Mediterranean Exploration Company — eat there. You must. It’s the latest restaurant checked off our ‘must try’ list. We’ve been slowly tackling the list once a month, and the list keeps growing faster than we can get to them. M.E.C. is another John Gorham creation. I love his other restaurants, gigantic waits be damned, Toro Brovo and Tasty n Alder (or Sons). You could say we went a little overboard with the number of plates ordered over the course of a few hours, but it seemed so necessary at the time. After all, I don’t know when we’ll be back. The highlights were the lamb and bulgar tartar [raw meat, always gets me], fresh made pita with the roasted eggplant dip, fried anchovies, grilled octopus [the most tender octopus of my life], and the Greek lamb chops. Mouth. Watering. Deliciousness. The desserts didn’t do a whole lot for me. I would have gladly eaten another pita instead. We sat at the bar top that surrounded the kitchen. So fun to watch and eat.
These Greek meatballs were supposed to be made with lamb per the original recipe. I try not to mess with Smitten Kitchen recipes. Deb is a master of her recipes. I had every intention to go grab lamb for them, I swear. The fridge [New Seasons] was completely out though. I instinctively went with ground beef instead, which turned out to be a solid substitute. I still think lamb would be infinitely better, but that’s because lamb > beef in my world. It just is [see Greek lamb chops above]. But in a pinch? When I want to save a few dollars? Beef all the way. The saltiness of the feta and the olives is the star of the show anyway. Putting them on a bed of buttery orzo was pretty much heavenly. I’m currently craving pasta as I type.
I’ve been keeping a bag of breadcrumbs in my freezer for a long time now. I used them. They worked great as a binder. I was actually a bit skeptical since I really don’t care for bread from the freezer. I thought perhaps they’d end up a bit soggy when cooked, but nope! Add that to the list of things I perpetually keep in the freezer [along with peeled garlic cloves and fresh ginger].
Inspiration: Smitten Kitchen
- 1.5 tablespoons of water
- 1lb ground beef
- 1/2 of a whisked egg [the rest went to Roma]
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons bread crumbs
- 1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons crumbled feta
- 1/4 heaping teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, small dice
- 1-2 tablespoons vermouth or red wine
- 14-15oz can of crushed tomatoes
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 1/2 tablespoons chopped kalamata olives
- 1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves [don’t skip this!!]
- juice of one lemon [or 2 tablespoons]
- Orzo [or other fresh pasta] or fresh rolls to make sandos to serve
In a large bowl, mix together the three tablespoons of water, ground beef, egg, bread crumbs, 1/4 cup of the crumbled feta, salt, 1/2 teaspoons red chile flakes, one minced garlic cloves, 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley, and tomato paste. Roll them into small, uniform balls. I use a cookie scoop for ease.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil on medium high heat. Brown the meatballs on all sides. Do this in batches if necessary. A crowded pan is a recipe for crumbled meatballs. Set them aside on a paper towel lined plate. In the same skillet, add the onion and remaining clove of garlic. Brown in the remaining grease. Scrape up the browned bits at the bottom of the pan. When the onion starts to soften, add the vermouth or wine. When the liquid is almost gone, add the tomatoes, oregano, olives, remaining chile flakes, and mint. When the mixture starts to simmer, add the meatballs to the pan. Cover with a lid and simmer for 20-25 minutes until the meat is cooked through. Stir occasionally. Serve over pasta or in a sandwich. Sprinkle the lemon juice over the top.