Jerusalem Meatballs: Lamb & Pine Nut or Turkey & Zucchini

The fantastic Jerusalem cookbook is now over 5 years old but we keep finding ourselves turning to it again and again.  Maybe it’s due to our proximity to Atlantic Avenue’s Middle Eastern shops.  This time, we refashioned Jerusalem’s turkey and zucchini burgers and lamb and pine nut koftas into meatballs we served at a recent gathering.  I often find that burgers work even better as meatballs, since their smaller size leads to better crispiness.  Unlike some other Middle Eastern recipes, these did not require any special ingredients, and with some modifications we did, are remarkably easy.

The lamb meatballs are a modification from Jerusalem’s kofta recipe.  Kofta’s are normally cigar-shaped an served with a variety of sides or condiments.  The pine nuts are the key element.  Yes, they’re a bit spendy, but they’re crucial here, just like how you can’t make pesto without them.  You could make the meatballs entirely with lamb, but you can get a deeper flavor if you add another meat like veal or beef, just as the Italians do with meatballs.  You can serve these at really any internal temperature from medium rare to well done, depending on your crispness vs. juiciness preferences.

For lighter fare, the turkey meatballs should be your go-to.  They even have some vegetables, using zucchini for some color and heft.  To me, they’re just as good.  Make sure to ask your butcher to give you equal parts white and dark meat.  If I had to choose, go all dark meat.

We served both meatballs with our versatile pomegranate tahini.  A totally optional yet delicious sweet-savory condiment to the meatballs.   When you make these at your next house party, please invite us!

Jerusalem's Turkey & Zucchini Meatballs

Course Appetizer
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 23 minutes
Author Michael Herman

Ingredients

  • 1 lb ground turkey I like a mix of white and dark meat
  • 1 large zucchini coarsely grated
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 2 tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or other ground hot pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.  In a large bowl, combine all of the ingredients for the meatballs.  Mix with your hands and then shape into 15-20 meatballs, depending on desired size.  Place meatballs on a baking sheet.  Place in the oven for about 10 minutes, until just cooked through.

  2. To serve, transfer to a serving dish. Top with our pomegranate tahini.

Jerusalem's Kofta B'Siniyah - Lamb & Pine Nut Meatballs


Course Appetizer
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Author Michael Herman

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs ground meat, half lamb and half something else like beef or veal
  • 1 small-medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 8 tbsp pine nutes toasted, then coarsely chopped plus
  • 3/4 cup parsley finely chopped
  • 1 large medium-hot red chili (like jalapeno) seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 3/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • sweet or smoky paprika

Instructions

  1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl except for 1 tbsp pine nuts and 1/4 cup parsley.  Use your hands to mix everything together well.  Then shape the meat into your desired shape, either meatballs or more traditional kofta shape (torpedo-like fingers).  Press to ensure that the meatball is tight and keeps its shape.  Arrange on a plate and chill until you are ready to cook.  This can be done the night before.

  2. When ready, preheat oven to 500 degrees.  Arrange meatballs on a baking dish, being careful not to crowd.  When preheated, bake for 8-10 minutes until the meatballs look nicely browned.

  3. To serve, scatter with reserved pine nuts and parsley and sprinkle with paprika.  Serve with our pomegranate tahini.

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