How Low Can You Go? Coriander Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

In April and May, National Public Radio featured a series on inexpensive gourmet dishes entitled “How Low Can You Go?” Although many of the dishes looked quite tasty, most of the dishes weren’t actually all that inexpensive, often narrowly getting below $10 to feed a family of four, and many involved arduous cooking processes. I decided to try out some of these recipes throughout the summer to see how I could take the recipes and reduce them down to a simple and very inexpensive form.

Coriander Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

While digging through the submissions, I came across this interesting recipe by Wendy T., who states that she’s “writing a cookbook of economical meals for working people – this is one of my husband’s favorites.” Intriguing. Here’s what Wendy offers up:

1 lb ground beef
1 slice white bread, crumbled
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 small yellow onion, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley, minced
1/4 cup mint leaves, julienned
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, a large pinch of salt, and the mint. Set aside.

Crumble white bread crumbs over ground beef and parsley in large bowl.

Place a large frying pan over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and sweat the onions and garlic until translucent. Add 3/4 tsp salt and the coriander and cumin, and saute a minute more. Cool a minute and then add to the meat-bread crumb mixture. Add the beaten egg and mix with hands lightly just to combine. Form a test meatball and fry – taste for seasoning and add additional salt if necessary.

Form into meatballs. Fry in batches in the pan on all sides until cooked through. Drain on paper towels if necessary.

Serve the meatballs with the yogurt-mint sauce. Delicious as sandwiches with pita or naan bread.

A few things popped out at me immediately that indicated this recipe would be a lot of work. First, the ground coriander – dried coriander in the store is not the same thing at all. Ground coriander needs to be freshly ground or it loses most of its flavor. Second, the julienned mint leaves – meaning you’re slicing the mint leaves into thin strips – will be significant work as well, and likely the most expensive aspect of the recipe if you don’t have a source of fresh mint.

In order to try out the recipe as is, though, I did both of these.

I also went through the cupboard and the freezer to see what we had on hand. The only ingredients that we didn’t already have in spice jars were the mint leaves ($2), the yogurt ($0.99), the onion ($0.30), and the ground beef ($2.49 for a pound of lean meat), for a total cost of $5.78. We did, of course, use lots of spices and other materials we had on hand.

Here are the ingredients as I used them.

Ingredients + Man O' War

(The horse statue in the picture is a Breyer version of Man o’ War, included at the encouragement of my three year old son.)

I made one major change. Instead of mincing the onions, I coarsely chopped them, because I love the caramelized flavor of onions and felt it would add to the meatballs.

Once the work of prepping the ingredients is done, the recipe itself is pretty easy. First, I made the yogurt-mint sauce by putting a pinch of salt, a cup of yogurt, and the mint leaves in a bowl and mixing them.

Yogurt-mint sauce

I then tossed the onions and garlic into a frying pan along with the olive oil and cooked them over medium heat until they were nicely caramelized – taking on a light brown color roughly the same as caramel. I then added a pinch of salt, the coriander, and the cumin, and cooked it for a minute more.

Onions caramelized

When that was finished, I let it cool for a bit. While doing that, I added the bread crumbs and the beaten egg to the pound of ground beef and mixed them together with my hands, then I added the onion mixture to the meat and mixed that in. The result was a large ball, ready to be shaped into smaller meatballs.

Meatball meat ready to be made into meatballs

Making meatballs is easy. Just pinch off a bit of the meat – whatever size you like – and roll that bit around in between your hands until it forms a round ball. If you’re not sure what size to make, just divide the ball into equal halves, divide each of those halves into equal halves (four bits), divide each of those halves into equal halves (eight bits), then divide each of those halves into equal halves (sixteen bits). Each of those sixteen bits will make a nice meatball.

So, I rolled up the balls and tossed them into the frying pan.

Meatballs freshly in pan

Obviously, if you chose to mince the onion, you wouldn’t see the large pieces of onion in the meatballs.

I simply browned these in the pan over medium heat, rolling them around about every minute or so. When they became dark brown – the color of a cooked hamburger, roughly – I cut one in half and checked the insides to make sure it was no longer pink. Here they are, about halfway cooked (with some sides looking finished, others still pink, and yet others in the middle):

Meatballs are cooking

I chose to serve the meatballs with the mint sauce on the side, a long grain rice and vegetable medley, some steamed broccoli, and a glass of Wandering Grape 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz (a free trade wine). Here’s how it looked on the table:

Coriander Meatballs with Yogurt-Mint Sauce

And there you have it!

