I love the flavors of the Mediterranean and North Africa. These lovingly spiced chicken meatballs, served with a honey lemon-infused barley/feta/vegetable salad on a toasted pita, take me on a culinary magic carpet ride to exotic places I've yet to visit. This is an entry for the Cookmore Sandwich Challenge for the WFC.
Mediterranean Chicken Meatball Pitas
- 5 6" pita breads
- 1 large egg slightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 tablespoons cilantro chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger grated
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- pinch ground cinnamon
- 2 slices bread ground in spice mill
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion diced
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- 1 lemon zested
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted kalamata olives
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 1/4 cup water
- 15 ounces can tomato sauce
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar
- pinch ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 cups cooked pearl barley
- 1/2 cup chopped canned artichoke hearts
- 1/2 cup diced feta cheese
- 1/3 cup raisins plumped in boiling water
- 1/3 cup diced Kalamata olives
- 1/3 cup sliced scallions 1/4"
- 2 tablespoons cilantro leaves chopped
- 2 lemons juiced
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 6 ounces baby spinach leaves
- cilantro leaves for garnish
To make the meatballs:
Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In large bowl, combine all meatball ingredients (from egg to black pepper) except the chicken.Now add the ground chicken and form 15-16 1-1/2 to 2 " meatballs. If meatballs seem a bit "sticky", dip fingers in clean water to roll. They will smooth out immediately. Place meatballs on baking pan and cook 30 minutes.
To make the sauce:
While meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In large saucepan on stovetop, heat oil on low. Saute onion for 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes more. Add the lemon zest and olives and again, cook a few minutes more. Increase heat a bit and add white wine. Cook until wine is almost dissipated. Stir in water, tomato sauce, sugar, red peper flakes, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Return to low simmer, cover and wait until meatballs are done. Add cooked meatballs to aromatic tomato broth, cover and simmer another 10 minutes so they can soak up some of the tomato goodness.
To make the salad:
Cook barley according to package directions.Cool and set aside.To 2 cups of cooled cooked barley add the chopped artichoke hearts, feta cheese, raisins, olives, scallions and cilantro.
To make the dressing:
In small jar or bowl, whisk or shake all dressing ingredients from lemon juice to salt and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Pour 1/2 the dressing on barley salad and toss.
To assemble the sandwich:
Grill pitas to plump and soften. Place a handful of baby spinach on top of warm pita. Place 3 meatballs on top of fresh spinach and top with tomato based aromatic sauce. Along side of the meatballs, add your barley salad and drizzle with a little more lemon dressing. Top with cilantro leaves, fold up "pita" style and enjoy.