Updated: 1 day ago
Hello! Ada here. For better or worse, I've had less time to spend in the kitchen lately, and this cooking crunch has left me feeling a little desperate on figuring out what to eat. Sure, I can research and recommend awesome recipes, hungrily pulling them up on my computer while my fridge sits empty in the room next door, but how do all these suggestions actually solve the problem of what I should eat tonight? I haven't had the time (or is it want?) to pour over a new recipe or even to make a grocery list that requires gathering ingredients outside of my usual cart. And with said business, it feels more important than ever to fuel my body with wholesome, nutrient-dense meals. I know you know the struggle.
But then, I remembered a formula that has gotten me through uninspired and busy times like this in the past... Let's call it the meatball + veg + sauce trifecta. It's PERFECTLY suited for summer produce, and it has become my go-to as of late.
For about a month or two straight, I've been making Greek-style lamb meatballs about every other week. These meatballs are the anchor for a mezze of other dishes including large pepper and tomato salads, cucumber tzatziki, sun-dried tomato or roasted pepper pastes, tabouli, and hummus - sometimes the classic chickpea-variety, and sometimes a hummus-inspired dip of roasted beets or carrots plus tahini and olive oil or maybe yogurt and garlic.
The prep for this formula always involves a chunky and toothsome vegetable component (like a chopped zucchini salad or tray of Harissa roasted carrots) and always at least one saucey thing (hummus, tahini, garlic-chive aioli). (See also, what are garlic chives, and how to use them?).
Truthfully, I'm always low-key chasing a wrap called the Kuzu from Keboalicious - a menu item that seems to have disappeared sometime over the years. When I lived in East Austin, the Kuzu was a beloved favorite of mine, and then my of my boyfriend's, who is now my husband. All this to say, this kuzu-chasing meatball + veg + sauce formula works well for both of us, and makes for excellent lunches eaten at home or packed up in an insulated lunch box.
The formula requires some upfront investment of time. At a leisurely podcasting pace, I'd set aside a couple of hours. There is a lot of chopping involved, especially if you aspire to make a pepper/tomato salad with very tiny dices, which I recommend you do. Think pico de gallo, but Mediterranean. But after the prep, I can usually make these vittles last us all work week, in some form or another.
On day 2 after I already have a prepped bowl of tahini that is waiting in my fridge, I might add an eggplant baba ganoush to the lineup, and on day 3, a quick zucchini feta "pasta" that comes together in minutes. A can of tuna, olives, marinated beans, a boiled egg, a tray of crispy potatoes, a box of salad greens... I know it seems like I'm just listing the first foods that come to mind (maybe I am?), but when you prep the meatball + veg + sauce trifecta at the beginning of the week - dinners the following nights can come together with surprising cohesion, riffing off of last night's leftovers and adding new components Everlasting-Meal-style. (This is my favorite cooking book, ever. A must-read for easy, seasonal eating, IMO.)
If you can't be bothered to make meatballs, maybe just snag some lamb sausage or simply cook the ground-lamb taco meat style - well seasoned with spices like oregano and garlic (taking a moment to plug this garlic that I love), and ready to be crumbled on your pita, or over rice, or maybe a on a tostada, or whatever.
A note: the formula should probably have a "+ Bread" amendment. I'm not a baker, and despite the fact that I've bought yeast several times throughout my meatball frenzy, I haven't worked up the motivation to make my own pita, an effort which would certainly turn this already-perfect-trifecta into something ethereal. Instead, sourdough bread and Central Market pita or buttery and fragrant basmati rice, like the pot currently cooking, have filled the bread vacancy.
Happy cooking, here's to hoping you find a formula that works for you.
Most of this week's recipe suggestions are hidden in the above text because I guess I had something to say. My sincere apologies if you don't feel like reading.
Some cantaloupe lagniappe:
Beet Hummus How-To:
Roast your beets.
Quarter peeled and roasted beets and put them in a bowl. (They should be very soft. If the skin doesn't come off very easily, they need to go longer.) Add about an equal volume of canned (drained) chickpeas. Canned white beans would work great here, too! I think I used about 6-9 small, roasted beets.
Add about 3-5 cloves of garlic, more if you have more beets. Add a very generous glug of olive oil. A quarter cup? Add about the same amount of tahini. Maybe a little less.
Add as many chopped "tender" herbs as you feel comfortable with. I used parsley and dill. Honestly, you can go pretty heavy on the herbs. They will help brighten the earthy flavor of the beets.
Add a lot of acid: lemon or lime juice if you have it, and maybe some red wine vinegar if you don't. I used lime juice because it's what I had. (Zest, too, if you're feeling fancy!)
Blend it up! I used an immersion blender. Taste, and add more salt if it's bland, acid if it's too early, and olive oil if it's too chunky. I needed to add more of all three after my first blend. Serve with tortilla chips, pita chips, or maybe even slathered on a wrap.
I've also made versions of this dip using plain yogurt instead of tahini. It's a creamier dip, and is very delicious! Sub roasted carrots for the beets in either the tahini or yogurt version! Also, if I had a hot pepper (jalapeno or serrano) I would have added some of that to the beet hummus - the spice will help balance the earthiness.