Chef’s Corner: Spicing up comfort food

I love comfort food and everything it represents. Growing up in Arizona, I was so fortunate to be exposed to both American and Mexican cuisine. These foods tickle my nose with nostalgic childhood memories from my mother’s Sonoran-style cooking to the traditional burger and fries. As I have gotten older, I have refined my taste buds to appreciate the flavors and traditional foods from around the globe. One of my favorites is the diverse fusion of Israeli cooking. The exposure of Middle Eastern, European, Asian cuisine and so much more influences the plates of all who eat there. It was fun to see how some of my traditional foods, made slightly different by the cooking method or with seasonings, changed the whole experience for me.

This simple recipe makes the traditional meatball an exotic and delicious delight. My first encounter with these Persian meatballs was at a casual dinner at a friend’s house. I walked into her home and was overtaken by the smell of spices and herbs; I thought I was at the shuk in Israel for a small moment. Of course, I had to get the recipe. I have since made this for my family and guests. I serve the meatballs with sautéed onions and raisins over turmeric rice.

This dish makes for a wonderful fall meal for any occasion that will leave a lingering taste of Israel on your tongue.

Persian Meatballs

Ingredients

2 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
1 pound lean ground lamb (can substitute ground beef or half beef and half lamb)
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1/2 tablespoon chopped mint
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon each: cinnamon, cumin, coriander, ginger, cardamom, paprika and turmeric
1/2 cup of almond meal (or Panko bread crumbs)

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a small skillet, add one tablespoon avocado oil and sauté the onion and garlic over medium heat until softened, set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg, and then add the remaining ingredients along with the sautéed onion and garlic. Mix well.

Form the meat mixture into 1-inch oval-shaped meatballs. Note: You can freeze pre-made meatballs in this raw state. Just thaw and cook as directed.

Pour 1 tablespoon of avocado into a shallow Dutch oven or cast iron skillet and heat to medium. Add the meatballs and sear them, turning once, 1-2 minutes per side. Work in small batches until all the meatballs are seared. Then put all the meatballs back in the pan.

Place the pan in the oven and cook 10-15 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.

Serve with meatballs over turmeric rice with sautéed onions and raisins.

Lucia Schnitzer and her husband, Ken, own Pomelo (a full-service restaurant), Luci’s at The Orchard and Splurge (a candy and ice cream shop), all at The Orchard Phx, 7100 N 12th Street, Phoenix. They also own Luci’s Healthy Marketplace, 1590 E Bethany Home Road, Phoenix, which they opened in 2009 in Lucia’s honor after her successful battle with breast cancer.

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