Isn’t Greek food great? It’s always so good at being hearty and packed with flavors while still feeling fresh and light. It also just has this great way of tasting like it must have been made by a tradition-rooted grandma with a personality just a little too brusque to match her adorable old woman appearance. Too specific? No one else imagines that? Oh.
Well either way, this recipe is centered around meatballs–the quintessential grandma-made food. Don’t be alarmed by the number of ingredients. Almost all of them are for the meatballs, so you don’t have to spend as much time in the kitchen as it looks like. You can breathe that sigh of relief now.
Actually, this recipe comes together pretty quickly. I mean, let’s be honest. Meatballs do take a little time. But thats exactly why no one will judge you when you just buy the other components at the store.
You will need:
- 1 lb lean ground beef (85-90%)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup onion (minced)
- 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 lemon
- 1/2 cup lemon pepper panko
- 2 Tbs ground cumin
- 2 and 1/4 tsp dried basil
- 2 and 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1 large cucumber (well, half of one, really)
- 1 and 1/2 Tbs fresh mint
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 4 pita pockets
- Feta Cheese
So first to tackle the meatballs. Start by mincing your onion and garlic. In a large bowl, combine your ground beef, egg, panko, onion, garlic, the zest of the lemon (the lemon juice will be used later), cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and only 2 teaspoons each of the basil and oregano, so you will have 1/4 tsp of each to use later. Whew. I told you a lot of the ingredients get thrown in there!
Now just get your hands in there and mix that together just until it seems evenly combined. Then just form the meatballs. I don’t bother measuring or using a spoon or anything neat. Just scoop a little into your palm and roll it into a ball between your hands. You’re looking to make these somewhat small, but not quite as small as a mini meatball. Mostly because those take FOREVER. It should be enough to fill just the center of your palm, roughly.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large frying pan, heat enough olive oil to just coat the pan over medium heat. Once it is hot enough to sizzle when you add the first one, add your meatballs in a few batches so that there is room to turn them. Mine take 3 batches. All we’re doing here is searing the outsides of them so they get a nice dark brown crust, turning them every minute or two to make sure they are even on all sides. When one batch is done, add them to any baking dish large enough to hold them all. Once they are all seared, move the dish to the preheated oven and cook for 25 minutes.
While those are cooking and making your kitchen smell delicious and Greek, you can chop your cucumber. I peeled mine a bit first because it had a tough skin, but if yours does’t you can leave it on. Add the chopped pieces to a medium bowl. Cut that lemon you zested earlier and squeeze all the juice into the bowl, being careful to catch any seeds. Finally, just add your remaining spices: 1/2 Tbs chopped mint, 1/4 tsp dried oregano, 1/4 tsp dried basil. Toss that together and let it sit while your meatballs finish. Now all that’s left is to set up an assembly station for your pita pockets.
I just coat the insides of each pita pocket half with hummus (I used a red pepper version in this picture), and then stuff the rest with meatballs, feta, and the lemon cucumber mixture. Just try to even distribute it all in there. Nothing left to do after that but dig in!