The Cowgirl Chef: Mini meatballs

Posted Wednesday, Feb. 19, 2014  comments  Print Reprints
A

Lamb meatballs with feta and red bell pepper salsa

Makes about 30

• 10 ounces ground lamb

• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

• 1/8 teaspoon cumin

• 1/4 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

• 1 tablespoon canola oil, for frying

• Feta and red bell pepper sauce (recipe follows)

Mix together lamb, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper and spices in a bowl and form into 3/4-inch balls. Heat canola oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs on all sides till done (be sure to not overcook them). Set on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm with sauce for dipping.

Nutritional analysis per meatball: 39 calories, 3 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 7 milligrams cholesterol, 29 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 72 percent of calories from fat.

Feta and roasted red bell pepper salsa

Makes about 2 cups

• 5 ounces feta cheese

• 1 roasted red bell pepper (jarred ones are OK)

• 2 tablespoons olive oil

• 1 heaping tablespoon Greek yogurt

Put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whirl until well blended. Pour into a container and refrigerate for a few hours before serving — it’ll thicken up quite a bit.

Cowgirl tip: This also works as pasta sauce or a sandwich spread.

Nutritional analysis per 2-tablespoon serving: 44 calories, 4 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 8 milligrams cholesterol, 100 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 80 percent of calories from fat.

Beef meatballs

Makes about 35

• 8 ounces ground beef (85/15)

• 1/4 cup finely chopped onion

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1/4 cup breadcrumbs

• 1/4 teaspoon smoky paprika

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

• 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1 egg, lightly beaten

• 1 tablespoon canola oil, for frying

• Cilantro chimichurri, for serving (recipe follows)

Mix together all ingredients except oil and cilantro chimichurri and form into 3/4-inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs on all sides till done (be sure to not overcook them). Set on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm with cilantro chimichurri.

Nutritional analysis per meatball: 26 calories, 2 grams fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 27 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 67 percent of calories from fat.

Cilantro chimichurri

Makes about 1 cup

• Handful of cilantro

• Handful of flatleaf parsley

• 3 green onions, chopped

• A quarter of a fresh jalapeño, finely chopped (seeds included)

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

• 1/4 cup olive oil

Mix everything together about 10 minutes before serving, so the herbs stay bright and fresh.

Nutritional analysis per 2-tablespoon serving: 75 calories, 7 grams fat, 2 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 66 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 84 percent of calories from fat.

Wild salmon balls

Makes about 30

• 8 ounces wild salmon, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces

• 1/8 teaspoon cayenne

• 1 green onion, finely chopped

• 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest

• 1/4 teaspoon red peppercorns, crushed using the back of a knife

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

• 3 tablespoons breadcrumbs

• 1 small egg, lightly beaten

• 1 tablespoon canola oil, for frying

• Flour or corn tortillas, cut into fourths, for serving

• Creamy avocado salsa, for serving (recipe follows)

• Chopped cilantro, for serving

Mix together salmon, cayenne, onion, zest, peppercorns, salt, breadcrumbs and egg. Form into 3/4-inch balls. Heat canola oil in a large skillet and fry meatballs on all sides till done (be sure to not overcook them). Set on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm on tortilla triangles with salsa and cilantro.

Nutritional analysis per salmon ball: 24 calories, 1 gram fat, 1 gram carbohydrates, 2 grams protein, 11 milligrams cholesterol, 29 milligrams sodium, trace dietary fiber, 47 percent of calories from fat.

Creamy avocado salsa

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

• 1 large avocado

• 1/4 cup canola oil

• Big handful of cilantro

• 1 smallish jalapeño, stem removed, halved (keep the seeds if you want it spicy)

• 1 clove garlic, skin removed

• 1/8 teaspoon lemon zest

• Juice of 1 lemon

• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

• 1 teaspoon honey

• 1/2 to 1 cup water (depending on how thick or thin you want salsa)

Put everything in blender and purée until smooth and creamy. Taste for seasonings. Store in the fridge up to 5 days.

Nutritional analysis per 2-tablespoon serving: 79 calories, 7 grams fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 44 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 82 percent of calories from fat.

Black bean balls

Makes about 25

• 10 ounces cooked black beans, drained (and rinsed if using canned)

• 1 clove garlic, minced

• 1/4 teaspoon cumin

• 1/4 teaspoon chile powder

• 1/8 teaspoon sea salt

• 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

• 1/4 cup chopped red bell pepper

• 1 tablespoon canola oil, for frying

• Flour or corn tortillas, cut into fourths, for serving

• Creamy avocado salsa, for serving (recipe follows)

• Chopped cilantro, for serving

Mix together beans, garlic, spices, salt and pepper, and bell pepper and form into 3/4-inch balls. Heat oil in a large skillet and fry meatballs on all sides till done (be sure to not overcook them). Set on a plate lined with paper towels. Serve warm on tortilla triangles with creamy avocado salsa and chopped cilantro.

Nutritional analysis per black bean ball: 25 calories, 1 gram fat, 3 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram protein, no cholesterol, 10 milligrams sodium, 1 gram dietary fiber, 26 percent of calories from fat.

Have more to add? News tip? Tell us

A year or so ago in Paris, I was thumbing through one of my favorite French food magazines and saw a feature devoted to boulettes de viande — meatballs — of all sorts, from veal and beef to chicken and lamb. I tore out the page and saved the article, although where it resides now is anybody’s guess.

Even though I hadn’t yet made them, the idea stuck with me — and apparently I’m not the only one who’s smitten with meatballs these days. Very recently in Paris, an all-meatballs restaurant, cheekily named Balls, opened in the trendy 11th arrondissement. (I won’t tell you what the employees’ T-shirts say.) On the menu: balls of beef, lamb, chicken, pork or veggie, served with a tomato or yogurt sauce. Simple, and maybe a little boring.

Closer to home, Austin threw a meatball festival in November and even has its own meatball chain restaurant, Juicy Jay’s Meatballs, which features two kinds of meat and tofu balls (it is Austin, after all), served with an Italian-style tomato sauce. Yawn.

Google “meatballs” and this seems to be the No. 1 way we think of them (Swedish meatballs come in a distant second): tennis ball-size orbs perched atop swirls of spaghetti, drowning in red sauce. Not that I have a problem with this unorthodox meat and pasta meal — in fact, I make it myself on occasion. But I like the French take on meatballs because they’re much smaller. Perfect for parties, whether you speak French or not.

I like to make my meatballs slightly bigger than marbles, so they take more time to assemble, but cook more quickly and are more appealing on the plate, whether you’re serving them for appetizers (highly recommended) or stuffing them into a freshly baked split baguette (sliders are so 2013). Like most big foods made small — look at what happened with cupcakes — meatballs are fun to eat and even more fun to share. And who knows? They just might be the next big small thing.

Ellise Pierce is the author of “Cowgirl Chef: Texas Cooking with a French Accent” (Running Press). Read her blog and watch her cooking videos on www.cowgirlchef.com. On Twitter: @cowgirlchef.

Looking for comments?

We welcome your comments on this story, but please be civil. Do not use profanity, hate speech, threats, personal abuse, images, internet links or any device to draw undue attention. Our policy requires those wishing to post here to use their real identity.

Our commenting policy | Facebook commenting FAQ | Why Facebook?