Did we like it? This meal was a big hit. The kids were not big fans of the mint sauce, but the meatballs were completely consumed with gusto – no leftovers at all. Both my wife and I liked everything – I wound up drowning the meatballs in the sauce after trying them together.

Our total cost for the main course and the mint sauce (ignoring fractional items we had on hand): $5.78. Our cost per meal: $1.45. Not bad. But we can do better – and we can certainly make it less involved.

Changes I Would Make to Save Cost and Time
First of all, I’d skip the coriander and use more cumin as a substitute. If you don’t have a grinder, smashing the coriander seeds will take forever and it doesn’t contribute substantially to the meal, especially when you can easily substitute a bit of cumin for nearly the same effect.

Second, if I was pinched for time, I’d substitute dried mint for the fresh mint leaves. I’d just add dried mint – probably two tablespoons full – to the yogurt to taste and skip the julienning of the mint leaves.

Third, I’d substitute garlic powder for the minced garlic cloves. Although you miss the caramelization of the cloves, you also save the work of peeling the cloves, cooking the cloves, and smashing the cloves.

Fourth – and I did this in my own version above – I’d skip the fresh parsley and use dried. I used 1/4 cup dried parsley and it was perfect.

These changes modify the recipe a bit, but it also reduces the cost and vastly reduces the time. Here’s the new recipe, as I’d do it:

1 lb ground beef
1 slice white bread, crumbled
2 tbsp ground cumin
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tbsp olive oil
1 egg, beaten lightly
1/4 cup dried parsley
1/4 cup dried mint
1 cup plain yogurt (preferably whole milk)
salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, a large pinch of salt, and the mint. Set aside.

Crumble white bread crumbs over ground beef and parsley in large bowl.

Place a large frying pan over medium low heat. Add the olive oil and gently cook the onions until caramelized. Add 3/4 tsp salt and the cumin, and saute a minute more. Cool a minute and then add to the meat-bread crumb mixture. Add the beaten egg and mix with hands lightly just to combine. Form into meatballs. Fry in batches in the pan on all sides until cooked through. Drain on paper towels if necessary. Serve the meatballs with the yogurt-mint sauce.

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  1. Sassy says:

    Sounds like a great recipe. I don’t know if it saves money but it saves time and means that we don’t waste mint: my husband and I took an Indian cooking lesson at which we learned to make a yoghurt mint sauce using bottled mint sauce (common in England)….it seems to last forever in the fridge, tastes great, and is there when you serve lamb as well.

  2. Amy says:

    I really like this feature on your blog. But I thought last time you posted the cost-analysis of your simplified version? Or maybe I’m remembering wrong. It’s not really important, as I know it will be less than the original. In any case, I do hope you keep these posts coming!

  3. ama says:

    This looks great! A time-saving tip when julienning or chopping herbs is to use a dedicated pair of kitchen shears. To julienne I roll larger leaves up or just hold a few together and snip off the strips – it’s really fast. I’d also recommend trying Greek yogurt for this and other yogurt sauces; the consistency and flavor are more substantial than regular yogurt, although probably not more frugal. I really enjoy this series and look forward to more.

  4. T'Pol says:

    It looks a lot like what I usually make but, I shred the onions directly into the meat mixture. I do not cook the onions beforehand. I do not like coriander so I do use more cumin. Instead of putting the garlic in the meat mixture, I mince the garlic and add it to the yogurt if I am using it.

    I also have an alternative method of cooking the meatballs; in tomato paste and a little water. Serve over rice or pasta, yum!

  5. Sandy says:

    An easier way to cook meatballs (learned after frying them for years and being unhappy with results) is to place them in a baking pan, and bake them for about 1/2 hour. They don’t fall apart that way! Also, it’s easier to make a double batch…make up 24 meatballs…remove 12 and cool and freeze for a future (fast!) meal. For my family of 4, that’s a great meal!

  6. Sandy says:

    One other thing..if you are pinched for time (or even if you’re not!) I usually use dried onion flakes for meatballs, meatloaf, and the like. My one daughter especially does NOT like onion “chunks”, so this way, we get the flavor of onion, and she has no clue that onion is an ingredient.

  7. ngthagg says:

    Using dried herbs not only saves time, it saves money as well, since with fresh herbs you run the risk of spoilage, and you can’t buy large quantities.

