Apple Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Fennel, Fregula and Eggplant Tahini Sauce

Someone contacted me the other day and asked me if I could share a recipe of mine for their website. I was sifting through my blog, looking through my recent recipes and was shocked to come to the realization that lately, there haven't been too many. I'm cooking and creating recipes all day for clients but those don't feel right to post up here and it seems that we've been so busy lately that our own meals have been sort of a random mix of whatever's in the fridge, pieced together into something resembling a meal. Since this realization, I've decided to map out time, everyday to cook just for us. I guess you could say it's sort of my own form of meditation, relaxing and qualifying as "me time", which I realize sounds like an odd concept but I suppose that's what happens when your hobby and career are one in the same.

There's just something to be said about creating your own food. Last week I made some homemade granola that just made me so happy to wake up, sprinkling it over my yogurt and berries, I loved it so much I'd have it for snacks too. I'm also still on a huge whole wheat and grains kick and I can't seem to get enough of them. I think it's in part because I still feel like there's still so much I'm still learning about them. I have my old standbys like bulgur, barley and quinoa, but am also newly enamored with millet, freekeh and kasha. Not necessarily considered a grain but equally interesting and something I used for this recipe - fregula. Similar to Israeli couscous, it looks like little balls and it is actually Semolina dough that has been rolled and toasted, creating slightly varying sizes and colors and ranging from light to very dark, another quality I just love about it. It has a slightly nutty flavor to it and because it's made out of Semolina, it tends to be a little chewier than regular pasta or Israeli couscous. For this recipe, I mixed fregula and whole wheat Israeli couscous together, because I had them on hand and also because I liked the two together in one bowl.

I paired my fregula-couscous mix with some roasted chick peas, fennel and green apple lamb meatballs that also had a little tangy Dijon mustard and briny capers mixed in, two flavors that worked so well paired with the subtle natural gaminess of the lamb. To tie it all together, I then made an eggplant dip, spiked with tahini that was spooned on top of the whole thing, just before serving. This added some welcome richness to the dish.

Of course, if lamb isn't your thing, feel free to substitute ground chicken or beef for the lamb. Additionally, while fregula can be found in most grocery stores (Russo's, locally) or specialty Italian grocery stores, you could also go with all Israeli couscous or even rice. Although, I encourage you to seek out these ingredients, especially if you've never experienced them before. For some extra oomph to your presentation, reserve some fennel fronds to garnish with. The delicate green strands really add a lot.

Recipe after the jump!

Apple Lamb Meatballs with Roasted Fennel, Fregula and Eggplant Tahini Sauce

For the Meatballs:
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 Granny Smith Apple, finely diced (reserve half for later)
- 2 TBS Capers
- 2 TBS Dijon Mustard
- 1 egg
- Just enough Panko to bring it together (about 1/2 cup)
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive oil for the pan

Combine all of the above ingredients in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Roll into equal sized meatballs. In a large skillet, heat just enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat the meatballs, turning occasionally until cooked through. Finish with a little salt and keep warm in a low oven.

For the Fennel and Fregula:
- 1 fennel bulb, top cut off, thinly sliced and fronds reserved
- 1 can of Chick Peas, drained and rinsed 
- 1/2 cup fregula
- 1/2 cup whole wheat Israeli couscous
- 1/2 of reserved finely diced apple
- Olive Oil for Roasted
- Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 and on a parchment lined baking sheet, spread out fennel and chick peas in one layer. Drizzle with Olive Oil and season generously with salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or until edges start to brown, stirring once. While the vegetables are roasting, Boil the Fregula and Israeli couscous in salted water until tender (about 8-10 minutes). Drain any excess liquid. Drizzle with olive oil to avoid sticking and combine with roasted vegetables and apples.
To assemble: Make a small pile of the veggie mixture, top with meatballs and drizzle sauce (recipe follows). Garnish with fennel fronds

For the Eggplant-Tahini Sauce:
- 1 Eggplant
- Olive oil for roasting
- Tahini to taste (I usually use about a 1 TBS, but go with what you like)
- 1/2 cup of Labne, or Greek Yogurt
- The juice of 1 lemon
- Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400. Cut eggplant in half, lengthwise and score it with a sharp knife. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt. Roast the eggplant until very soft. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Scrape out the inside of the eggplant and discard the skin. Using a blender or processor, combine the rest of the ingredients and puree until smooth. Will keep in the fridge for about a week.

1 comment:

Shannon said...

this sounds absolutely amazing katie!! i'd be over for dinner in a heartbeat ;)

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