σνακ - Spicy Lamb Meatballs with Anchovy-Herb Cream
My time with my children is sacrosanct and I guard it jealously. So when I know my daughter is coming to visit, I cook up a storm so I don’t spend any time in the kitchen while she’s here.
One of the reasons I got to have her to myself for a couple of days is because her boyfriend was in Greece on business. So I thought a nice lamb σνακ (pronounced “snack”) would be in order. You can also substitute beef. Of course, I veered well across the Ionian and Mediterranean Seas by adding harissa - a spice blend originating in Maghreb, consisting of roasted red peppers, Baklouti peppers, spices and herbs such as garlic paste, caraway seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin. Chalk it up to artistic license.
This is a great finger food (σνακ) for a cocktail party/happy hour. Don’t let the anchovies scare you off. When they’re used correctly, as in a really good Caesar salad dressing, you just taste flavor, not fishiness. Start with 1 instead of two if you like.
¾ cup packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¾ cup packed fresh basil leaves
½ cup sour cream
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 medium scallions, chopped
2 drained canned anchovy fillets
2 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
Black pepper to taste
Olive oil for greasing baking dish
2 Tbsp harissa
½ cup dry breadcrumbs
1 lb ground lamb
½ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup minced shallot
1 large egg, beaten
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
2 tsp Hungarian hot paprika
1 tsp ground cumin*
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground fennel
* A few years ago, my friend, Russ, gave me some cumin seeds. I never thought myself a fan of cumin and always went light on it, but if you grind it from seeds, it’s a completely different experience. Use a food grinder or, as I did, a mortar and pestle. The kitchen smells great and it’s a much fresher taste.
For the dip: Process the parsley, basil, sour cream, mayonnaise, scallions, and anchovies in a food processor until smooth, about 1 minute.
Transfer mixture into a medium bowl; add salt and pepper to taste.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 400.
Grease a 13x9-inch baking dish with the olive oil.
Whisk together ¼ cup water and harissa in medium bowl.
Stir in the breadcrumbs; let stand for 5 minutes. Add the lamb, cilantro, shallot, egg, garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, fennel, and 2 teaspoons salt; stir well to combine.
Shape mixture into 24 meatballs. Arrange meatballs in prepared baking dish so they are touching slightly.
Bake in the preheated oven until meatballs are browned and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion of meat registers 160°F, 18-20 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter. Serve with Dip.
Make ahead: Meatballs can be prepared through step 2 and frozen up to 1 month. Thaw overnight in refrigerator, and let come to room temperature before baking.
Food and Wine, where I got this recipe, recommended a “substantial French rosé like the 2019 Château d’Aqueria Tavel” to pair with this dish. I could not find same, and instead used a Bagoa Do Mino Albarino Rias Baixas. Certainly more citrusy than they recommended, but I liked it. You go enjoy - it’s time to go hang with my girl.