  8. Michelle says:

    I love this NPR series. I can’t wait to see your take on the Mac-n-Cheese recipe. I have my own opinions on it, but I’ll wait until you try it to add my 2 cents!

    I second the baking of the meatballs. Baking is vastly superior to frying when it comes to meatballs. My kids love meatballs with rice and onions, in a tomato soup and chili powder sauce. Mix meat, onions, 1/2 cup rice, form meatballs and put them in a baking dish. Then mix 1 can soup, 1/2 c water, 2 tbsp chili powder, pour over the meatballs. Bake for 45 minutes. It’s not the healthiest, but it’s fast and the kids eat it like crazy!

  9. shannon says:

    sounds delicious – can be done with lamb as well – just add breadcrumbs, onion, egg, lamb and mint jelly. Yum

  10. Grad No Job says:

    I second the baking pan idea. Also, in some cases using sausage from the meat counter can be simpler (i.e. less extra ingredients required)than using straight ground beef.

  11. Colleen says:

    Your intentions are good, but considering this recipe is titled “Coriander Meatballs,” it seems like a shame to leave coriander out entirely. I don’t agree myself that ground coriander purchased from the store is essentially a tasteless dust, but if you do think it’s on the weak side you could add more of the preground coriander to make up the difference.

    But why so picky about ground spices when you’re willing to substitute garlic powder for fresh garlic and dried mint and parsley for fresh? None of those jarred seasonings have the same quality level as fresh, either.

    Of course, the recipe itself does not call for freshly ground coriander any more than it calls for freshly ground cumin. You’re actually making the recipe harder than it needs to be in order to “save” us time by eliminating your own extra step here.

    At any rate, if you’re still against preground coriander, you could get a similar effect still in the spirit of the recipe by substituting some fresh chopped cilantro. Around here at least it goes for 99 cents for a bunch, and it is what you get when you plant coriander seeds. Cilantro complements cumin well, too.

    I do enjoy the food posts on the whole, though, even if I must respectfully disagree with the approach for this particular recipe.

  12. bethh says:

    You could also grow the mint in a pot (I hear it’s very aggressive if you just put it in the ground). This looks great, and I love the addition of the horse. Your son has great taste :)

  13. Debbie M says:

    How would mint extract compare to fresh mint and dried mint?

    Michelle, we used to call those porcupine balls, I guess because of the rice.

  14. Sarah says:

    I don’t understand your resistance to fresh garlic. Mincing garlic takes very little time and fresh garlic takes infinitely better than garlic powder. I can’t think of a single decent use for garlic powder except maybe throwing it on some pizza in a hurry.

  15. Alison says:

    I like these features, so thank you for doing them. Of course, everyone will have their own idea of what is time consuming. For example, I’m surprised you think using the julienne method on 1/4 cup of fresh herbs is time consuming. With a good knife, it should really only take 30-60 seconds to get through that much.

  16. Andrea says:

    Just take a clove of garlic, put it on your cutting board, place the flat of your chopping knife over it, and hit it sharply with the heel of your hand. Voila, instant mostly-peeled and very nicely smushed, easily chopped garlic. I can get the fresh garlic ready as fast as, or faster than, I can get out the garlic powder. Faster, actually; I don’t have garlic powder :)

    As for the white bread…I tend never to have any in the house, but plain old fashioned oats (not quick cooking or God forbid instant) works just as well.

    Yoghurt = dead simple to make your own; you do not need a yoghurt maker, just a pot. Heat milk + 2 T or so dried milk (if you want; it makes it richer) to roughly 180 degrees; cool to around 115, stir in some yogurt with active cultures, let sit swaddled in cloths 4-5 hours or until the yogurt is set. It is runnier than store bought, but much n9icer.

    As for the coriander, it isn’t tat hard to smush. And if you want *fresh*, let your cilantro bolt. When your seed heads start dropping, save them = coriander :)

    Anyway — sounds like a good reciope; it’s going on my to make list.

  17. Sharon Rowe says:

    I keep a jar of minced garlic in the refrigerator. It lasts a long time and I have even found it at the dollar store.

  18. Kevin says:

    Smash the cloves with the flat side of a knife, remove the skin (takes seconds) and use a garlic press – perhaps a minute, tops, for 3-4 cloves?

    Cooking minced garlic over medium heat takes almost no time… and you STILL are caramelizing the onions, so you’re not adding any labor.

