Friday, December 2, 2011

Rodgers' love of meatballs shared in new cookbook

Who knew meatballs come in so many shapes and styles? “I Love Meatballs” by Rick Rodgers explains the full range of this culinary sphere, from Swedish and Mom’s to Vietnamese, Moroccan and Greek, among many others. Recipes range from Persian meatballs in pomegranate and walnut sauce to lemongrass-chicken meatballs on rice vermicelli. There are meatballs in soups, meatballs between bread, meatballs on the grill and the old standard, meatballs and pasta. There’s also a handy introduction to the styles and cooking techniques involved.
            Here’s a recipe that can be used in holiday dining:

Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki

2 standard cucumbers
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

Greek Meatballs
1 cup fresh breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 pounds ground round (85 percent lean) or use half ground round and half ground lamb
1 medium yellow onion, shredded on the large holes of a box grater
4 cloves garlic, crushed through a press
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon3 freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons olive oil
Wooden toothpicks, for serving

Directions: To make the tzatziki, peel the cucumbers. Cut each in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Shred on the large holes of a box grater. Transfer to a wire sieve and toss with the salt. Let drain in the sink for 30 minutes to 1 hour. A handful at a time, squeeze the shredded cucumbers to extract more liquid, then transfer to a medium bowl. Add the yogurt, lemon juice, mint, garlic and pepper and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to 2 days.

To make the meatballs, combine the breadcrumbs and milk in a large bowl. Let stand until the breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened, about 3 minutes. Add the ground meat, onion, garlic, eggs, mint, oregano, salt, pepper and cinnamon. Use your hands to mix the meat mixture well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Using your wet hands rinsed under cold water, shape the meat mixture into 18 equal meatballs, Transfer the meatballs to a plate. Heat the oil in a large skillet (preferably nonstick) over medium heat. In batches, add the meatballs and cook, turning occasionally, until lightly browned and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a baking sheet and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining meatballs.

Spoon the tzatziki into individual ramekins or small serving bowls. Drain the meatballs briefly on paper towels. Serve the meatballs hot, with toothpicks for spearing and the tzatziki as a dip.

Cheré Coen is the author of “Exploring Cajun Country: A Historic Guide to Acadiana” and co-author of “Magic’s in the Bag: Creating Spellbinding Gris Gris Bags and Sachets.” She teaches writing at UL-Lafayette’s Continuing Education. Write her at