The meatball can do many things.
It can be a relatively plain vessel for red sauce, nestled atop a mound of spaghetti. It can be a dish unto itself, little meatloaves browned and crisped in an oiled skillet. It can also soak up just about any flavor, an ideal vessel for your favorite spices and herbs.
My husband and I are trying to stick to a two-homecooked-meals-a-week plan as we start this new year, healthy-ish dishes that will still satisfy after a day at work. Also important: They must taste good as leftovers.
He’s taking one meal, I’m taking the other, and for my most recent meal I baked some meatballs.
I have baked meatballs before, but it’s never my natural instinct. If there’s a way to work a crispy, oily element into my meal, I will find a way to make it happen, and so I usually cook meatballs in a skillet, browning them in a good amount of olive oil.
Baking them is not the same. The result is more monochromatic. There is very little crisp. But in this recipe especially, they are no less tasty. And because you’re not fiddling with them every 10 minutes in a frying pan, they retain their shape much better.
Go ahead and make these a pretty substantial size, about 2 inches or so wide, so that they cook evenly without overcooking. These meatballs only took about 15 minutes in the oven, another pro in the Bake Your Meatballs column. In fact, the whole meal took about 30 minutes to prepare from start to finish, and cleanup was minimal.
The thing that elevates this dish is a combination of warm spices not found in your standard meatball. Cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg combine to give the dish a surprising flavor profile. I liked ground turkey or chicken with those spices, but you could use ground beef if you want.
Instead of a starch, we ate these atop a generous swipe of store-bought hummus, with a light but crunchy salad on the side. It may not sound like enough food, but the meatballs really help create a satiating dish.
Having been silent for the first five minutes of the meal, my husband and I looked at each other at one point between bites and both said the same thing, “Wow, this is really good.”
The leftovers were just as delicious.
Spiced Baked Meatballs With Herb Salad
For the meatballs:
1 pound ground turkey or chicken
4 scallions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger, finely grated
1 large egg, beaten to blend
⅓ cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the salad:
1 small white onion, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
2 cups parsley leaves with tender stems
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Hummus and lemon wedges, for serving
Make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Gently mix all meatball ingredients in a medium bowl. Form mixture into 12 balls; they will be kind of large, which is what you want.
Place on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until lightly browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Turn halfway through to get browning on both sides, if desired.
Make the salad: Toss onion, cucumbers, parsley, vinegar and lemon juice in a medium bowl to combine. Season salad with salt, to taste
Spread hummus on plates; top with meatballs and salad. Serve with lemon wedges on the side.
Source: Adapted from Bon Appétit