Meatballs have become as essential to us as the roasted chicken. Multiple meals, versatile flavor combinations, and what could be better to pop out of the freezer on a busy day? I make a big batch (4 pounds of grass-fed meat) at least once a month. Freeze extras uncooked on vegetable or meat trays from the grocery store (I use the thick cardboard trays that come under my red organic peppers at Trader Joe’s). Ask your meat department for a few or improvise. Once the meatballs are frozen they can be stacked for better storage in your freezer. Oh, and don’t be intimidated by the spices, use what you’ve got but do try to buy some of these in bulk (way cheaper!) and have on hand– the upgrade they will give your food far outweighs the tiny investment of time or bit of added cost. Many restaurants believe butter is the secret to better tasting food… I believe it is freshly-toasted spices and lots of herbs. Big health benefits, too!
DIRECTIONS:After your spices are assembled turn oven to 400-425 degrees.Set out your storage trays or containers for freezing if making extras and line sheet pan(s) with two pieces of parchment.
Dry toast cumin and coriander together on stove top in cast iron or nonstick pan for several minutes until seeds begin to smoke and their fragrant oils release. Quickly remove them from pan before they burn, and then grind to desired texture after a minute or two of cool down time. Combine toasted spices in a small bowl with the others spices listed above and set aside.
Assemble your vegetables and herbs and prepare them (rinse, seed, and remove ends where necessary) for chopping. I always use my food processor with on-off pulse method, and do in batches, giving them a rough chop first to make the pieces of different vegetables a bit more uniform. Obviously, they can be chopped by hand.
When placing the herbs in the food processor (pat them dry first), I combine a bit of some other vegetable(s) at the same time so the herbs don’t get too pulverized and turn to mush–they can easily be hand chopped, but I like the more intense flavor and fragrance that comes from doing the herbs in the processor.
I buy most all of my spices at PCC Natural Markets with the exception of Aleppo that I get at Ballard Market. World Spice in the Pike Place Market is a fabulous resource for everything (my Israeli za’atar comes from there) but at higher prices. Natural food stores or Indian groceries usually have a good selection of bulk spices.Finally, you can make the meat, spice, vegetable, and herb combinations your own. This recipe is just a guideline.
Using a stock pot or the biggest bowl you have, add the meat in batches alternating with the vegetables and spices to simplify mixing. You don’t want to overwork the ingredients–it makes the meat tougher. Add the 3 eggs somewhere in the middle to make incorporating easier. Once the mixture is combined fairly evenly, form the desired-size balls using an ice cream scoop or your hands. Sometimes I make large meatballs (3″) and sometimes medium sized (2″). Press the meatballs firmly enough with both hands to hold the ingredients together.
Baking: I bake large 3 inch meatballs at 425 for about 15-20 minutes in my oven and then take them out to turn the meatballs over and switch up the paper which gets pretty wet from the fat and moisture in the vegetables. Using two spoons as tongs (helps them stay together and keep their shape) turn meatballs over and set on a second sheet pan lined with paper or a plate while you remove and replace the paper if you only have one sheet pan. Bake for another 12-15 minutes checking for doneness after about 10 minutes. Use a meat thermometer or cut one open if you are in doubt. Smaller meatballs will cook in a shorter period of time, depending on your oven. Form extra mixture into meatballs and put on trays for a later date. I cover mine tightly with foil and then store several trays in a gallon zip lock bag. Take them out in the morning to defrost in the refrigerator– it might take all day for the large ones.