Meatballs with Pomegranate Aioli

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The holidays and small gatherings bring opportunities for snacking at parties, and it’s so nice to have something tasty and satisfying to enjoy that is also supportive of our best health. Every party needs bite sized finger foods as an appetizer, and this dish doubles as a protein to be enjoyed with soup, salad or addition to your favourite vegetable dish. It is also packed solid with nutrients and easy to prepare.

Prep Time: 30 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Servings: 8

Seasons: Summer, Fall

Weeks: 1, 13 & Living WILDFIT

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 1 lb ground meat
  • ½ lb offal (organ meat) liver or heart work best
  • 1 egg
  • ½ medium yellow onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • ¼ cup coconut flour
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp creole/cajun seasoning (smoked paprika, thyme, oregano, basil, cayenne pepper, black pepper) 
  • ½ cup fresh parsley or cilantro (finely chopped)
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil (for cooking onions & meatballs)

Aioli:

  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds, blended and strained (¼ cup of juice)
  • ½  cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1-2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Preparation

At WILDFIT you will have heard us recently speaking more and more about the benefits of eating nose to tail pastured animals, rather than the more conventionally accepted norm of only eating lean muscle meat. As population surges and we cycle back to being more connected to the earth and health conscious, we see more and more traditional uses of animals, from bone broth to lard, making a comeback. It’s great for the budget too!

The skin, organs, bones, cartilage, connective tissue and fat of animals contain high amounts of nutrients that are not always available in muscle meat. However, if offal are obtained from mistreated animals then they can also contain concentrated environmental and biological toxins, which would not be beneficial to your body.  Essentially, if the animal has led an unhealthy life, their internal organs will not be healthy either. For this reason, sourcing is even more important when you decide to start eating this way. Finding a local, organic farmer or a source of pastured or wild animals is a crucial piece of these recipes. 

This particular recipe calls for liver or heart meat if possible. Liver is the most nutrient dense organ meat, and it is a powerful source of vitamin A. Vitamin A is beneficial for eye health and for reducing diseases that cause inflammation. You can also use the heart, which is rich in minerals and B vitamins that protect against heart disease. Heart is also beneficial to the brain and has been found to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, depression, and anxiety. 

Nutritional profiles aside, these meats are gamey, having an acquired taste which may keep you from enjoying them on a regular basis. For this reason I have found it is better to combine this meat with another more conventional taste. That being said, offal provides a rich and satisfying sensation in the body which can make you crave it! 

There is an optional festive sauce for dipping, however you can also omit these steps and choose your own. To make the sauce, pulse the pomegranate seeds in the blender a few times to release juices, then push the juice and pulp through a strainer to remove the seeds. You can also use cranberries, raspberries or any other red slightly bitter fruit. Combine the juice in a medium bowl with mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice and crushed garlic, stirring to combine. Set aside to allow flavours time to meld together.  

The flavouring is simple and largely reliant on the heat and gentle smoke of the creole seasoning, however some vegetable elements are also added for texture and moisture including onions, garlic, and fresh herbs. Mince the onions and chop the garlic finely. Sauté them in oil over medium heat, stirring until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes, then remove them from the heat. While you are doing this, chop up the cleaned fresh parsley or cilantro, depending on your preference. 

I find that the organ meat is not always nice to chop, and is often more chewy than buttery when cooked. For this reason I often incorporate it as a puree. If this doesn’t sound appealing to you, try to buy it minced or ground. Using your food processor or high speed blender, puree organ meat with spices until smooth. This can be a difficult step for some people, as we tend to see “meat” as an entity separate from an actual animal, whereas with offal it is difficult to ignore it was once a part of a living being. This was how I felt, but in using organ meat I have come to more deeply internalize and appreciate that a creature had to give it’s life for me to eat that meal. Therefore, I have the responsibility to ensure the animals I am eating were well cared for in their lives.

Next you can put the balls together in a large stainless steel bowl. Combine the ground beef, pureed organ meat, egg, sauteed veggies and spices and use your hands or a wooden spoon to mix it well. Sprinkle in coconut flour little by little and mix to combine. The coconut flour will soak up some of the moisture and make the blend more firm, so cover the bowl and set for at least five minutes (up to overnight) before shaping into balls. 

These are baked meatballs, so preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and prepare a large baking dish when you are ready. I prefer baking to frying as the final colour is nicer and the texture is even throughout. As these are smaller cocktail meatballs, it also keeps more of the moisture inside when cooking, creating a juicy finish.

As the oven heats, shape the meat mixture into meatballs of about one and a half inch diameter size. You will be able to make about 24 balls. Bake the meatballs until cooked all the way through or an internal temperature of 160 degrees F (about 30 minutes). Rotating them a couple times during baking so they don’t develop flat spots.

You may choose to serve them warm or cool. Serve with individual skewers inserted in each ball or on the side, garnish with parsley, and serve the chilled aioli on the side. Enjoy! If you are looking for more delicious recipes, click here.

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