I think my understanding of the Greek culture was developed through the following things in order:
- one of the early language translations of the Bible
- the Olympics, the Olympic torch, and laurel leaf crowns
- college toga parties inspired by the movie Animal House
- statistics and math classes in college (μ σ π Σ ΦΒΚ)
- yet another classic movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Yes, it’s a pitiful list. Yes, I grew up in a barn … well, not literally, but a farm in NW Iowa limits your exposure to worldly cultures (yes, we had electricity and indoor plumbing). Keep in mind we are going back to the late 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s here: no Google, no internet, no computers. You learned the culture of your community and in my case that was Western European and Scandinavian.
How grateful I am to have eventually been introduced to the Greek food culture! Spanakopita, feta, baklava, yogurt, olives, and gyros. The list is much longer but I always seem to gravitate to the gyros. Warm pita bread, tangy tzatziki, crisp vegetables, and that peppery lamb … it’s amazing. End the meal with a crispy, buttery piece of baklava and … Opa!
In my efforts to #makemeatballsgreatagain, the concept of a Gryo meatball was very appealing. Small meatballs that could be layered in a pita for the traditional sandwich or added to a salad with all the veggies and tzatziki sauce or served as an appetizer with olives and tzatziki was something I knew I had to conquer. I browsed through recipes on Pinterest for gyro meatloaf, meatballs, and shredded meat and combined them with my tried-and-true basic recipe (Meatballs 101) to get a thumbs-up approval from my husband.
I like this recipe so much, it makes me wanna throw my head back and … SHOUT!
… a little bit softer now …
… a little bit softer now …
Lamb, beef and pork combine to make these Gyro inspired meatballs. Hints of lemon, oregano, pepper, onion, and olives give a taste of the flavors one would expect in a good Greek style sandwich or salad. Serve them as an appetizer with tzatziki sauce, or in a pita/salad with romaine, tomato, onion, cucumber and feta.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine all ingredients (start with just 1 1/2 cups of milk, reserving remaining 1/2 cup for later) in a large bowl, mixing by hand until well combined. If the mixture seems dry, add another 1/4 cup milk. Combine. Mixture should hold together (not dry but not soggy either). Add final 1/4 cup of milk if needed.
Use a cookie scoop that is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter to portion each meatball. Place on cookie sheets or in baking pans, close but not touching. If using metal pans, spray lightly with cooking spray.
Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
Bread Crumbs: You can use whatever kind of bread crumbs you like. The type of crumb you use will affect the texture of the meatballs. I like to use a flaky crumb, not a coarse one. I have also used ground up crackers in place of a portion of the crumbs.
This time, I had some naan crisps that had gone stale so I ground them up in the food processor and combine them with bread crumbs to total two cups.
Lemon Pepper: The brand of lemon pepper that I used in this recipe contains salt. In fact, it is the first ingredient on the label so I did not include any extra salt in the ingredients. If you are using a lemon pepper that has no salt added, you will want to add 1 teaspoons of salt to the recipe as well.
Size of Meatballs: You can make the meatballs any size you want. Cooking time will obviously be longer. The only way to know is to remove one from the pan and cut it in half. Just make sure there is no pink in the middle and that the texture is consistent all the way through.
Ratio of Ground Meats: It would be fine to use equal parts lamb/beef/pork in this recipe (i.e. a pound of each). If you do not like lamb, or cannot find ground lamb at your store, just make it with equal parts beef and pork. I will say, it is the lamb that truly represents gyros.
Freezing/Storing: Leftovers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week. This is a BIG batch so make some for the future by freezing them in resealable plastic bags. When you are ready for another meal, simply defrost what you need, bring almost to room temperature, and place them under the broiler of your oven until edges start to crisp and meatballs are heated through.
I cannot leave you without the recipe for Tzatziki Sauce:
Place all ingredients except milk in a bowl and whisk until well combined.
This is a fairly thick sauce (makes a great dip for veggies or for pita chips) so I usually add 2-3 tablespoons of milk to thin it out for dressing.
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