Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Kofta, Albondigas, K''ttublle…a meatball with any other name is still just as yummy!

I am completely fascinated by meatballs.  When I was a kid, I didn't realize that there were other ethnic cultures with meatballs.  Oddly, I thought only Indian's and Italian's had meatballs, a "I" thing.  Unlike the rest of America,  who apparently only knew of Italian style meatballs - at least among my non-Indian friends. 

Meatballs have a fascinating history for all that no-one can definitively state where they originated.  A few cultural/food historians believe that it originated in Persia, since so many variations of the name for meatballs derives from the Persian word koofteh which means 'pounded meat'. 

But, one of the first recorded recipes is from a Roman written in 25 AD - which rated the best meatballs to be made of peacock, then pheasant, rabbit, chicken and then pork (Taste of Ancient Rome by Ilaria Gozzini Giacosa).   I guess beef was not big in 25 AD? 

And trust the Spanish Inquisition to come up with a creative way to use meatballs to identify who needs to be arrested because they aren't Christian.  Just think, you are invited over for dinner and your host is putting out these lovely little meatballs called albondigas.  So, to identify those Jews who were secretly trying to pass for Christian converts - a host would put pork in their albondigas and after the guests were seated, let the guests know that the meatballs were non-kosher.  If any guest refused to eat it or spit it out, they were immediately arrested. 

I just always thought they were a quick and easy meal.  Never really thinking about how they came about - or all the history of it.  (there is more out there!)

You can make so many variations. Whatever you have a taste for, there is a meatball (or you can create one).

Speaking of creating, we have a lot of pickles from my canning project last fall.  And, I was in the mood for Greek.  And, lucky us, we have cucumber lemon pickles, yogurt and dill.

It turned out so good, so I will share both the cucumber lemon pickle and the meatballs.

Greek style meatballs with yogurt dill sauce

1 pound ground beef
3-5 slices of pickled cucumbers in lemon, diced
1/2 lemon slice from pickle, diced
1 tablespoon oregano (or to taste)
1 tablespoon parsley (or to taste)
1/4 onion, diced
1 garlic clove, diced
1 cup yogurt
2 tablespoon dill

take the ground beef, 1/2 the diced pickle.  Add all the onion,oregano, parsley and garlic. salt and pepper to taste. mix well and form into balls (loosely).  You can add a egg if you wish for binding, but I never find I need it.  Put into a skillet to cook.

Yogurt sauce:
take yogurt, rest of pickle and lemon, dill.  A bit of salt and pepper. mix and set aside until meatballs are done.

Serve with yogurt sauce as a side.

Now the Pickles themselves take a bit of planning, it takes about a minimum of 1 week to cure and get the flavors into the cucumbers.  They are a lovely tart, sweet, lemony flavor.

Cucumber Pickles with lemon

2 pounds small cucumbers
1 tablespoon pickling salt
1 1/3 cup white vinegar
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon whole allspice
3 slices fresh lemon
3 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
3 pint jars

1. cut the ends of the cucumbers and discard.  Cut cucumber into thick slices.  Place into non-reactive container, sprinkle with salt and let stand for 3 hours. Drain.  Rinse twice and drain thoroughly.

2. combine vinegar, sugar, lemon juice, peppercorns and allspice in a non-reactive saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.

3. add cucumbers to boiling liquid (from step 2). return to a boil, stirring constantly.  remove from heat.

4. remove hot jars from canner.  Place 1 slice lemon, 1 garlic clove and a bay leaf in each pint jar. 

5. remove cucumbers from liquid with a slotted spoon and pack into jars.  Pour hot liquid over the cucumbers to within 1/2 inch of rim (headspace).  Process for 10 min. 

Store in your pantry for future use. In things such as Greek style yogurt and meatballs. Or with your burgers.