Inspiration for my cooking comes in many different forms. Magazines and cookbooks, trips to the farmer’s market and exquisite in season produce all inspire me. Sometimes, I just like to look a picture of a finished dish, glimpse a recipe and re-interpret it . That’s what I did this week with these lamb meatballs. The picture that I saw called them ‘Polpetonne di Agnello’ which is Italian for lamb meatballs. I loved the idea of a spring meatball with lamb and mint—mint is such a classic pairing for lamb, and my garden is full of it at the moment. I added a little parmesan cheese for richness, flavor and mouth feel. Then, I wanted to add a little bit of texture and a little bit of an eastern Mediterranean flair, so I incorporated some steamed bulgur and toasted pine nuts into the mix. I browned the meatballs and braised them in chicken stock. I tossed in fava beans, spring onions and asparagus at the very end and finished the sauce with a walnut sized lump of butter and a generous pinch of chopped fresh mint.
Phoebe’s Lamb Meatballs with Spring Onions, Fava Beans and Asparagus
1# ground lamb
1 egg yolk
2 cloves of garlic, minced or grated
¼ cup of cracked bulgur, cooked
*To cook simply cover the bulgur with boiling water, cover and let steep for 20 minutes. Drain and set aside.
¼ c. grated parmesan cheese
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
4-6 Tbsp. of chopped mint, depending on how much you like mint
¼ cup flour to roll the meatballs in
1 cup of chicken stock
½ cup white wine, water or more chicken stock
1 bunch of spring onions, outside layer peeled off
1 bunch of asparagus, about 12 ounces, ends trimmed, and remaining stalks chopped into 1 inch lengths
1 # of fava beans, shucked, blanched and peeled or if you don’t have the time for favas you can easily substitute 1 cup of fresh or frozen peas
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp chopped mint
Combine the all of the ingredients and go ahead and make meatballs. Roll the meatballs in the flour, gently knocking off the excess. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a 10” sauté pan with sides. Brown the meatballs in the oil and remove from the pan. Drain any excess oil from the sauté pan. Return the pan to the heat and add the onions. Brown the onions lightly and deglaze the pan with white wine. Add the meatballs and the chicken stock to the pan. Bring to a simmer and continue to simmer covered for 10 minutes. Add the fava beans to the pan and simmer for an additional five minutes. Add a little more chicken stock if necessary to keep the pan from drying out. Add the chopped asparagus to the pan and cover. Cook for just a couple of minutes more—until the asparagus is just tender. *If you are using peas instead of fava beans, they will cook more quickly so just add them in with the asparagus to preserve color and flavor. Finish with a tablespoon of butter—this will add richness and texture to the sauce and sprinkle with the remaining chopped mint.