    Garlic rules! Please don’t use that powdered stuff.

  19. Michelle says:

    Love that you’re putting up these recipes, as our grocery bills are far too high! It’s great that they’re kid-friendly as well.

    Here’s another opinion. Buy a large jar of minced garlic. Most stores have it, usually in the produce section. All you have to do is scoop out a spoonful of garlic and throw it in the pan. It is so easy, and it is cheaper than garlic powder or the cloves. If you haven’t tried this, you don’t know what you’re missing!

  20. cf says:

    I agree with the post about growing mint. It’s one of the easiest herbs to grow, grows like a weed, and it’s strong scent helps to keep certain bugs at bay, if you’re growing outside. :)

  21. Cathy says:

    I also respectfully disagree with this post. I make a very similar dish (except with ground lamb) almost every week. Ground coriander is available almost anywhere. I never grind it fresh. Personally I don’t think it tastes a thing like cumin. Mint is a weed. I just started growing it and realized how easy it is to grow. But, dried mint does not appeal. I just wouldn’t use mint at all. If I was really going to save time, I would skip the garlic and not bother to cook the onions in the meatball. I really really hate to caramelize onions. It takes forever. Also, I would bake the meatballs. Frying meatballs stresses me out. (Much like caramelizing onions.)

  22. jc says:

    ugh…trent…your substituting dried everything is an affront to cookery. i use garlic powder only when i’m out of fresh garlic. dried parsley smells & tastes like grass clippings. both are easily grown, even in a windowbox if space or climate dictate. i second the remark above that coriander & cumin are simply two way different spices.

    i also second the remarks about baking these instead of pan frying them. i hardly bake anything, but meatloaf & meatballs get baked rather than cooked on the stove top in my household.

    if mincing garlic seems to take too much time, perhaps you haven’t discovered how to bruise the cloves with the flat of a large knife. once to take the skin off, again (even more forcefully) to do most of the work of mincing.

  23. Jenyfer says:

    love love LOVE the horse!

  24. deRuiter says:

    Take an empty spackle bucket (white platic ones are usually free if you look) and bore a few holes in the bottom. Sink in ground and fill with soil, plant a tiny pot of mint and you’ll have fresh mint all spring, summer and autumn and the garden will not be over run with thiws invasive plant. When it’s time for frost you pick the last of the mint, hang it to dry and have dried mint. During the growing season keep pinching off any mint flowers and discarding them to keep plant bushy. Fresh herbs taste a lot better than dried. Dried onions aren’t any where near as tasty as fresh. With a garden you can plant onion sets and seeds and provide yourself with fresh onions and green onions.

  25. Prasanth says:

    This one and the previous one looks suspiciously like adaptation of Indian dishes!! Looks yummy!! Am sure will taste good too. I agree with a poster above – do use coriander – they smell and impart a unique flavor to the dish

  26. littlepitcher says:

    A variant on this is a staple at Middle Eastern restaurants. Sub a pinch each of cinnamon and turmeric for the coriander, soak some bulghur wheat in water and mix it with the meat and spice mixture, and omit the rice. Mince plenty of garlic and a little onion, don’t saute them, and mix them in, then brown the meatballs. Add a little jalapeno or red pepper to the mint sauce if you dare!

  27. Another Michelle says:

    I would use whole wheat bread crumbs. Smart to bake, but if you fry, it’s healthier to use a cast iron frying pan. Thank you, deRuiter, for your suggestions on growing mint!

  28. sara says:

    I really like the suggestion to bake the meatballs. I have never heard of this before and I can’t wait to try it out!

    For all of the people rallying for the use of fresh herbs and seasonings, I think it is important to remember that many people just don’t do this out of time and financial constraints. I am sure dishes are better with them, but we are a fast food nation! Lots of people in the U.S. live off of fast food and prepackaged food from the store. In comparison, Trent’s suggestions make this dish doable for the average American family. If you don’t believe me about the fresh herbs and seasonings, I had never seen a fresh clove of garlic until I left the house for college, and even then I bought the preminced stuff in a jar. I have never ONCE bought any fresh green herb for cooking. I do buy lots of fresh garlic now though, after figuring out how economical and easy it is.

    So I suggest giving people a break and not attacking the use of dried spices. Heck, if that is what people are used to they might not even like the taste of fresh. The one time I had fresh coriander at a Mexican restaurant I hated it. To each his own.

