Lamb Meatballs With Tzatziki Sauce

Sometimes inspiration comes to you in the weirdest places. For example, you could be standing and staring at the fish counter in Whole Foods, debating whether you want to try their crab cakes even though you only came here to buy challah rolls, when all of a sudden the meat counter beacons and you wind up with a quarter pound of lamb in your basket.

They say you should follow your instincts, right? And if your instincts say you that the only thing that would be better than lamb meatballs is lamb meatballs with tzatziki sauce, you should definitely head over to the yogurt shelf, even though you don’t even know everything that goes in tzatziki.

Fun fact: tzatziki is really, really easy to make. Dangerously easy. Please don’t blame me when you find yourself eating a whole package of pitas in one sitting.

The recipe below makes enough for two, but can easily be split in half* for one, which is what I did when I made it. It can also easily be doubled, though you may need to cook the meatballs slightly longer if the pan is crowded. English cucumbers work best in the tzatziki as they are less liquidy and seedy–if you use a regular one, take care to squeeze out as much water as possible.

For the tzatziki sauce:
one 7-oz container plain greek yogurt (I used 2%, but use whatever you like)
1/3 to 1/2 cup very finely diced English cucumber (as close to minced as you can get)
2 cloves garlic, minced
juice of 1/2 one lemon
pinch of salt
even smaller pinch of pepper

For the meatballs:
1/2 lb ground lamb
one egg, beaten*
2 heaping tablespoons white or yellow onion, diced small
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 to 4 large pinches dried rosemary
2 large pinches dried basil
1/2 to one teaspoon sriracha
small pinch red pepper flakes
1/4 cup breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil for pan
pita, cut in half and warmed for 15 seconds in the microwave, to serve

*If you are halving the recipe to just make enough for one, beat the egg in a small bowl and pour half the contents into the meat mixture. Use the other half to make yourself a scrambled snack while the meatballs cook.

To make the sauce:
Using a clean dish towel, squeeze as much liquid as possible out of chopped cucumber. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, adding the salt and pepper to taste, though you won’t need much of either. Put bowl in the fridge while you make the meatballs to allow flavors to meld.

To make the meatballs:
Using your fingers, mix lamb, egg, onion, garlic, spices, sriracha, and breadcrumbs in a bowl just until they come together. Depending on what size eggs you buy, you may need to add additional breadcrumbs (my eggs are extra large and I did). You want the mixture to be somewhat wet, but not so wet that it doesn’t hold together easily. Form mixture into golf-ball sized balls–it should make about 10.

Pour enough olive oil into a large non-stick skillet to comfortably coat the bottom and heat over medium until very hot. When water sprinkled into the pan from your fingers sizzles but doesn’t splatter, the oil is hot enough. Add meatballs and cook, moving around every minute or two, until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 10 minutes. If your stove is crooked like mine, rotate the meatballs so that they cook evenly. Feel free to pull one open to make sure they’re cooked through.

Place cooked meatballs on warmed pita and serve with tzatziki and the other lemon half on the side, plus anything else you’d like to round out your meal (I made some of Trader Joe’s garlic and parmesean potatoes, which went perfectly).

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