Greetings from Austin, Texas! And Happy Valentine’s Day to those of you celebrating today. As discussed, I am spending this Hallmark holiday with two of my girlfriends on a long weekend escape to the live music capital of the world.
While we’re not here for one of the big music festivals that Austin plays host to throughout the year, like South by Southwest or Austin City Limits, we are planning to take in some local colour. We might learn the Texas Two-Step at The Broken Spoke or catch some blues at The Continental Club – the city is our oyster.
One thing’s for certain: we are going to be eating and drinking our fill. Being the megalomaniac I am, I planned an aggressive and detailed itinerary, all charted out on a custom Google map. Do I think we’re over scheduled? Possibly. But only our hangovers will stand between us and the next round of tamales.
This is my first time in Texas, aside from a brief layover in the Houston airport. I’m hoping everything really is bigger in Texas.
While Texas is famous for barbecue joints and Tex-Mex, Austin has a diverse food scene that has everything from the hyper-local to world-class sushi flown in from Tokyo daily. We are going to be doing our damnedest to eat our way through the City of the Violet Crown.
We don’t have any Middle Eastern restaurants on our hit list but if we did, these beef meatballs on mini-pita crisps certainly wouldn’t be out of place. With a tahini sauce and red onion pomegranate slaw, these meatballs have great Middle Eastern flavours and complexity.
My friend Kasey, who runs a very cool mobile bar out of her vintage Airstream called Cellar 82, hosted an Oscars party last weekend and I bought these meatballs as my contribution. They were award-worthy.
Kasey has been hosting an Oscars party annually for the last 14 years! Every year the theme is “PJs and Pearls” or “Jewels and Jammies.” So, guests don their comfiest jammies and their finest jewels and watch everything from the red carpet coverage through to the Best Picture acceptance speech.
Nothing is fun if there isn’t some element of competition (as far as I’m concerned) and Kasey had an Oscars Party Pool so we could submit our guesses on what would take home the golden statue in each category. Sadly, I went home empty-handed, finishing in second to Kasey’s dominant performance.
I’ll hope to improve on my track record next year but I’ll definitely bring a winning appetizer again!
Middle Eastern Meatballs on Mini-Pita Crisps
- 12 mini pitas
- ¼ cup butter, melted
- 1 small red onion halved and thinly sliced
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ cup pomegranate arils
- 2 tbsp finely chopped parsley
- ¼ cup tahini sauce
- ¼ cup warm water
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- ¼ tsp cayenne
- Pinch salt
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 small onion grated
- ¼ cup chopped toasted pine nuts
- ¼ cup currants
- 1 tbsp thick yogurt
- 1½ tsp ground allspice
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1¼ tsp salt
- ¼ cup vegetable or olive, oil
To make pita crisps, preheat oven to 350°F.
Using a sharp paring knife, carefully split pitas into 2 rounds to make 24 rounds total. Brush both sides with butter and arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Cook for 10–minutes, or until golden and crisp. Set aside until ready to serve (crisps may be made ahead and kept tightly covered for up to a week).
For the red onion pomegranate slaw, toss onions with salt and lemon juice in a small bowl; cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Just before serving, drain liquid from onions and toss with pomegranate arils and parsley.
For tahini sauce, combine tahini, ¼ cup warm water, lemon juice, garlic, cayenne and salt in a the small bowl of a food processor; purée. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve (sauce may be made up to a week in advance).
To prepare meatballs, combine all but the oil in a large mixing bowl. Using your hands, mix to evenly distribute ingredients throughout. Working with a scant 2 tbsp meat mixture at a time, roll into balls approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter. Flatten each slightly between palms.
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-low heat. Brown in batches, about 2 minutes per side; refresh oil when necessary. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet (meatballs may be made to this point several hours in advance, covered and refrigerated until ready to bake). Bake for 8-12 minutes (add 2 minutes to cooking time if refrigerated in advance) or until just cooked through.
To serve, spoon a small amount of tahini sauce in each pita crisp. Top each with 1 tbsp slaw and a meatball. Garnish with additional parsley leaves if you wish.
Recipe from: St. Onge, Christopher. Mini-Pita Crips With Beef Meatballs & Red Onion Pomegranate Slaw. Food & Drink. Holiday 2013.