  29. Bookaunt says:

    I would suggest that maybe if your ground coriander has been sitting around in your cupboard too long it could explain the lack of taste. I buy small amounts of less frequently used spices at my local food co-op when I need them.

    Parsley and mint are currently going great guns in my garden and will go to waste if I don’t use (or dry, or freeze) them soon. Mint leaves are easy to julienne if you use the bigger leaves and stack them before cutting with a sharp knife or kitchen shears.

    Some of the garlic I planted last fall is ready for harvest and peeling it isn’t at all difficult or time consuming. – Although a friend of mine without much cooking experience once thought that a clove of garlic meant the whole bulb, and complained about the peeling/prep time for a recipe that called for 6 cloves of garlic since she peeled and minced her way through 6 bulbs of garlic cloves!

    Also I have to question the amounts you have listed for the dried herbs in your revised recipe. The amounts for the parsley flakes and dry mint are exactly the same amounts as the original recipe calls for fresh. Usually if you substitute dried herbs for fresh, you use 1/2 to 2/3 less because the dried herbs take less space. And I substitute (when I do use it) 1/4-1/2 *teaspoon* of garlic powder for each garlic clove called for in a recipe. The 1 Tablespoon of garlic powder you call for in the revised recipe is about 3 times too much to replace 2 garlic cloves, and will certainly overwhelm the other flavors.

    And yes, bake those meatballs! Although it may take the same (or possibly a bit more) amount of time you don’t have to stand over the skillet and it doesn’t take any longer baking time to make a larger quantity.

  30. Chrissy says:

    Trent, I really think you’d love a garlic press. I’m sure plenty of places sell them. I have one from Pampered Chef. One of the “tools” in my kitchen that gets the most use. You can use it for ginger also. Makes it so easy and quick to use fresh garlic every time you need to, I’ll bet you’d never substitute again.

  31. Marsha says:

    1. Baking meatballs works very well. Way back when, I worked at a restaurant that served meatball sandwiches, and we baked the meatballs.
    2. Mint does grow like a weed.
    3. LOVE the horse!!

  32. Catherine says:

    I second bethh’s comment: for anyone who cooks at all and has any outdoor space, consider growing your own mint. You can buy a plant for $1-3, and it’s a perennial that grows with very little care. It DOES spread like crazy, so grow it in a pot or put a root barrier around it, unless you want nothing but a huge patch of mint. It’s useful in many Indian and Middle Eastern recipes, and in many drinks (both alcoholic and non-). It also comes in different varieties such as orange mint and chocolate mint.

    Unfortunately, I’ve so far not had luck with growing cilantro/coriander. But I keep trying.

  33. Virginia says:

    Great recipe. LOVE the horse!

    When you get house in the country, you really need to start yourself an herb garden – then you can use fresh herbs all summer and have tasty dried herbs in the winter. You might try a container garden now – you can grow a lot of herbs in containers – you just need to make sure the drainage is right.

  34. Kele says:

    I make a number of Indian dishes, and think that using chutney podina (a minty Indian spice mixture) would be easier if fresh mint were too expensive or not available. It doesn’t take much powder to make a lot of yogurt sauce with it.

  35. Kelly says:

    love the food posts!

  36. mildred lane says:

    You can go to a seed swap on yahoo or free cycle and get free mint.
    It is also good for other things beside cooking. Aroma bags for dresser drawers, small pillows,gifts,room freshners.

  37. dsz says:

    I have to join the readers who respectfully disagree-ground coriander as any spice can lose potency over time, just increase the amount until the taste pleases you. Adding more seems to make more sense than leaving it out entirely.
    And the garlic-if dealing with fresh is too much trouble, buy the jar of minced. We readers take all kinds of tips from you, please take this one from us. Since you seem to like aromatics ditch the dried stuff. About the only thing it’s good for is in a dry rub or a seasoned flour coating.
    Dried parsley isn’t my favorite, I keep it on hand but only use it when I have to. Here’s what I do-I plant some every spring and harvest throughout the summer. I wash, dry and separate the leaves from the stems. The leaves go in a large freezer bag and whenever I need parsley I break some off and chop as needed. I have ‘fresh’ parsley all year long for the cost of a single plant. Same thing with thyme, rosemary, tarragon and of course fresh basil. Basil needs to be made into pesto or it will darken, tho.
    To prep fresh herbs-stack the leaves, roll into a cigar shape and slice into ribbons (chiffonade). Quick and easy.
    Bake the meatballs. Not only is it more convenient, you can make a double batch for freezing and it won’t take any extra time. Here’s another thought-if they’re all the same size they cook at the same rate, not the case with fried due to the varying temps in different areas of the fry pan. Moving them around doesn’t always guarantee they’re all done through. The fried test meatball may or may not be representative and some may be undercooked. Now, I love my burgers medium-rare, but I’m an adult and Trent has little ones who need to be served only ground beef that’s well done all the way through to protect them from E.coli.
    Debbie-my mom used to call them porcupines, too. Basically it was the filling for stuffed peppers baked separately in the sauce because I couldn’t stand green peppers when I was a kid.

