Thursday, March 12, 2015

Greek-Style Flatbread: Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce with Greek Yogurt

When Elie and I went on our honeymoon to the Greek islands, our first stop was Paros, where we fell in love with the tiny island and its narrow winding roads, never-ending views of the sea, gracious people and beautiful food.  Ever since we left, I’ve been dreaming of a dish we had at Thea, a restaurant with a stunning view of the water and the island of Antiparos:  tender meatballs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce and served on top of a grilled flatbread with thick Greek yogurt.     

It’s taken me a year-and-a-half to recreate this dish, but I think it was worth the wait. 

It's the same idea as the dish at Thea, but with a twist: savory lamb meatballs simmered in a spicy tomato sauce and served on grilled flatbread with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts and a big dollop of Greek yogurt.  The tomato sauce is dangerous, because I could just stand at the stove and eat spoonful after spoonful until the pot is empty.  Rich with olive oil and warm with smoked paprika, allspice and cinnamon, it’s the perfect simmering bath for tender lamb meatballs.  For the meatballs, I used ground lamb combined with shredded zucchini, a trick from the turkey kebabs in Yotam Ottolenghi’s Jerusalem cookbook, which adds great moisture to the meatballs and keeps them very tender.  I wanted more vegetables to create a complete meal, so I added roasted cauliflower.  For the flatbread, I used my standard whole wheat pizza dough recipe, grilling the dough for a smoky char.  A garnish of toasted pinenuts, fresh parsley and a big dollop of Greek yogurt and I’m back at Thea.

Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list, because most of it is just spices that you already have in your pantry.  It took me less than an hour to make this dinner, start to finish (not including letting the flatbread dough rise).  You could also make each of the components ahead of time and then just reheat and serve.


Greek-Style Flatbread: Lamb Meatballs in Spicy Tomato Sauce on Grilled Flatbread with Greek Yogurt

Serves 4, with extra meatballs

For the sauce

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, cut in small dice
1 teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1 red bell pepper, cut in medium dice
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup white wine
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 strip of lemon peel*

For the meatballs

1 pound ground lamb
1 zucchini, shredded
1 egg
¼ cup parsley leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Zest of half a lemon
Extra virgin olive oil

For the cauliflower

1 large head of cauliflower, cut into small florets
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt

1 whole wheat pizza dough, store bought or from our recipe
Extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
Extra parsley leaves, for garnish
Greek yogurt

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

First, make the sauce.  Heat a large pot over medium heat.  Add the olive oil, chopped onion, salt and red pepper flakes and cook until the onion is translucent and very tender, about 10 minutes, stirring often.  Add the chopped red pepper and garlic clove and cook another 5 minutes, or until the pepper is starting to soften.  Add all of the spices and stir them into the onions and pepper, coating them in the oil.  Let them toast in the oil for a minute or two.  Add the white wine, crushed tomatoes, black pepper and lemon zest and stir.  Bring the sauce to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.  Let the sauce cook while you make the meatballs.

Next, make the meatballs.  Add all of the ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl and mix well with your hands.  The mixture will feel rather wet.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Start forming the lamb mixture into balls, a little smaller than golf balls.  You’ll get about 12 – 15 meatballs.  Gently place the meatballs in the pan, being sure not to crowd the pan.  You will probably have to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan.  Once they have browned on one side, gently roll them to the other side to brown.  If they are sticking, add a little olive oil to the pan.  How much olive oil you need depends on how much fat is in your ground lamb.  Once they are browned on all sides, about 5 minutes, remove them from the pan and place them in the pot of sauce to finish cooking.  These are very tender meatballs, so if some of them fall apart, don’t worry!  Just add the pieces to the sauce.  Let the meatballs simmer in the sauce for at least 20 minutes, or until they are cooked through.

Next, roast the cauliflower.  Place the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet.  Add the olive oil and salt and toss to coat.  Place in the oven and roast for 15 minutes, or until deeply golden brown.  Remove the pan from the oven.

While the cauliflower is roasting, grill the flatbread.  Heat your grill to at least 500 degrees.  Divide your pizza or flatbread dough into 4 equal pieces.  Roll or press the dough into a circle about 6 inches in diameter.  You don’t want the dough to be too thin, because you want it to stay tender instead of crispy.  Brush the dough with olive oil.  Place the dough directly on the grates of the grill and then close the lid of the grill to trap in the heat.  Wait about 1 – 2 minutes and then check the bottom of the flatbread.  If it lifts easily, turn the dough to the other side and let it cook for 1 – 2 minutes on the other side, or until it’s cooked through.  If the bottom of the dough seems like it is going to burn, turn off the burners on one side of the grill and place the dough on that side.  Let them continue to cook until done all the way through.  Remove from the heat.

To assemble, top each flatbread with about three or meatballs with sauce.  Garnish with roasted cauliflower, pine nuts, fresh parsley and a big dollop of Greek yogurt.

Enjoy, preferably with a glass of red wine and someone you love!              

Disclaimer:  McKenzie and I are consulting dietitians for the Tri-Lamb Group, Lean on Lamb.

1 comment:

  1. I went to Greece on my honeymoon also! The food was unbelieveably good- this recipe sounds just as awesome and gives me feelings of nostalgia :)