Mucho Gusto

Lamb Meatballs with Cannellini Hummus

The freezer at my house is a bottomless pit.  The bottom two drawers are dedicated to various cuts of meat that have been carefully vacuum-sealed by my dad, who has a habit of buying whatever “looks good” at the grocery store.  Because my dad, the primary dinner-preparer, is away for the week, my mom and I have made it our mission to clear out the freezer one meal at a time.  

I came home from work to a pound of thawed ground lamb on the counter and a request for meatballs.  Part of me felt like I was on an episode of Chopped, but instead of four mismatched mystery ingredients, I had a basement pantry stocked with items that my dad insists on buying in threes and fours.  God forbid we run out of roasted red peppers or rigatoni.  I grabbed a can of cannellini beans and ran upstairs to scan the fridge and kitchen cabinets.  I found a bunch of parsley, a few lemons on their last legs, and some sweet red peppers.  

Putting together a meal without a recipe is a combination of doing what you know, trusting your intuition, guesswork, and a lot of tasting spoons.  For components of the dish that you can’t taste as you go, I’ve always found it helpful to use a few different recipes as a guide for proportions and measurements.  Taste anything and everything you can along the way, because it’s unlikely that whatever you’re making will taste exactly how you want it to on the first try.  This recipe is an ode to freestyling: add what you have in the fridge, taste each component, and feel free to approach these instructions as nothing more than loose guidelines.  


Cannellini Hummus

1 (29-ounce) can chickpeas

3 tablespoons tahini

5 cloves garlic

⅓ cup parsley, chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoons harissa

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

Quinoa Herb Salad

3 tablespoons olive oil

Juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Salt, to taste

Black pepper, to taste

½ cup cooked quinoa

2 shallots, finely diced

½ cup parsley, chopped

½ cup spinach, chopped

½ cup any other vegetables you have on hand, diced (cucumbers, sweet peppers, and tomatoes all work great)

Lamb Meatballs

1 pound ground lamb

4 cloves of garlic, grated

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red chili flakes

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Black pepper, to taste

4 tablespoons olive oil


Start with the cannellini hummus.  Place all ingredients except for the olive oil, salt, and black pepper in the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until smooth, slowly streaming in the olive oil as the other ingredients break down.  Add salt and pepper, and blend once more.  Place the hummus in the fridge and allow it to sit while you continue to cook.  

When building the quinoa salad, begin by whisking together the olive oil, lemon, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl.  Add in all other ingredients and toss.  Set aside.

Next up are the meatballs.  Add all ingredients, except for the olive oil in a medium mixing bowl and, using your hands, mix until just combined.  Form golf ball-sized meatballs, about 9 or 10 total.  Heat the olive oil over medium in a wide skillet.  Place the meatballs in the oil, and fry on each side until crispy and cooked through, about 8 minutes.  Once cooked, remove the meatballs from the heat and place on a plate.

Build your bowls.  Add two hefty dollops (about ½ cup) of cannellini hummus to the bottom of each bowl, and spread gently in circular motions to evenly distribute it.  Layer the quinoa salad over the hummus, and place 4-5 meatballs on top.  Finish with good olive oil, an extra squeeze of lemon, and any leftover herbs.

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