Moroccan Meatballs for the Grill with Yogurt Tahini Sauce and Carrot Slaw

I love Jamie Oliver. Whenever Alan wonders aloud whether I would leave him for Jamie, my first response is that I would rather be married to a hunter than a celebrity chef. As a fellow vegetable and herb lover, Jamie’s recipes take them seriously and feature copius amounts of them. As much as Jamie loves his meat, I am not a big meat fan; I could survive on nut, seeds and beans for my protein. But, there is something about meatballs that I am drawn to, especially lamb. Maybe it is because I can add spices and herbs to them and their cooking is not as precious and mysterious as a big hunk of meat. Alan is in charge of all meat preparation besides roasted chicken thighs, which I admit, I have mastered…

I have been making a modified version of Jamie Oliver’s Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs, from Jamie At Home, in meatball form for years. (By the way, if you are a gardener or want to learn more about seasonal eatting, this is the most beautiful book. I purchased it in New Zealand before it was release and lugged it around with us for three weeks.) These meatballs are great to make during the summer when I have a plethora of fresh herbs and greens to make a bed of salad for the meatballs and serve with a cool tahini yogurt sauce.

Recently, I discovered a way I could adapt them using turkey and my beloved quinoa. In Power Foods, a newer Martha Stewart cookbook, they have a turkey-quinoa patty with a similar flavor profile. Because ground lamb can be hard to find and sometimes looks too fatty, I like the idea of the readily available and leaner turkey. And, if you haven’t noticed, I am always looking for new ways to add the high protein quinoa. I have made both recipes several times, with my own adaptations, and decided to combine the two approaches. Delicious! Adding the quinoa really stretches the meat. If you want to try using just lamb or just turkey, without the quinoa, the spice measures will still work.

Finn loves meat and meatballs, so, he ate them without question. Autumn and meat are not yet friends (she does, however, eat everyone’s discarded chicken skins and begs for elk, go figure?). Autumn was facinate by the serving style of this meal because I served the meatballs with bibb lettuce as a wrap. So, true to form, Autumn wrapped up her rice and chopped tomatoes and declared a delicious adaptation! For a kid like Autumn, if she can add her own flair to something I make, she is in the game!

Makes about 26-28 meatballs. There will be leftovers for a family of four.

Equipment: Food Processor, Spice Grinder (coffee grinder reserved for spices, grill.

2 cups cooked quinoa (Quinoa doubles in size when cooked. Either make one cup of quinoa for this recipe or, do as I do, make a big batch and store in one and two cup portions in the freezer)

1-1 1/4 cup ground turkey (dark or light)

2 T roasted and ground cumin (I roast it whole and put it through a spice- dedicated food mill. There is nothing like freshly toasted cumin seeds!)

2 T ground sumac (this spice is used widely in Middle Eastern cooking. It has a bitter lemon taste to it, not unlike lemon zest. It adds a beautiful red color to food, like paprika, and I depend upon it for tabbouleh and grilled zucchini. And yes, it is from the ubiquitous sumac that grows everywhere in MN) If you do not have it, use the zest of one lemon.

1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional, I leave it out if I am making these for the kids)

1 tsp coarse salt

one handful of parsley, roughly chopped

1 T fresh thyme leaves,

fresh black pepper, about 5 twists of the grinder

2 T olive oil

2 handfuls of chopped pistachios, folded in at the end

1. In a food processor, add the quinoa and turkey and pulse as few times until combined. Add the rest of the ingredients, with the exception of the pistachios. Pulse until well mixed and the meat comes together in the food processor.

2. Turn the contents to a large mixing bowl and fold in the pistachios.

*You can prep the meatball mixture ahead of time and either leave in the bowl or form into meatballs.

3. Scoop out about a golfball size of meat, form into a ball and then lightly squeeze to make an oblong shape in your hand. This shape resembles the kebobs that are formed on sticks in traditional Middle Eastern cooking and works well for the grill and serving.

4. Make sure that your grill is preheat and well oiled before you put meatballs on. Cook on a heat that you would for burgers.

Serve with tortillas or bibb lettuce as a wrap, slathered with yogurt tahini sauce. I made a carrot slaw the night I took these the photos, it was a delicious and simple addition. I have added a kid friendly carrot slaw recipe as well.


Yogurt-Tahini Sauce

Alan and I polished this amount of sauce off in one sitting. I suggest you double it or plan on making it again when you eat the leftovers.

1 cup greek yogurt 

2-3 T tahini

1 clove garlic, smashed and diced fine

juice and zest of half a lemon, about 2T

2 pinches of coarse salt

tiny pinch of cayenne

1 T olive oil

1 T toasted cumin seeds, optional. If you only have ground cumin, just add a small pinch.

If you have extra parsley, dill or mint on hand, throw in a few tablespoons. Yogurt-Tahini sauce is very flexible.

1. Mix together all of the the ingredients. At first, the tahini will be tough to incorporate, as it is like peanut butter. After some work, it will become smooth and shiny. Taste for salt and acidity. Add more lemon juice or salt, if necessary. It should be nutty and creamy and refreshing!

This is a great job for the kids. Autumn is always facinated when I make something which I have to taste often. She can’t help tasting herself, sometimes.

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