  38. Tammy says:

    This sounds like a good recipe. I have a Kuhn Rikon garlic press that works great on fresh garlic. I get the garlic at the Middle Eastern market in my town, and freeze the whole heads of garlic. I thaw them, crush and use in dishes. You can also grate garlic cloves. I also get the cracked wheat that the other poster mentioned, and many other unusual ingredients as well.

  39. Becca says:

    While I would probably go for the fresh garlic, onion and mint (despite any time saving “loses”) and I might bake the meatballs to cut down on oil use, I think this recipe sounds great, and is certainly flexible enough to meet most of our frugal, taste-related and health-related needs. As someone just starting to really cook, I really like this series, and like that you show us how to approach recipes and make them our own with an eye towards cost and taste substitutions. I only wish ground meat (of any sort!) only cost $2.49. Basic ground meat costs $4.00 in Los Angeles for low-quality offerings and about $5.00 per pound for lean beef, turkey or bison. Still, however, a cost-effective meal.

  40. Christopher says:

    Substituting dried mint for fresh is a good idea; it retains much of its flavor when dried. However, I wouldn’t swap dried parsley for fresh – dried parsley has no flavor at all.

  41. SoCalGal says:

    The Breyer horse in the photo totally rocks! I have a large collection of them that I collected when I was your son’s age. He has a fine eye!
    Love the cooking series too. Great ideas.

  42. Julia says:

    great timing! We grow our own mint and make our own whole milk yogurt so we’ll have to give this a try.

  43. Kathy says:

    I don’t mean to come off sounding like a snob here, but 2.49 for beef? You know that is not organic, not grass fed, not sustainable, could be contaminated,& is loaded with hormones. I’d do without beef before I bought the cheap stuff, thereby supporting mass farming. And not to mention risking your health which costs way more to fix.
    Like buying boxed macaroni & cheese – powdered chemicals real cheap, that contain many unlabeled excito-toxins perfect for ruining our children’s health.

  44. Kathy says:

    I have to agree with some of the others on garlic vs. garlic powder. They are not the same thing. I would rather spend the time mincing the garlic myself than using powder. Once you get the hang of mincing, it really doesn’t take that long to do it. A bulb of garlic you mince or chop or cut up yourself will always be the cheapest.

    That’s not to say that garlic powder does not have it’s uses. I used some today as one of the spices in my fried chicken. But when a recipe depends on the caramelization or some other chemical process in the cooking of garlic (or onions) for that matter, it’s best not to substitute. You cannot caramelize powder.

    You can buy dried minced garlic in the spice aisle or you can buy the jar minced garlic in the produce section, but you’re going to pay more for the convenience. To me, the end result is not worth the time saved. A garlic press is also a good idea, but you can find them much cheaper in the store than ordering from Pampered Chef.

  45. B. Dots says:

    “Second, the julienned mint leaves – meaning you’re slicing the mint leaves into thin strips – will be significant work as well”

    Trent, you lost a lot of credibility with me as a cook right there- making a stack of mint leaves and cutting the stack into thin strips takes, what, a minute, tops? Significant work? I don’t think so!

  46. Andy says:

    God bless you for using Fair Trade products! Perhaps you could do a feature on these products sometime?

