Truthfully, while these meatballs are a perfect appetizer with the yogurt sauce, they'd be just as comfy soaking in a big pot of tomato sauce and eaten with pasta, or served with farro and greens for a more well-rounded meal. The salty olives, capers and feta balance out the creamy lentils and ricotta and the snap of the herbs. While they're certainly not traditional and you can't compare them to your Italian grandmother's, these are my new favorite meatball: hands down.
A few notes on the recipe: I never buy breadcrumbs in the store because they're expensive and so easy to make at home; use any bread you have laying around (even slightly stale bread) and toast it in the oven at 400°F. Then pulverize it in the food processor until, that's right, you've got bread crumbs. I find 4 to 5 slices of sandwich bread will equal about 2/3 cup breadcrumbs. And I realize it's spring and many of you may be growing herbs out in the garden or on your windowsills. If you prefer other herbs than what I've used in the dipping sauce, by all means substitute away! The point of the recipe was really to use and celebrate what we already had at home.
Mediterranean Turkey Meatballs with Herbed Yogurt Sauce
Makes twenty 2-inch meatballs
For the meatballs:
1 cup cooked lentils (black or green works well)
1/2 pound ground turkey
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup low-fat ricotta
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
2 tablespoons chopped black olives
1 tablespoon capers
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped, plus more for garnish
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried dill
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the herbed yogurt sauce:
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon fresh or dried chives
1 teaspoon fresh or dried dill, chopped
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a food processor, quickly grind up the lentils until they become mush. Put them in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add all of the remaining meatball ingredients to the bowl and mix well. I use my hands here, but if you're more comfortable, use a good sturdy mixing spoon. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray generously with non-stick spray. Form 2-inch balls and place on the baking sheet. The meatballs keep their shape nicely and don't spread much, so don't worry about giving them too much space.
Bake on the middle rack for 20 to 22 minutes until the meatballs are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool slightly.
While the meatballs are baking, make the yogurt dipping sauce by simply whisking all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chill until ready to serve. Keep both meatballs and yogurt sauce covered and refrigerated; meatballs will keep for 3 to 4 days, yogurt dip will keep for 7 to 10 days.