Persian Delicious

One of the joys of my patio garden are the fresh herbs I have within steps of my kitchen. As the days grow shorter and cooler, they tend to hold on longer than most everything else I'd previously been enjoying all summer long. So it only makes sense that I'd turn to them for the fresh parsley and thyme I needed to make this:

If you've ever enjoyed the decadent aroma of Middle Eastern cuisine, get ready to let your kitchen soak it up. Some of those tell-tale items, like cumin, lemon, and cucumber, come together to make a fantastic pita sandwich that you'll be craving morning, noon, and night. Fortunately, these tasty sandwiches are easy to make and you can even make the meatballs and yogurt dressing in advance. Busy day? Make those items prior and simply assemble and enjoy later. It's that easy.

I've suggested that you can use ground lamb or beef in this recipe. Lamb is, of course, traditional, but some folks aren't fans of it and it's not nearly as available as ground beef. You could also try using ground chicken, pork, or turkey, but I think beef makes the best substitute for the traditional lamb. I've also suggested several toppings, but these are on the light side, as I prefer to let the meatballs shine in the dish. That said, some hummus would also be truly lovely slathered on or perhaps a little chopped red onion, if the mood is right. I'd even see crumbled feta cheese working well in these sandwiches.

For me, I like avoiding lots of sides or the like with this dish, but that's because I'd prefer to have enough room for two pitas and sides just make that nearly impossible. That said, if you are looking to stretch things a bit, some fresh cucumber slices in a simple green salad and assorted olives for nibbling could make this a very festive meal. All I know is that I go out of my way to find ways to make food like this all year round, but it's simply at its best when I still have access to my fresh patio herbs. Or I might be just a bit biased!

Cumin-Meatball Pita Sandwiches

  • 2 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 T. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 T. ground cumin
  • 1 T. lemon zest
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. lean ground lamb or beef
  • 1/2 c. plain yogurt
  • 1/3 c.chopped parsley
  • 1/3 c. peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
  • 3 T. minced onion
  • Canola oil, for frying
  • 5 pita breads
  • Additional toppings: fresh arugula, halved grape tomatoes, chopped fresh cucumber

Combine the thyme, crushed red pepper, cumin, lemon zest, a few pinches of sea salt, and a couple of pepper grinds in a bowl. Add in the ground lamb or beef and, using your hands, mix thoroughly.

In a small bowl, combine the yogurt, parsley, diced cucumbers, and minced onion. Set aside for serving.

Heat up a tablespoon or so of canola oil in a large nonstick skillet to medium-high. Meanwhile, slice up any topping ingredients, such tomatoes or cucumbers.

Form fifteen meatballs and cook them in batches, three to four minutes per side. Set aside cooked meatballs on a plate and tent with foil to keep warm. Sometimes, I make the meatballs ahead of time and reheat them in a pie plate in a 350° oven. If you wish to do that, cook the meatballs for about 2 minutes per side as they will cook further when reheated.

If desired, warm the pita in the microwave.

Top the pitas with three meatballs per sandwich, the yogurt dressing, and any other desired toppings.

  • Yields: 5 sandwiches
  • Preparation Time:40 minutes

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