zatar meatballs

Za’atar Meatballs with Fresh Herbs and Yogurt Pomegranate Sauce

Lately I can’t get enough of za’atar. An aromatic spice blend of oregano, sumac, cumin, thyme and sesame seeds, it has been eaten in the Middle East for centuries. The 12th century philosopher Maimonides is said to have prescribed it to his patients to treat a variety of ailments.

I love it tossed into roasted vegetables or mixed with olive oil and spread over warm bread or feta cheese, but the flavor it gives to these meatballs might be my favorite use for it yet.

For the meatballs:
1 pound ground beef
½ small onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons parsley, minced
3 tablespoons fresh mint, minced
1 tablespoon za’atar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon pepper
lettuce leaves

For the pomegranate yogurt sauce:
seeds of one pomegranate
2 cups plain whole Greek yogurt
2 scallions, finely chopped
juice of one lemon, or to taste
½ teaspoon salt

Make the yogurt sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the yogurt, scallions, lemon and salt. Gently fold in all but 2 tablespoons of the pomegranate seeds. Transfer to a bowl and garnish with reserved pomegranate seeds. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

Light a grill.

In a medium bowl, gently mix the ground meat with the onion, garlic, parsley, mint, za’atar, salt, cumin and pepper. Form the meat into 1 1/2-inch balls and flatten them to 3/4 inch thick patties. Grill the meatballs over medium high heat until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Wrap the grilled meatballs in lettuce leaves and serve with a dollop of the pomegranate yogurt sauce.

Serves 4

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