I planned the last week of meals carefully; not so tonight. By the time the light had gone, the evening was underway and my supper ideas were scarce. I headed to the deep freezer, peered in, and found an excess of frozen ground beef. What to do with that? Something quick, no doubt, but in the best possible taste for a fifteen minute (could I cut it to ten?) preparation. I pulled a pack from the frozen depths and headed to the microwave for a quick defrost.
Meatballs suddenly seemed just the thing: undemanding, but a step up from burgers or meatloaf. Once I had gathered what I needed from the pantry and produce drawer—raisins, couscous, a half a container of leftover fresh mint, and a few more bits & pieces—and Nick was playing in another room with Kevin, the kitchen felt transformed to a haven of plain dealing, the tile floor, smooth counters, and utensils a guarantee of good things. All at once, my off-the-cuff dinner switched from exertion to ease.
In half an hour dinner was served and glasses of wine (and one sippy cup of milk) poured. There was no fanfare, no exclamations of joy from Kevin or Nick, nor accompanying pride from me. But we cleaned our plates. Ta-da!
Mediterranean Meatballs with Couscous, Chickpeas & Herb Salad
I like to use my cookie scoop to make the meatballs; it keeps the meatballs uniform in size (for even cooking) and eliminates a considerable amount of time and mess.
1 and 1/2 pounds extra lean ground beef
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint, divided use
2 large garlic cloves, pressed
1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 cup couscous
1 2/3 cups boiling water
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained, rinsed
1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
1 large lemon, zest finely grated, juiced
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 cup raisins, finely chopped
2 Roma tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup nonfat plain yogurt
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place beef, feta, and 2 tablespoons mint in a large bowl. Sprinkle garlic and salt over. Gently toss beef to blend. Using damp hands, divide beef mixture into 1 and 1/2-inch meatballs. Using damp hands, shape each into ball. Place balls onto foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Bake 11-13 minutes or until well-browned and cooked through.
While meatballs bake, place the couscous in a large, heatproof bowl. Cover with boiling water. Cover bowl and stand for 3 to 4 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with fork to separate grains. Add the chickpeas, parsley, lemon zest, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, onion, raisins, tomatoes, and remaining 1/2 cup mint to couscous. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon couscous salad into bowls. Top with meatballs and a dollop of yogurt. Season with pepper. Makes 6 servings.
Nutrition per Serving (1/6 of recipe—meatballs and salad):Calories 381; Fat 14.2g (sat 5.5g, mono 5.6g, poly 0.8g); Protein 26.6g; Cholesterol 63.8mg; Carbohydrate 36.8g; Sodium 816mg.
(Note: I did the nutrition analysis using Diet Analysis Plus 7.0.1)