Can we just pause and let that title sink in a bit?
When I was growing up, Greek Night was one of my favourite evenings. Mom would make a giant Greek salad full of gushing tomatoes, fresh cucumber, green pepper, red onion, salty feta, and Kalamata olives. She’d buy tzatziki, hummus, and fluffy pita breads from the supermarket, grill up the pitas and some chicken skewers, and we’d all go to town creating our own souvlaki. It made a huge mess. We usually required four napkins a piece on these nights, but there was something so satisfying about trying to lick up the tzatziki dripping toward your elbow that we just didn’t care. I’m drooling here thinking about it!
This isn’t Greek Night. But this meal was partially inspired by those nights and that meal my mom served.
For this Greek night substitute, I’ve created some of the softest meatballs you can imagine. They’re flavoured with garlic, oregano, lemon, and red wine vinegar – all the signature Greek flavours. The secret to their moisture? I added a couple tablespoons of Greek yogurt, which not only keeps them moist but also acts as a binding agent. They’re delicious served with a dollop of my homemade tzatziki. No need to splurge at the store anymore! This recipe is dead simple and tastes better and fresher than the store-bought version. Once you eat these meatballs atop their bed of colourful, fluffy couscous stuffed with Mediterranean ingredients, I swear you’ll feel the winds of the Aegean Sea brushing your face.
Okay, maybe that was a stretch. But I know you’ll enjoy this Grecian food fest as much as I enjoyed my family’s Greek Night!
Greek Meatballs with Homemade Tzatziki & Mediterranean Couscous
FOR THE TZATZIKI:
- 200g Greek yogurt
- 1/2 English cucumber
- juice of 1/3 lemon (just over 1 tbsp)
- pinch of dried dill
- pinch of dried oregano
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- 320g ground beef
- 280g ground pork
- 1/2 red (Spanish) onion, finely diced
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
- salt and pepper
- 1–2 tbsp olive oil
FOR THE COUSCOUS:
- 1 cup dry couscous
- boiling water
- 6 (95g) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 shallot, finely sliced
- 1/3 green pepper, diced
- 1/3 red pepper, diced
- 65g Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried red chili flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 75g feta cheese, crumbled and divided
- zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
MAKE THE TZATZIKI: Pour the yogurt into a small bowl and set aside. Slice the cucumber in half lengthwise and use a spoon to remove the seeds from the centre of the halves. Finely grate the cucumber on top of the yogurt. Add the lemon, dill, and oregano and mix well with a spoon. Add the olive oil, salt, pepper, and check the seasoning. Once seasoned to your taste, pour into a lidded glass jar and refrigerate until serving.
MAKE THE MEATBALLS: Preheat the oven to 190 C (375 F) and line a baking tray with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with some non-stick spray and set aside. Set the kettle to boil.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the beef, pork, onions, garlic, oregano, thyme, red wine vinegar, lemon zest and juice, yogurt, and breadcrumbs. Massage together with your hands until all the ingredients are fully incorporated. Roll the meat mixture into 12 golf ball-sized spheres and place, 1–2 inches apart, on the baking tray. Sprinkle each meatball with salt and pepper and then drizzle the olive oil over top.
Place the tray in the oven and cook for 20–25 minutes, or until a meat thermometer reads 72 C (160 F) and the centres are no longer pink.
MAKE THE COUSCOUS: While the meatballs are cooking, add the dry couscous to another large bowl and pour the boiling water over the pasta until it’s just covered, about 1 cm above the couscous. Place a large plate over top of the bowl and allow to steam until the water has absorbed.
Meanwhile, make the mix-ins by heating a medium saucepan over medium heat and adding 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the tomatoes, shallot, peppers, and olives to the pan. Sauté for 1 minute then add the oregano, chili flakes, salt, and pepper. Sauté 4–5 minutes more until the vegetables are hot, but not mushy. You’re just trying to warm them through, you want the original textures. Remove from the heat and set aside.
Once the couscous has absorbed all of the water, fluff it up with a fork and add 50g of the feta cheese, lemon zest and juice, red wine vinegar, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Mix together gently until combined then add the sautéed vegetables and salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the vegetables and top with the last tablespoon of olive oil, the last 25g of feta, and the chopped parsley.
Serve the meatballs with a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of zest, along with the couscous and side of tzatziki.
I hope you enjoy this Mediterranean getaway! Did your family have any themed dinner nights growing up? What was your favourite?