middle eastern sesame lamb meatballs with minted yogurt dip

1/3 cup minced onion
1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon dried mint, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
a pinch cinnamon
1 pound ground lamb (10% fat)
1 cup fine fresh bread crumbs
1 large egg, beaten lightly
2 tablespoons dried currants
1/4 cup black sesame seeds*
1/4 cup white sesame seeds, toasted lightly
Accompaniment: minted yogurt dip:
2 cups plain yogurt
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
*available at Asian markets and some specialty foods shops and supermarkets

To make the meatballs:
In a small non-stick skillet cook onion and garlic in oil over moderately low heat, stirring, until softened. Transfer mixture to a bowl and stir in mint, salt, allspice, and cinnamon. Add lamb, bread crumbs, egg, and currants and combinewell. Form level tablespoons of lamb mixture into 1 1/4-inch meatballs, arranging on a tray as formed.

In a small bowl roll half of meatballs, 1 at a time, in black sesame seeds until coated, transferring to a rack set in a shallow baking pan. Coat remaining meatballs with white sesame seeds in same manner, transferring to rack. Meatballs may be prepared up to this point 1 day ahead and chilled, covered loosely.

Preheat oven to 450°F.

Bake meatballs in upper third of oven 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden and just cooked through.

To make the yogurt dip:
In a fine sieve set over a bowl drain yogurt, covered and chilled, 3 hours. Discard whey in bowl and transfer yogurt cheese to bowl. Yogurt cheesemay be made 2 days ahead and chilled, covered.

Into yogurt cheese stir mint and salt. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.

Makes about 32 meatballs.

From “Gourmet” magazine, October 1995

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