Friday, April 15, 2011

Mint and dill get savory in
Greek Meatballs with Herb and Lemon Orzo

Mint and dill – these are two herbs that I love to use in spring.
   When I was cutting them up to be used in Greek Meatballs with Herb and Lemon Orzo (click for the recipe)* this week, I took a few minutes just standing and inhaling their lovely fragrances.
   Visions of frosty summer drinks like mint vodka lemonade danced through my head as I held the leaves to my nose, while I could almost taste summer salads sprinkled with dill.
   For now, though, I’m content with using these ingredients in savory spring dishes, such as the Greek Meatballs, a featured recipe in the spring edition of America’s Test Kitchen’s 30-Minute Suppers.
   The mint and dill are subtley delicious in the orzo, and also add appealing flavor to the satisfying beef meatballs. The whole dish is sprinkled with zesty feta.
   It’s an excellent weeknight dish. Working together, my husband on the meatballs and me on the orzo, we got it on the table in about 35 minutes.
   The recipe I linked to above is on a blog.
   *The blogger has divided the recipe into two sections, Greek Meatballs and Herb and Lemon Orzo. I used a recipe that combined both into a more condensed version.
   However, there are only a few small differences between the blogger’s recipes and the one I used.
   First, the blogger says to use one tablespoon of oil in a skillet and cook just five to six meatballs at a time.
   That may work, but my husband followed the recipe’s direction of heating ¼ cup olive oil in a large skillet and cooking all 24 meatballs at once in a large skillet. Although he had to scrape up some of the bits that stuck to the bottom, the meatballs held together for the most part.
   The blogger also doesn’t mention how much water to bring to a boil for the orzo. I used three quarts (12 cups) as the recipe said.
   The blogger lists ½ cup feta cheese as an ingredient under both the Greek Meatballs and the Lemon and Orzo, but in the recipe I used only had ½ cup feta total. This was more than enough to sprinkle on the servings.
   For the meatballs, the recipe calls for two slices high-quality white sandwich bread, torn into small pieces. Instead of this, my husband used panko, a type of very fine Japanese breadcrumb that can be found in the bakery or Asian food section of many supermarkets.
   The breadcrumbs are mashed with plain yogurt, then ground beef, grated red onion, minced garlic, fresh mint, fresh dill, salt and pepper are added and everything is mixed together. The mixture is formed into 1 ½-inch meatballs.
   The meatballs are cooked in oil in a skillet.
   Meanwhile, three quarts of water are brought to a boil, then the burner is turned down to medium. The orzo is cooked for about 10 minutes in the simmering water.
   Make sure to drain the orzo in a fine-mesh sieve – you don’t want the pieces of tiny pasta going down the drain!
   The orzo is tossed with lemon zest, lemon juice, mint, dill, minced garlic and olive oil.
   The recipe says to spoon the orzo onto a serving platter, top with meatballs and sprinkle with feta cheese. We kept these items separate instead, so we could take how much of each we wanted and arrange them on the plate as we desired!

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