One of my favorite things about cooking is being surprised. As much fun as it is chasing some childhood recipe or flavor ideal I caught a whiff of at some restaurant, somewhere, nothing matches the surprise of finding a recipe that you’re not entirely sure will be your thing, trying it anyway and then spending the rest of the night going “this is good,” “wow, this is so good,” and “wow, I had no idea it would be this good.”
Well, that part is kind of boring to anyone but the person experiencing the delicious surprise but still, this recipe is one of those. I have to admit that my fearful-of-combining-sweet-and-savory husband has poisoned me a little, and when I see warm spices like cinnamon and allspice in a savory recipe, I’m doubtful I will like it. Not that it won’t work, per se, just that it won’t work for me. Even though a good part of the world adds these spices to their savory dishes and surely they can’t all be wrong.
But these meatball skewers are awesome. Awe-some. And then some. I expect that some astute readers might have noticed that I rarely feature meat recipes; I’m not enthralled enough with it that I am easily impressed into trying new recipes. But when I am, well, hot damn. I didn’t think I could even like a meat anything this much, nonetheless a meatball. They’re spicy and juicy and delicious charred at the edges, and the minty yogurt sauce is the perfect contrast for the kefta as well as the zucchini skewers and I want more right now.
Heads up: We’ve had a bit of downtime in the last week due to this site getting a little to heavy around the middle (I blame the peanut butter cake) and will be doing a server migration today. Well, actually our server will be doing a server migration into a home that will hopefully not burst the next time peanut butter and chocolate are combined. There shouldn’t be any downtime whatsoever, but there might be a few lost comments today. Big apologies in advance, and hopefully this will all be done swiftly and with minimal drama. [Update on that: Resounding FAIL. We migrated, found quickly that the wrong size home had been chosen (think of squeezing a size 10 into a size 4 dress) and migrated back, resulting in some downtime and several lost comments. Big apologies for all that. Unfortunately, this probably means we have another server migration to go. What fun!]
I suspect if you’re thinking this through, you’re imagining that it would be difficult bordering on impossible to threat raw meatballs on skewers and then somehow move them to a grill without them falling off–I know I was. Nevertheless, as tricky as that part is, and you should do so with the greatest of care and minimal movements (i.e., where it lands on the grill, let it stay), within two minutes the meatballs will be nicely firmed up and you’ll have no trouble rotating them.
I can’t wait to make this again the next time we have the chance to grill outside, but in the meanwhile, my new grill pan came through once again.
Makes 6 servings.
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole-milk)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil (we used about half of this)
2 medium zucchini (1 1/4 lb total), cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick slices (don’t skim on their thickness, or you will have difficulty threading them, as we did)
For kefta (meatballs)
2 slices firm white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh parsley leaves
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
1 lb ground lamb (from shoulder) (or if, like Deb, you do not like lamb, dark turkey meat is an excellent substitution)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted and finely chopped
Special equipment: 12 (10-inch) wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 30 minutes
Make sauce: Stir together yogurt, mint, garlic, and salt in a small bowl and chill.
Prepare zucchini: Whisk together lemon juice, sugar, salt, pepper, and oil in a large bowl and stir in zucchini slices. Marinate at room temperature while making meatballs.
Make meatballs: Cover bread with water in a bowl and soak 10 minutes. Squeeze handfuls of bread to remove as much excess water as possible, then transfer to a bowl.
Pulse onion and herbs in a food processor until finely chopped, then add to bread along with lamb, salt, spices, and pine nuts. Mix with your hands until well blended. Form lamb mixture into 36 balls (1 scant tablespoon each).
Assemble and grill kebabs: Prepare grill for cooking over medium-hot charcoal (moderate heat for gas; see cooks’ note below). Thread 6 meatballs 1/4 inch apart onto each of 6 skewers. Thread zucchini lengthwise onto remaining 6 skewers (5 slices per skewer), so cut sides are on the grill, leaving 1/4 inch between slices. Grill zucchini and lamb on oiled grill rack, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes. Serve warm, with yogurt sauce.
Grilling procedure: On a charcoal grill: Open vents on bottom of grill, then light charcoal. When charcoal turns grayish white (about 15 minutes from lighting), hold your hand 5 inches above grill rack to determine heat for charcoal as follows. Hot: when you can hold your hand there for 1 to 2 seconds; medium-hot: 3 to 4 seconds; low: 5 to 6 seconds.
On a gas grill: preheat burners on high, covered, 10 minutes, then, if necessary, reduce to heat specified in recipe.
If you don’t have a grill: Kebabs can be broiled on 2 large shallow baking pans 5 inches from heat, turning over once, until golden and just cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes.