For me, scent is a huge memory trigger. The aroma of something can waft my way and instantly I am transported back to another time. I always think of the old cartoons where the steamy aroma of a fresh baked pie, suddenly morphs into a hand, quite literally coaxing and lifting up the characters and carrying them right to the goodies. Think Mickey Mouse being tempted by the vapor hand from the scent of a Minnie’s freshly baked cake, right to her kitchen window. This is likely seconds before she slams the window down and says “ah ah ah”. For me rather than being taken to someone’s window, I find myself reliving memories, remembering people I love and those times gone by. It’s one of my most favorite things about cooking, especially since moving away from my family.
Being Greek, growing up I was constantly surrounded by all the delicious, home cooked meals. There are still smells to this day that remind me of my family and most specifically my late, Great Yia Yia and my Yia Yia. The smell of potatoes roasting with garlic, cinnamon and honey will always make me think of baklava syrup simmering away on the stove top, cinnamon in a savory tomato sauce will trigger my nose to think of moussaka or pastitsio and a big pot of homemade chicken stock will always make me want avgolemono soup. Of course, chocolate melting will also get me, since my Great Yia Yia had a full-blown candy making set up in the basement, from her days of owning the ice cream and soda shop. They made some delicious chocolates!
Lamb was another food served quite often, whether, roasted, grilled or used in dolmades (stuffed grape leaves). Though not a food I make quite often, whenever I do prepare it, I think of all my family back home in NY, so I have certainly found myself making it more since we’ve moved out to California. It makes me miss our summer picnics with the huge Greek family, out at the lake, a big leg of lamb slowly grilling over an open fire, all day. Or my Yia Yia’s homemade Greek lamb meatballs, which my parent’s seemed to perfect quite well and made often when we were growing up.
I didn’t use an old family recipe for these, I know the version my grandmother and my parents made most likely had eggs and breadcrumbs, so I went with my own recipe and I followed my nose. I remembered the precise smells and with that I developed the recipe. I went with the flavors I love and after making these a few times, I am really happy with how they have come together. The smell of these cooking, it’s just like being at my Yia Yia’s house for Sunday dinner or a special holiday gathering.
These meatballs are a cinch to make, thrown together in minute then pop them in the oven. They are great as is over a salad, try my Dad’s amazing Greek dressing, over rice or with roasted potatoes. Oftentimes we would serve them on the side when we would have avgolemono soup (chicken lemon rice soup), you could also make a killer sandwich with these, if that’s your thing. They are also great as an easy appetizer or small bite.
I hope you enjoy these and create some aromatic memories of your own.
PS By the way, if you have been listening to our new podcast, the So Let’s Hang Out Podcast, that I co-host with my girl Gina, you might recall I actually tell a really funny story about these meatballs on Episode 4 “Hump on a Log”. If you aren’t listening, how rude!
Preheat the oven to 400ºF. In a large bowl add the meat and all the other ingredients, except the lemon. Mix to combine, but don’t overwork the meat. Shape the meat into about 18-20 meatballs. Add the meatballs to an cast iron skillet or other oven-safe dish. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon over top and then place the lemon slices over top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked, browned on the outside but a tad pink in the middle, if that’s how you like them. Cook for 30 minutes if you want them more well done.
makes 18-20 meatballs
Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
In a large bowl add the meat and all the other ingredients, except the lemon. Mix to combine, but don’t overwork the meat. Shape the meat into about 18-20 meatballs.
Add the meatballs to an cast iron skillet or other oven-safe dish. Squeeze the juice from half the lemon over top and then place the lemon slices over top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until cooked, browned on the outside but a tad pink in the middle, if that’s how you like them. Cook for 30 minutes if you want them more well done.