Meatballs glazed in a light honey sesame sauce and thai peppers infuse these little spicy-sweet morsels with a fierce tropical chili heat.
By Jill Nammar
A mix of ground spices lend smokiness and depth of flavor. Some dried fruit bumps up the moisture and adds a subtle sweetness. You really won’t know the fruit is there, it kind of just melts into the mix. Finally, herbs add a welcome freshness.
There are a few tricks to keeping turkey or chicken meatballs moist. Remember to….relax…let all the nightmares of dry meatballs leave your mind. Be patient when rolling the meat into balls, add moisture to the mix and last but not least….with all your will and might, resist, resist, resist the urge to overcook them into something that resembles sawdust marbles. Be gentle and kind to your meatballs. This is going to be hard at first, but trust me, it gets easier with practice and letting go. Even if you overcook them a little (this happens from time to time) they’ll still be full of flavor.
Serve these meatballs with fragrant and fluffy basmati rice and my cooling Persian Chopped Salad. The meatballs are packed with heat and flavor, so mild rice and a refreshing salad are welcome additions to this meal. Plain Greek yogurt or sour cream for dipping and a simple salad made from a few sliced cucumbers tossed with sea salt, lime or lemon are good side dishes too.
You may want to toast some of the sesame seeds you’ll use for rolling the meatballs. This brings out their nutty flavor. Just put them in a nonstick pan and cook them on medium heat until they’re golden brown, being careful not to burn them.
When dicing the ingredients, really run your knife over them a few times, almost mincing them. The meatballs are small so they cook pretty quickly. Therefore, the veggies must cook quickly too.
- 2-1 pound packages of ground chicken, turkey or lean beef
- 6-8 scallions, diced very finely. Reserve some for serving.
- 1 small piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated. (optional) I use a microplane for this.
- 1-2 small Thai chili peppers, minced very finely. You can also use a jalapeno pepper or a bit of ground red chili powder.
- ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
- 3½ tablespoons of sesame seeds, divided. Reserve about 1½ tablespoons for rolling the meatballs and sprinkling over them upon serving
- 10 diced apricots or ⅓ cup diced dried dates, your choice. Make sure you dice them very fine.
- A generous drizzle of honey plus more for drizzling at the end of cooking.
- Salt to taste.
- Fresh herb of your choice: flat leaf parsley, mint, Thai basil, regular basil or cilantro would all be great. Use a good handful, about ¼ cup, chopped.
- Neutral oil for pan frying the meatballs.
- Serving Suggestion: lemon or lime wedges, chopped scallions, Greek yogurt, sour cream
- Add everything to a bowl, including a good drizzle of honey and the herb of your choice and mix to combine all the ingredients.
- Wet your hands with cold water and form the mixture into small balls the size of large marbles or walnuts.
- Heat a large nonstick pan on medium high heat with some oil. Drop the meatballs in the pan and saute until they’re golden brown on all sides and cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan. Fry in batches if you have to. Be careful not to burn them as the honey will help to caramelize the outside of the meatballs, helping them brown and crisp. You can cover the pan occasionally to cook them. But, keep a close eye on them and remove the cover when almost done. Try not to overcook or they’ll become dry.
- Once they are done, drizzle some more honey on them and roll them around to coat them with honey. Put the reserved sesame seeds on a plate and drop the cooked meatballs in the sesame seeds, rolling them to coat the outside with seeds.