No matter what time of the year you're throwing a party, making an hors d'oeuvre for a crowd can be daunting. You want something with a bit of heft, that has flavor that's not overpowering and can please a range of picky palates. At the same time, you want to make something that can be eaten in one or two bites. With all of that considered, an appetizer can be a tall order.
My favorite hors d'oeuvres tend to be ones that allow you to interact a bit with the food, letting guests create a little bite for themselves. Growing up, my parents always put out a platter of cheese, bread, radishes and herbs, so guests could make a little sandwich. For this particular dish, I wanted to do something similar but decided to bring some meat (balls, that is) into play.
You can use any ground meat you like with this recipe, but lamb does wonders when paired with cumin and coriander. You can roll the meatballs ahead of time and bake them just when guests arrive, which means there's no time wasted at the stove frying. When they're finished, serve them with warm pita (or any kind of flatbread), and a simple mint pesto that's sweetened slightly with raisins.
To learn more, read "Before Midnight."
Spiced Lamb Meatballs with Green Raisin Pesto
Recipe from the Tasting Table Test Kitchen
Yield: 30 meatballs
Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 50 minutes
For the Green Raisin Pesto:
2 cups packed mint leaves
1 cup packed flat parsley leaves
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons golden raisins
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
For the Lamb Meatballs:
1 pound ground lamb
1 large egg
⅔ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tablespoons whole milk
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon whole coriander, toasted and ground
½ teaspoon whole cumin seeds, toasted and ground
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Sumac or Aleppo pepper, for garnish
Thinly sliced yellow onions
Mixed fresh herbs (such as mint, cilantro, tarragon and oregano)
1. Make the green raisin pesto: In a food processor, combine the mint, parsley, olive oil, raisins, garlic, lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Pulse until smooth. Transfer to a bowl (makes ¾ cup); set aside. Make ahead: Pesto can be made the day before, then should be covered and chilled. Remove from the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.
2. Make the lamb meatballs: Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large mixing bowl, combine all ingredients until everything is evenly mixed. Using your hands, roll the lamb mixture into thirty ½-ounce balls and transfer to a parchment-lined sheet tray.
3. Bake the meatballs until golden brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Garnish the meatballs with the sumac or Aleppo pepper and serve on a platter with the green raisin pesto, pita, onions, pickled jalapeños and herbs.