This is a quick and easy version of a very popular appetizer that we served at Campanile for years. I like to make the garbanzo beans with the meatballs still in the pan, pushed to the side after they’ve been cooked. This way, the meatballs soak up the flavor of the gravy the garbanzo beans are cooking in. The paprika and pepper pastes that I use to season the garbanzo beans came from Jons Marketplace, a grocery store in L.A. that carries many imported products from around the world and Jons was a real source of inspiration for me in conceiving many of the recipes in the book. If you can’t get to Jons, look for ethnic markets where you live, or look at the sources section in the back of this book.
- 2 pounds ground lamb
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- ¼ cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves, plus extra for garnish
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
- 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped or grated (about 1 teaspoon)
- 1 heaping tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons smoked Spanish paprika
- ¼ teaspoon chile flakes
- 3 tablespoons canola oil (or other neutral-flavored oil)
- 1 15-ounce can garbanzo beans (about 1½ cups), rinsed and drained
- 1½ cups vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon paprika paste
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon red pepper paste
- 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
- ¼ cup strained whole milk Greek yogurt
- Sea salt
To make the meatballs, in a large bowl, combine the lamb, eggs, parsley, thyme, garlic, salt, paprika, and chile flakes and mix the ingredients with your hands just until they are thoroughly combined. Divide the mixture into halves, then quarters, and so on, until you have 16 pieces. Roll each piece between your palms to form the meatballs.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, until it's almost smoking (you will begin to smell the oil at that point). Add the meatballs and cook them for 4 to 5 minutes, turning them occasionally, until they're browned all over. Push the meatballs to one side of the pan and reduce the heat to medium-low.
Put the garbanzo beans, vegetable broth, paprika paste, and red pepper paste in the empty side of the skillet and stir to combine. Simmer the garbanzo beans until the sauce is reduced by half, to the consistency of thin gravy. Turn off the heat and stir the meatballs and garbanzo beans together to coat the meatballs with the gravy.
Mound the spinach onto four plates, dividing it evenly. Spoon the garbanzo beans and sauce over the spinach, reserving about ¼ cup of the sauce, and place the meatballs, four to a plate, on top of the garbanzo beans. Spoon the reserved sauce over the meatballs. Put a tablespoon of yogurt on each serving of meatballs, sprinkle them with the reserved parsley and season them with sea salt.
Nutritional information does not include sea salt for serving.