Meatballs with red sauce are delicious, but meatballs with yogurt sauce are next level.
Tawla, the popular Eastern Mediterranean restaurant on Valencia Street, rolls its balls with a mix of lamb, pork, and beef, and frieds them to a golden crisp. Then, the balls are simmered in a rich and herbaceous yogurt sauce before being finished with a splash of grassy olive oil and topped with pine nuts for crunch. You'll wonder why you've never eaten meatballs like this before in your life...and then you'll make them at home again and again.
Tawla's Herbed Meatballs w/ Tahini and Pine Nuts
Ingredients for Meatballs
12oz. ground beef
12oz. ground pork
12oz. ground lamb
2 yellow onions
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
2oz. cooked white rice
4oz. Nabulsi cheese (available at most Middle Eastern markets)
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tbsp. maras peppe
1 tbsp. olive oil
1. Finely dice the onions. Smash the garlic with the side of your knife until broken into small pieces.
2. Combine the onions, olive oil, and garlic in a pot and sweat over a low flame until completely textureless, approx. 2 hours. No color should be allowed to form. Add small amounts of water as necessary, however there should be very little remaining moisture when done. Cool thoroughly before proceeding.
3. Crumble the cheese with your hands. Finely chop the rice and parsley.
4. Combine all ingredients. Either using a stand mixer or a large bowl and your hands, mix and knead thoroughly for about 10 minutes. The mix will become very sticky and cohere into a uniform mass. Pinch off a small piece to cook and taste, adjust anything you don't like. Chill completely before proceeding.
5. Portion and roll into golf-ball sized pieces. You should have about 24.
6. Fry balls in a copious amount of oil until mahogany brown on all sides. This must be done at a high temperature, the meatballs should remain slightly raw on the inside.
8oz. yogurt, strained of liquid
1 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 cup chicken or beef stock
1 bunch green garlic
1 bunch garlic chives
1 bunch mint
1 bunch parsley
1 yellow onion
1. Separate the green tops and white bottoms of your green garlic. Inspect for sand/dirt, as they need to be thoroughly rinsed.
2. Thinly julienne lengthwise the green garlic bottoms, yellow onion, and jalapeño. Taste your jalapeño and only use half if it is unusually spicy. Sweat this mixture while continuously stirring with a generous splash of olive oil until the vegetables no longer have any crunch or raw flavor but are still toothsome, around 5 minutes. There should be no browning.
3. Finely chop the remaining herbs, including the tops of the green garlic.
4. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the rind of one lemon, then finely julienne it into long strips. Place the peel in a small pot of cold water and bring to a boil. Immediately strain out the peel, discard the water, and set aside to cool.
5. Zest the second lemon with a microplane. Juice both lemons and set aside.
6. If your stock is especially gelatinous, melt it down but make sure it is as cool as possible while remaining liquid. Whisk stock and cornstarch together to make a very light slurry, then whisk in your yogurt. This should have a saucy, pourable consistency. If your yogurt was especially thick, you can add a bit more water.
7. Bring the yogurt sauce to a simmer in a pot large enough to accommodate your meatballs. Alternately, if you have no such pot to do this on the stovetop, you can finish them in the sauce in the oven. Add the meatballs and simmer until finished cooking through. If you are unsure, use a probe thermometer and cook until they reach 140F inside.
8. It may be easier to remove the meatballs to a serving dish to finish the sauce depending on how much room your pot allows for mixing. Add all remaining ingredients except half the lemon juice and the blanched lemon peel. Simmer and stir everything for a couple minutes to let it all come together. Adjust the consistency with water or stock if it is too tight, or reduce it if it seems loose. It should be creamy but still somewhat light. Minor curdling of the yogurt is normal. Adjust to taste with lemon and salt. Top with the lemon peel and pour on a hearty amount of the most bitter, pungent extra virgin olive oil you have. Sprinkle pine nuts on top.