These Mediterranean Meatball Kabobs deserve a spot on your dinner menu soon! Served up with grilled naan and a bit of tzatziki sauce, these meatballs are sure to become a favorite in your house, too!
Ah, weeds. I have a love/hate relationship with weeds. Wait, who am I kidding? My relationship with weeds is 100% hate. (Yes, hate is a strong word. But we’re talking about weeds.) Ok, maybe I should say it’s 99% hate because without weeds, I’m not sure I’d have much of a backyard. Hey, weeds are green from a distance, too! But I only have a moderately-sized suburban yard worth of weeds to deal with. Imagine if you had thousands of acres of weeds to deal with. 1000s of acres! I recently learned that’s exactly what Debbie Lyons-Blythe deals with on her cattle ranch in central Kansas. (And for reference here, one acre is roughly the size of a football field. That’s a lot of weeds!)
Debbie’s answer to the weeds? Burn ’em. That’s right. Burn ’em. The problem with the weeds and woody shrubs that aren’t native to the prairie is they choke out native grasses, and cattle love to eat native grasses. So the answer? Pasture burning. Interestingly enough, burning the invasive species actually encourages more diversity in plant species in the prairie. But in order to make pasture burning work, the timing has to be pretty exact. You’ve got to make sure the new spring grass (the good grass!) is still young enough to recover from the burning, but you also want to make sure to get the brush and weeds as they are starting to bud. And of course, you’ve got to be careful that the fire doesn’t get out of control. Debbie and her family even use online weather models to make sure the smoke will dissipate before reaching any major cities. But in the end, pasture burning is just another spring day on a cattle ranch in central Kansas.
For Debbie’s ranch in central Kansas, pasture burning is the most efficient way to “reset” a field so that native grasses can thrive. There are some trendy food documentaries out there that fail to provide the full story about cattle and what they eat. All cattle eat grass for most of their lives. Let me say that again. All cattle eat grass for most of their lives. However, in order for Debbie’s cattle to graze on grass in the summer, she and her family have to spend the spring burning off all of those invasive weeds. Plus, burning the weeds means no chemicals are needed to control them. (Hmmm…I wonder if I can burn off the invasive weeds in my backyard? I’m thinking Laura might put the kibosh on that idea. Oh well.)
Over the past 6 months or so, I’ve written a couple of posts about what life on a cattle farm looks like. I didn’t grow up on a cattle farm, and until recently I had no idea what cattle farming meant. But as I’ve gotten older (and as I’m now a parent), I like to know more about where my food comes from. That means I wanted to learn more about cattle farms here in the States. Cattle farming is a labor of love. I’ve had the opportunity to visit about half a dozen farms and chat with a number of ranchers. They all say the same thing. Cattle farming is hard work, but it’s a wonderful way of life!
Spring also means breeding season for Debbie, and as I mentioned in this previous post, calving season on a ranch is an all-hands-on-deck time of the year. There are long days and little sleep, but that’s a minor inconvenience to ensure that the cows are safe and comfortable while calving. As tired as she might be after a long day, Debbie still considers herself lucky. “I get to work every single day with my son who hopes to one day take over our ranch. How many jobs have that as a benefit?” Somehow Debbie also manages to post regularly to her blog, Kids, Cows and Grass, and I encourage you to follow along. Her posts shed a lot of light on what it’s like to be a rancher.
Shifting gears a bit, let’s turn from cattle ranching in the spring to these Mediterranean Meatball Kabobs. These meatball kobobs. Wow, just wow! This Mediterranean Meatball Kabobs recipe needs to be bookmarked, printed out, filed in your recipe box, etc. Trust me on this one! This entire dish is packed with fresh flavors, and I’m pretty sure I could eat this one every.single.night. Perhaps while watching the weeds burn in my backyard? Hah.
Seriously though, Laura introduced me to naan a number of years ago, and I’ve loved it ever since. I mean I do love all breads, so it was pretty much guaranteed that I would love naan. Give that naan a quick sear for grill marks and then pile it high with homemade tzatziki sauce (it’s not very hard to make!), chopped cucumbers and tomatoes and then several of these meatballs? Count me in for that one! So put these Mediterranean Meatball Kabobs on your menu soon. And then put them on the menu again right afterwards. Enjoy, my friends!
Mediterranean Meatball Kabobs
For the Meatballs
- ⅓ cup seasoned breadcrumbs
- 2 Tbsp milk
- 1 pound lean ground beef I used Certified Angus Beef’s 90/10 blend
- 1 large egg
- 2 Tbsp fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tsp garlic minced
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp black pepper
For the Tzatziki Sauce
- 1 English cucumber
- 1 5.3-oz. container plain Greek yogurt
- ½ cup sour cream
- ½ tsp garlic minced
- 1½ Tbsp lemon juice ~½ medium lemon
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 1 Tbsp fresh dill minced
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ tsp pepper
For the Naan
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 pieces of naan or pita bread
- 2 Roma tomatoes diced
- ¾ cup cucumber diced
- ½ cup red onion diced
- additional fresh parsley chopped
For the Meatballs
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
- Using a medium mixing bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk; let soak for 5 minutes.
- Add the remaining meatball ingredients (beef, egg, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt and pepper). Mix until just combined. (Tip: Take care not to overmix or the meatball may be tough.)
- Shape mixture into (16) 1-1¼” meatballs.
- Thread meatballs onto (4) 10” metal skewers. Place skewers on baking sheet and bake for 18-22 minutes, or until meatballs each internal temperature of 160°F.
For the Tzatziki Sauce
- Slice the cucumber lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out any seeds. Using a medium grater, grate the cucumber into a bowl. Using several paper towels, press the grated cucumber firmly to remove as much liquid as possible.
- Add all of the remaining ingredients (yogurt, sour cream, garlic, lemon juice, vinegar, dill, salt and pepper) and mix until well blended.
For the Naan
- Brush the naan with olive oil. Using a grill (outdoor) or grill pan (indoor), grill for 4-5 minutes, or until lightly grilled.
- Drizzle tzatziki sauce evenly across the tops of all 4 naan.
- Remove meatballs from skewers and place 4 meatballs onto each piece of naan. Top with diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and parsley.