Middle Eastern Bison Pita Sliders

This spring has been a busy one, so I am reposting this oldie but goodie from May 2013. I have made some updates, and found additional photos on my computer, so I thought I would share them with you. Enjoy!

Bison Meatballs by My Utensil Crock

When I think of meatballs – and believe me, this is not an infrequent occurrence – I usually picture them in marinara sauce, maybe with some fresh mozzarella melted on top. Mayyybe on a garlic-toasted hoagie roll. These are delicious options, but I am always open to different recipes and flavor palates, if they provide me yet another way to eat meatballs.

Bison Meatballs by My Utensil Crock

This recipe has middle eastern notes, and uses bison – which I love for the nutritional boost. While the recipe looks like a lot of ingredients – a turn-off for some people – many are spices, and most are in both the yogurt sauce and the meatballs. You can play around with whether they are all so important that you would want to keep them on hand. Or you can try this: many grocery stores have a “bulk spice” section, where you can get just the amount you need – on my last trip, I purchased a teaspoon each of two spices – one rang up as $.07, and another was $.14! So don’t think you HAVE to purchase a $4.99 bottle of something exotic before you know it will be worth it – in some places. Hopefully, this catches on!

I had the butcher at Whole Foods grind bison steaks for me, so I knew exactly where the ground meat came from – it came from the steaks I picked out myself from the meat cooler! The butcher was happy to do it. Surprisingly, the cost per pound was the same for the fresh bison steaks as it was for the pre-packaged, older ground bison available right next to the steaks.

The meatballs here are shown nestled in mini-pitas, with cilantro brown rice and a cilantro yogurt sauce. They would also be great as an hors d’oeuvre at a party, as part of a mezze platter with hummus and baba ghanouj. That also sounds like a great dinner, doesn’t it? Most heavy appetizer platters do, to me!

Middle Eastern Bison Pita Sliders
 
Author:
Ingredients
For the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:
  • 1 t fennel seeds
  • .5 t cumin
  • .5 t ground coriander
  • 1.5 c chopped fresh cilantro
  • .5 c 2% Greek yogurt
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 t chopped fresh sage
  • 1 t sugar
For the Meatballs:
  • .5 c fresh breadcrumbs made from crustless french bread (I used the inside of a stale baguette that I made into crumbs using a cheese grater – true story)
  • 1 T skim milk
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 c finely chopped sweet onion
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • .5 t ground fennel seeds (remainder from the yogurt sauce)
  • .5 t cumin
  • .25 t ground coriander
  • 1 - 2 T minced jalapeno chile, measured after seeds are taken out
  • 2 T fat free Greek yogurt
  • 1.25 lb ground bison
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • .25 c chopped cilantro
  • 1 t chopped fresh sage
  • .5 t coarse kosher salt
  • .5 t freshly ground black pepper
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • pinch of ground cloves
Instructions
For the Cilantro Yogurt Sauce:
  1. Toast the fennel seeds in a small skillet over medium heat until you can smell it, and it's slightly darker in color, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Finely grind the toasted seeds in a spice mill or coffee grinder, or with a mortar and pestle (or a meat mallet with the seeds in a plastic bag).
  3. Place half of the ground fennel, and the cumin, coriander, cilantro, yogurt, onions, lemon juice, olive oil, sage, and sugar in a mini-prep food processor.
  4. Process until a smooth sauce forms, scraping down sides frequently.
  5. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover sauce and chill.
For the Meatballs:
  1. In a small bowl, mix the bread crumbs with the milk, to soften the crumbs.
  2. Heat a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot, add 1 T extra virgin olive oil. Then add the onion and garlic; saute until soft, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a food processor, place the onion mixture, breadcrumb mixture, fennel, cumin, coriander, jalapeno, and yogurt. Pulse until a coarse puree forms.
  4. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl. Add bison, egg, cilantro, sage, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix with hands until just blended.
  5. Form bison mixture into 1.25-inch balls.
  6. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs to the pan, but don’t crowd them – the meatballs should be at least 1″ apart, so work in 2 – 3 batches. Brown the meatballs on all sides, about 8 – 10 min per batch. If the pan gets too hot, remove it from the heat for a while and use a wet paper towel to wipe it down. Start over with more oil and repeat until all of the meatballs are browned.

Bison Meatballs by My Utensil Crock

Adapted from:  http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2008/02/middle_eastern_bison_meatballs_with_cilantro_yogurt_sauce

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