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Putting a new spin on Greek meatballs

If you’re like me and enjoy cooking, you probably have a stack of recipes from magazines and newspapers (like my column?!) that you want to try. My rule of thumb is if it looks really delicious and the ingredient list seems reasonable, then I’ll save it to try.

When I do finally cook it, and if I love it, then I write the recipe down — along with any tweaks or additions I made — on a card and file it along with other keepers. If it was just so-so, then I toss out the recipe and consider it a nice experiment.

The recipe below is close to one I found recently in a popular magazine. I made it the first time according to directions, except for the fact that I accidentally used vanilla Greek yogurt instead of plain. It wasn’t horrible, but when I tried it the next time, it was definitely much better with the plain! I also wanted this to be more of an appetizer than main dish, so I used a small cookie scoop and made meatballs instead of meat loaves. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t love onions, so I excluded that and added more garlic. To save time and make it easier, I also chopped the cucumbers into the sauce instead of serving them on the side.

This is a great adaptation that can be made the night before a party or barbecue. Simply reheat the meatballs in the oven, Crock-Pot or microwave and spoon the topping over them! Tastes great with the smashed spuds recipe and is easy for a summer make-ahead meal. Many of these ingredients can easily be found this time of year at farm stands.

by: DAN PRED - Greek meatballs with cucumber topping with a side of smashed potatoes makes an easy 'make-ahead' meal.

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber Topping

• 1 lb. very lean ground beef or ground sirloin

• 1 lb. lean ground lamb

• 1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs

• 1 T. chopped fresh mint

• 1 T. chopped fresh thyme

• 1/2-1 tsp. salt

• 1/2 tsp. ground allspice

• 1/4-1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper

• 3 minced garlic cloves

• 1 large egg, lightly beaten

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Form into 1-inch or 1-1/2-inch meatballs and place on parchment paper in baking dish or large cookie pan with raised edges.

Bake at 450 degree for 10 minutes or until done. You can also cook in a frying pan over medium heat until cooked thoroughly, turning occasionally.

Drain on paper towels if needed and cool slightly. Serve with cucumber sauce below.

Sauce:

• 1/2 c. plain fat-free Greek yogurt

• 1/2 cup crumbled reduced-fat feta

• 1 T. fresh lemon juice, divided

• 2 large cucumbers, peeled and sliced

• 1 tsp. fresh mint, finely chopped

• 1 tsp. fresh thyme, finely chopped

• Salt and pepper to taste

Scoop out the cucumber seeds with a spoon. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add more seasoning if needed. Serve over meatballs.

Options:

• Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onion to the meat mixture.

• Bake meat mixture in muffin tins to have individual serving sizes and easy leftovers. Press mixture into eight large muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees for eight minutes. Turn broiler to high; broil three minutes or until done.

• Make the meatballs the night before a party and just reheat in a Crock-Pot on low or in the microwave (be careful not to overcook).

• Sauce can be made the night before as well, but add the cucumbers the day of, if possible, since they tend to get watery.

Crispy Smashed Spuds

• 1 lb. baby Yukon Gold or red potatoes

• 1 tsp. salt

• 1/4 c. olive oil

• 1/4 c. chopped fresh rosemary

• 1 T. Montreal Steak Seasoning

• 1/2 tsp. liquid smoke

Clean potatoes and place in medium cooking pot. Cover with cold water and add 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a boil, and cook potatoes until fork-tender.

Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Let cool until just warm.

Toss in a large bowl with olive oil, seasoning and rosemary. Lightly smash down potatoes until about 1/2-inch to 1-inch thick. Cook on electric grill or barbecue over medium-high heat until skins are crispy. Serve immediately.

Note: the smaller the potatoes, the better they smash.

Options:

• Try chopped cilantro, chives, thyme, oregano or garlic instead of rosemary.

• To prepare for a party, boil the night before, cool. Bring to room temperature and toss in olive oil and seasonings the next day just before grilling and serving (leave them whole, they’ll grill better the next day).

• You can also put in a baking dish and oven to finish at 450 degrees, for 30-40 minutes. Or, fry on the stovetop on medium high heat for a few minutes on each side until crispy.




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