  47. Richard says:

    I appreciate you going to the trouble of trying out these meals, however I’d like to join the chorus of people who express amazement at some of the substitutions you’ve suggested, both in this recipe and in previous posts.
    Personally, the joy of cooking involves more than just saving time on the preparation, but also honouring the food and its unique flavours. Fresh garlic, fresh mint, freshly ground coriander – these are all small contributing factors that add up to a delicious whole. I don’t see how we can afford to make these kinds of sacrifices, especially when we can either grow our own garlic or mint, or use a mortar and pestle to grind our own spices, fresh (night and day, in flavour). For me, smashing a garlic clove, unpeeling it, feeling its texture and adding it to a meal is a joy – not a chore.
    After reading your review of Michael Pollan’s books I went out and borrowed them from the library – insightful and life-changing. Now, having read the books, I’d also second the comment above about questioning the price of the beef, and subsequent quality – next time when I’m lucky enough to travel to the States you can be rest assured that I’d rather go without beef/chicken/pork which was industrially produced and instead choose food which was healthy, nutritious and delicious. I acknowledge that these decisions are sometimes more expensive, however with a little ingenuity, such as growing your own, and also making the decision to eat meat-free meals, I believe we can honour both ourselves, and the all-important bottom line.

  48. JT says:

    Cool post! It looked great on the table. I’ll have to give this one a try.

  49. c says:

    Sounds like an Indian dish we make… There are a lot of Indian cooking blogs which have a lot of economical as well as tasty dishes if anyone is interested…

  50. Amy says:

    For me, the issue with garlic is not that chopping or pressing it takes a long time, it’s that it is messy and smelly. A vastly superior option, in my opinion, is buying a jar of diced garlic. You can quickly measure out what you need without any mess, and it is much more flavorful than garlic powder. I have bought the toasted and organic varieties as well, which each have a slightly different flavor. All delicious.

  51. megan says:

    I totally had a Breyer Man o’ War! Breyers are so beautiful…

  52. Bill in Houston says:

    Howdy Trent!

    Instead of substituting cumin for coriander, use coriander leaves, also known as cilantro (chopped fine) in your meatballs.

    For your yogurt-mint sauce, add some dill and a bit of crushed garlic to create that Greek/Mediterranean staple, “tzatziki.” Takes about 30 seconds more. Incredible tasting stuff, with a little cucumber. Don’t overdo the garlic.

    I bake my meatballs instead of frying them.

    Lastly, a nice complement to this would be pita bread, watercress, and sliced radish. Cheap, healthy, and really tasty.

  53. argus says:

    i’m completely against those ‘time saving’ substitutions since in simple meals its all about the quality and freshness of the ingredients.
    if you skimp on the spices you just create a bland meal that isn’t worth the savings. grinding the spices is a piece of cake if you have a small coffee grinder dedicated to spices which you should have since buying whole spices is cheaper and they last longer. when you buy freshly ground spice you can expect them to keep 6 months tops if stored properly while whole spices last over 2 years (very similar to coffee).

    and garlic powder is pure blasphemy in my kitchen.

    and i recommend to combine coriander, cumin and some paprika, cinnamon, kardamom & black pepper for a explosion of taste. and mix in thinly sliced cucumbers in the mint sauce.

  54. Ali says:

    I also bake the meatballs – but I use about 5# of meat. These store in the freezer and can be used easily for a quick, easy and inexpensive meal.

  55. Amy says:

    I’ll give this a try w/my meat substitute and fresh garlic and mint! The mint I planted has to go somewhere…

  56. EngineerMom says:

    Am I the only one confused by the ground coriander comment? I buy ground coriander in bulk froma local food co-op, and the flavor has always been good.

    In this recipe, I would substitute cilantro for the mint – it’s a lot cheaper, and although the flavor is definitely different, I think it would be better with the meatballs than dried mint. I make a similar recipe that uses cilantro.

  57. Arthi says:

    You’re sooo true about ground coriander losing its aroma soon!!! I have around half a pound of it brought back from India, and it hardly lends any aroma to my dishes.

    So now I use one or 2 tablespoons where the recipe calls for half a teaspoon. Coriander has a lot of nutrients, so I guess it is good that I add more.

    About peeling and smashing the garlic, it couldnt be easier. You just need to separate the garlic cloves, and smash each clove on a chopping board using the flat part of a meat knife (sharp side facing away from you).

    Smash, peel away the cracked skin, throw into recipe!!!

  58. Louisphilippe says:

    Best meatball I ever cooked and eat.

    Went with the changes you made, skipped the sauce and minced some garlic cloves,replaced wine with Jack daniel’s

    This recipe is really cheap (about 6$ for the meat and we had enough for the three of us and 2 leftovers meal for myself.

    And it was also really fast to cook !

    Definitely recommend to everyone !

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