Photo courtesy of Jennifer May

In America, meatballs most often appear on top of a pile of spaghetti. In her new globally inspired cookbook, Street Food, Susan Feniger makes the case for serving them on skewers. The veteran California chef serves her delicate, gently spiced lamb meatballs on cocktail picks with slivers of sweet dates and a drizzle of sweet date and carob molasses. To pull off the party appetizer like a pro, take Feniger’s advice: Don’t overmix the lamb, and resist the temptation to make monstrous meatballs. Small meatballs will be tender and fully caramelized--and easy to eat off a party pick in one bite.

Lamb Meatballs with Date and Carob Molasses

Recipe adapted from "Susan Feniger's Street Food" by Susan Feniger (Clarkson Potter)

  • Makes 18 one-inch meatballs
  • Start to Finish: 1 hour

Ingredients

4 tablespoons canola oil

1 large white onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 pound ground lamb

1 bunch fresh Italian parsley, finely chopped (about ¾ cup)

1½ teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon kosher salt

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

Date molasses, for drizzling (optional)

Carob molasses, for drizzling (optional)

9 pitted dates, fresh or dried, halved lengthwise

Directions

1. In a large skillet, warm 2 tablespoons of the canola oil over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is transparent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant but not starting to brown, about 5 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and let cool to room temperature.

2. In a large bowl, combine the cooled onions with the lamb, parsley, paprika, salt, black pepper and cayenne, if using. Using your hands, mix the ingredients thoroughly but do not overmix or the meatballs will be tough. Roll 2 tablespoons of the meat mixture into a ball and transfer to a baking sheet or plate. Repeat to make approximately 18 meatballs.

3. In a large skillet, warm the remaining 2 tablespoons canola oil over medium heat. Working in batches, carefully add the meatballs. Sear the meatballs until they start to brown on the bottom, about 3 minutes. Continue to brown the meatballs, gently rolling them with a wooden spoon or spatula until they are browned all over, about 7 minutes longer. Remove the skillet from the heat.

4. Transfer the meatballs to a serving plate and drizzle with the date molasses and carob molasses, if using. Run a toothpick or a small skewer through the center of each date half and then through the center of each meatball. Serve immediately.

Finishing Touches

It's the details that count! Try these tips

  • Date and carob molasses are thick syrups made from pressed fruit and can be found in Middle Eastern markets. If they’re not available, pomegranate molasses--which is easier to find--can be used in their place.

  • Stop by Feniger’s restaurant, Street, next time you’re in Los Angeles.

  • Serve these meatballs at your next party off something nicer than regular toothpicks. We’re partial to these knotted bamboo sets.

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