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Hefty dose of herbs lightens meatballs for summer

Meatballs are an easy choice when delivering dinner to a family needing comfort food.

A baby’s premature arrival prompted a meal rotation among my husband’s co-workers. In part because he loves the dish so much — and also knows many other friends have enjoyed it — Will pledged meatballs in marinara with pasta to the new parents, along with some fresh, garden-grown veggies.

Admittedly, the menu is a bit heavy for summertime fare, particularly when garden veggies are sweet, juicy and need little in the way of accompaniment. Popular as my signature meatballs are, they certainly could benefit from a lighter hand in warmer weather. And with the garden’s bounty of fresh herbs and scallions, the following meatballs from the Los Angeles Times could replace my usual recipe.

I’d make these with all the ground, locally raised lamb in my freezer and pump up the avocado dip with some roasted garden chilies. A Caprese or Greek salad, maybe some crusty bread, would make this an easy summer meal for outdoor entertaining and indoor dining alike.

The meatballs can be rolled, skewered and refrigerated for up to 1 day. The avocado dip can be pureed, covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for up to 1 day.

Summer Herb Meatballs With Avocado Dip

2 1/2 cups packed leafy green herbs (such as parsley, cilantro and mint), divided

5 scallions, trimmed and very thinly sliced

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 pound ground beef (80/20) or lamb

2 teaspoons ground cumin or coriander or a combination

Kosher salt, to taste

Aleppo pepper or other red chili flakes, for sprinkling (optional)

1 large ripe avocado, halved, pitted and peeled

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

Set up a charcoal grill for direct-heat grilling or heat burners of a gas grill on medium-high. (Alternatively, heat a large skillet or grill pan on stovetop over medium-high heat.) If using bamboo skewers, soak 8 in a shallow dish of cold water.

Pulse 2 cups of the herbs in bowl of a food processor until finely chopped. Or, chop herbs by hand. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the sliced scallions.

In a large bowl, using your hands, mix the oats, egg, meat, cumin, finely chopped herbs, sliced scallions and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt until well blended. Roll mixture into 24 balls (about 1 ounce each). Slide 3 balls onto each skewer.

Grill, turning once, until charred on outsides and cooked through inside, for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper if desired. Let rest while preparing sauce.

While meatballs rest, in same food processor bowl used to chop herbs, puree the avocado, lemon juice, reserved scallions, remaining 1/2 cup herbs and 1 teaspoon salt. Or, you can finely chop herbs by hand and smash and mix everything together until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve with meatballs.

Makes 4 servings.

Tribune News Service photo