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Milkstreet Kitchen: Turkish Meatballs with Lime Yogurt Sauce

Turkish Meatballs.png
Turkish Meatballs.png

Weeknights get busy once kids are back in school. So Matthew Card stopped by to share a quick and easy dinner idea. Matthew is Food Editor of Christopher Kimball's Milk Street Magazine and the all-new cookbook, "Milk Street: The New Home Cooking."

Turkish Meatballs with Lime Yogurt Sauce

Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling

Servings: 6

These crisp, patty-shaped meatballs developed a flavorful crust from pan-frying. This recipe also works with a blend of lamb and beef. We heated the spices, shallots and garlic in oil in the microwave to draw out their flavors. We loved the meatballs stuffed into pita pockets with sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion and flat-leaf parsley. Tangy yogurt sauce spiked with lime juice and cayenne made for a bright counterpart.

Don't use stale bread for the meatballs. The fresh pita bread added light texture and fresh flavor that stale bread couldn't. Likewise, use whole-milk plain yogurt, not Greek-style to get the right consistency in both the meatballs and the sauce.

—Diane Unger

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated (1 teaspoon)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8-inch pita bread, torn into small pieces (about 3 ounces)
  • ¼ cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup packed fresh mint leaves (1 ounce), finely chopped
  • 1½ pounds 90-percent lean ground beef
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons olive oil, the shallot, garlic, cumin, cinnamon, and oregano. Microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl, combine the pita bread, yogurt and water and and use your hands to mash the mixture to a smooth paste. Add the reserved oil mixture, the mint, beef, salt and pepper. Use your hands to thoroughly mix. Divide meat into 12 portions and use your hands to roll each into smooth balls. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.

In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high until just beginning to smoke. Add the meatballs and use a metal spatula to press them into ½-inch-thick patties. Cook over medium heat, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the meatballs register 140ºF and are cooked through and well browned on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil and let rest 5 minutes.

Lime-Yogurt Sauce

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Makes 1½ cups

  • 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons tahini
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

In a small bowl, whisk the yogurt, tahini, lime juice, salt and cayenne until smooth.