Healthy Recipe, Spiced Meatballs

Here’s a fun idea for your next outdoor get-together that’s more exciting than burgers and hot dogs and has more nutritional value to offer as well. It’s adapted from a recipe inspired by a Moroccan chef on the French Riviera in Rosa Jackson’s “Nicoise: Market-Inspired Cooking from France’s Sunniest City.”

Made with ground lamb or beef, the cumin-spiced meatballs are loaded with vitamin-rich herbs and can be cooked on the grill or stovetop. A drizzle of paprika-spiked yogurt and a side of lemony chickpea salad eliminates the need for mayo or a bun. A simple lettuce and tomato salad tossed in a light vinaigrette adds just the right touch of color and crunch to round out the meal while keeping the fat and carbs under control. Serves 4-6. – Susan Puckett

Chickpea Salad:

  • 2 (14-ounce) cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • ½ cup thinly sliced cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions, white and pale green parts only
  • ¼ to 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus more
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  • 2 ounces day-old sourdough bread or baguette
  • ½ cup milk
  • 16 to 18 ounces ground lamb (or beef)
  • ½ cup finely minced red onion
  • 2 finely minced garlic cloves
  • ½ cup finely chopped cilantro leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped mint leaves
  • ¼ cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ¼ cup neutral oil (if pan-frying)


  • ½ cup plain yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika or chili powder


  1. Make the salad: In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, cilantro, parsley, scallions, ¼ cup of the lemon juice, olive oil, and cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add more lemon juice if desired. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 3 hours.
  2. Make the meatballs: Break the bread into chunks, place in a small bowl and cover with milk. Set aside for at least 15 minutes or until milk is well absorbed.
  3. Place the meat in a large bowl, Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, mint, parsley, salt, pepper, cumin, ginger, and egg. Squeeze the milk out of the bread and add the bread to the mixture, discarding any pieces of crust that haven’t softened. Knead the mixture with your hands for up to a minute, until all the ingredients are well mixed.
  4. If grilling, prepare a medium fire in a gas or charcoal grill and shape the meat mixture into 2-inch balls (large enough so they   won’t slip through the grates) and flatten the meatballs slightly with a spatula.

If pan-frying, shape the meat into 1-inch balls. Heat the oil over medium-low heat and add enough meatballs to fill the pan without crowding. Flatten slightly with a spatula and cook, turning once, for 6 to 7 minutes on each side, or until browned and cooked through. (Take care not to use higher heat so the onion will have a chance to soften.)

  1. Make the sauce: In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt and paprika or chili powder.
  2. To serve: Arrange the meatballs on a platter alongside bowls of the chickpeas and the sauce. Drizzle the meatballs with the sauce or dip them into the bowl of sauce.