It’s time to get fresh and meaty. I created this recipe for an upcoming class I am teaching at Cavallo Point in Sausalito, California on Scandinavian cooking. While traditional Scandinavian cooking may be heavy and meat focused (especially in the winter) it delightfully tips to an abundance of fresh produce in the warmer, brighter summer months. This recipe marries the Nordic climate extremes with a spin on the Swedish meatball, which is traditionally pan-fried and then napped with a warm cream sauce. These ground meat patties are transformed into fun finger food, freshened and brightened with tufts of parsley and dill. The heavy sauce is replaced by crisp lettuce leaves for wrapping and a sweet-piquant cranberry compote and a dab of yogurt.
Lettuce Pockets with Spiced Meatballs, Cranberry Compote, Yogurt and Dill
In Sweden, lingonberries, also known as cowberries, are prolific in the late summer. Cranberries may be substituted for the lingonberries. If you can’t find any rye bread crumbs, then panko will do. Makes about 28 meatballs.
For the compote:
2 cups cranberries or lingonberries
½ cup granulated sugar
1 sprig rosemary
For the meatballs:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 small onion, finely chopped, about ½ cup
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 large eggs
¾ cup breadcrumbs (panko or rye)
½ cup milk
½ cup fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
2 teaspoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
Baby Gem leaves or Napa cabbage leaves
Parsley and/or dill sprigs
Cranberry Compote (recipe below)
Prepare the compote:
Combine all of the ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until berries break down and compote thickens, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and cool. Remove and discard rosemary sprig.
Prepare the meatballs:
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in a small saucepan. Add onion and garlic. Saute until softened but not browned, 3 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients except for the remaining butter. Using your hands, gently mix the ingredients to uniformly combine without over mixing. With a light hand form meat in 1 ½ inch meatballs. Place on a platter.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet. Add meatballs in batches without overcrowding. Saute until browned on both sides and thoroughly cooked through, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining meatballs. If necessary, add more butter. Keep warm.
To serve, place 1 to 2 meatballs in center of lettuce leaf. Spoon a little compote and yogurt over. Garnish with parsley and dill sprigs. Roll up and eat.