When I was in high school, a couple of my basketball teammates and I decided to give up sugar for a month during the middle of the season. Motivated by nothing in particular, we set out to see if we could withstand this self-imposed challenge. This meant that when we’d eat at our pasta parties (a team dinner the night before a game that’s hosted by one of the team members–just suburban high school mems!), we had to be sure not to let our guard down. Whatever! It’s fine! We didn’t need those brownies anyway!
At one random pasta party, we were all chowing down on a plate of meatballs when the teammate who was hosting the party (and who also conveniently was not participating in the no sugar challenge) asked us if we were enjoying our dinners. We all nodded enthusiastically, only to watch the fattest grin of all time spread across her face. “There’s sugar in those meatballs,” she giggled. Cool. Coolcoolcool.
I’m not sure why she felt so impassioned to ruin our beloved no-sugar streak, but looking back, there is a valuable lesson to be learned here. A good meatball can benefit greatly from a subtle ping of sweetness. In these tasty lamb meatballs, the dish gets its sweetness from the addition of pomegranate molasses in the pan sauce. If you’ve never cooked with pomegranate molasses, I would strongly encourage you to run, not walk, to the store to pick up a bottle. This stuff is addictive and tastes delicious with Mediterranean-inspired foods, making it the perfect dose of sweetness for this hearty lamb dish. Trust us, you’re going to be licking the skillet for every last drizzle of sauce that’s in there.
If you’re like me and are balling on a budget (pun definitely intended), you could very well swap out half of the ground lamb with ground turkey or ground beef in order to save a few bucks. However, this tasty lamb dinner is definitely worth the splurge, so don’t be afraid to go all out. Serve it over a bed of rice or a smear of Greek yogurt, and don’t forget to give it a heavy garnish of fresh mint. Whatever you do, don’t leave out that pomegranate molasses–even if you’re giving up sugar for a month.
Want to learn how to deseed a pomegranate?
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, grated
- 1/ 4 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1 large egg, slightly beaten
- 1/ 2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 teaspoons Simply Organic Cumin Seed Ground
- 1 1/ 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/ 2 teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Cayenne
- 1/ 4 teaspoon Simply Organic Ground Cinnamon
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium shallot, minced
- 3/ 4 cup pomegranate juice
- 1/ 4 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
- Fresh pomegranate arils, for garnish
- Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
Preheat oven to 350°F. In a large bowl, mix together lamb, onion, garlic, breadcrumbs, lemon zest, egg, parsley, mint, cumin, salt, cayenne, and cinnamon using your hands. Roll into 3 tablespoon-sized balls. (You should have about 20 meatballs total)
Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Working in two batches, cook meatballs for about 4 minutes, turning as needed, until golden brown and crispy on all sides. Transfer cooked meatballs to a plate and pour off all but 2 tablespoons of fat from the skillet.
Reduce heat to medium and add shallots, then cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add pomegranate juice, wine and pomegranate molasses and bring to a boil. Simmer until reduced by half, about 5 minutes. Add meatballs back to skillet, coating with the pomegranate glaze. Transfer to oven and bake at 350°F until meatballs are cooked cooked through (with an internal temp of 145˚F), about 15 minutes. Serve over yogurt (if desired) and garnish with pomegranate arils and fresh mint.