Turkey Meatballs in Hoisin Peanut Sauce

Spaghetti and Meatballs in Homemade Tomato Sauce

My husband can’t sit down at an Italian restaurant without ordering Spaghetti and Meatballs. It could be the finest Italian restaurant with a menu dripping in tempting options and all he wants is Spaghetti and Meatballs, preferably with garlic bread. It’s truly one of his favorite meals and he craves it the way that I crave a good piece of dark chocolate or wedge of brie with baguette. So, when I decided to make this simple, classic dish for dinner yesterday, I knew he’d be thrilled.

My timing was impeccable. By the time my husband walked through the door, the sauce had been simmering away on the stove for three hours. The meatballs had been baked and added to the sauce. The garlic bread had been prepared. Our house was bursting with the warm, delicious aromas of tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. Upon stepping into the house, out of the chilly autumn air, my husband took one breath before his eyes lit with joy. What are you cooking? I told him to take a guess. Spaghetti and Meatballs??? His reply was dripping with eager anticipation. I nodded. And garlic bread?? Yes, of course. And I could see him physically buzzing with excitement. Such joy from such a simple meal.

And in that moment, as he stood there, still removing his jacket and shoes, with a child-like grin on his face, it occurred to me that I could profit from this glee. Maybe I should ask for something. Perhaps those fuzzy winter boots I’ve had my eye on. Or a Mercedes E320! No, no! A pony! I’ve always wanted a pony. Yes, that’s what I would ask for.

Then, as fast as it arrived, the moment was gone. The kids began climbing his legs while the dog anxiously communicated his desire for a walk in his typical brutish manner. So, no pony for me. Though, my husband’s evident joy was sufficient reward.

During the hot summer months, when tomatoes have reached their glorious peak of flavor perfection, it would be a pity to use canned tomatoes in your sauce. (Click here for my Fresh Tomato Marinara Sauce recipe.) But, right about now, when tomatoes have become mealy and bland, you’d be silly to use anything other than canned tomatoes. Most canned veggies have a justifiably bad rep for being loaded with salt and drained of their nutrition. But, tomatoes may be one of the rare exceptions. I actually read an article once, which claimed that tomatoes may actually benefit in both flavor and nutrition (lycopene content) from the canning process. Just look for tomatoes which don’t contain extra sodium.

Both my sauce and meatball recipes are simple, classic preparations. No fancy ingredients or interesting twists. Just basic, delicious spaghetti and meatballs, cooked the way I remember from my childhood. The sauce is slow cooked for about 3 hours to allow a rich tomato flavor to develop. Onions, garlic, basil, parsley, and crushed red pepper provide just the right amount of seasoning. The meatballs are basic beef meatballs, blended with a bit of cheese and a few seasonings, then bound together with an egg and a touch of bread crumbs. You can use any type of ground beef or other ground meats in your meatballs, but as with hamburgers, the higher the fat content of the meat, the juicier and moister the resulting meatball will be.

Classic Slow-Cooked Pasta Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 Onions, chopped
  • 6 cloves Garlic, smashed
  • 3-4 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 3 28-ounce cans Crushed Tomatoes
  • 1 6-ounce can Tomato Paste
  • 1 6-ounce can Water
  • 5-6 sprigs Fresh Parsley, leaves only
  • 6-8 Basil Leaves, chiffonade
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and Crushed Red Pepper, as desired

Directions

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and smashed garlic cloves. Cook for a few minutes until the onions are tender and translucent. Pour in the crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. Fill the tomato paste can with water and add to the saucepan. Stir in the fresh parsley leaves, basil, and bay leaves. Cook over low heat, partially covered, for about three hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with crushed red pepper and salt, as desired.

*This recipe makes a great big batch of sauce, perfect for leftovers or freezing!

Classic Baked Meatballs

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pounds Ground Beef
  • 1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
  • 2 Eggs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Onion Powder
  • 1 tsp Garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1 Tbsp Dried Parsley
  • 1/2 tsp Crushed Red Pepper

Directions

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands to blend, until all ingredients are evenly combined. Using your hands, roll 12-15 meatballs with about 1 1/2″ diameter each. Place the meatballs in a baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes until fully cooked. Set aside or add to the sauce as it cooks.

Makes 12-15 Meatballs

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