Albondigas (Pron. Al-bon-dee-gas)
I had actually never eaten albondigas before, but you can bet I'll have them again! The cumin gives the meatballs a distinctly Mexican flavor, making them quite, quite savory.
A few points about these albondigas: first, I don't use breadcrumbs or other fillers and they taste perfectly good. Many of you are looking for gluten-free recipes, I know, so this would be a very easy one for you to try. Next, I used turkey meat because I am always trying to cut down on the fat since I am pre-diabetic. If you are also pre-diabetic or just trying to reduce your fat intake, try them with the turkey meat. It produces a meatball that is lighter in texture, but still full-flavored. However, if you prefer ground beef, by all means, use that. Finally, some of you may get nervous at the mention of Mexican food, as you expect a really spicy dish. The original recipe does call for hot peppers, which you can definitely use if you like the heat. However, the albondigas will still come out great if you eliminate them. I did because my little kids can't tolerate hot. You can also, by the way, always add a few shakes of cayenne pepper to your own plate to heat it up. As always, remember to wear gloves if you do use the peppers. The seeds in the peppers are what contain the heat. When removing them, the juice can get on your hands and if you rub your eyes or any other part of your face, you can end up with some major irritation. Just take the gloves off before touching anything or anyone.
Ok, now here's that recipe!
2 lbs. ground turkey or beef
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 small jalapeno, chopped and/or 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Put the ground meat in a large mixing bowl. Add all of the ingredients. If you are using the jalapenos and/or cayenne peppers, make sure you wear gloves until you finish handling the meatballs. Scoop out a tablespoon and form into a round ball. Place the meatball in a large baking dish. Repeat this process until the whole mixture is used up. If you don't have a large enough baking pan, then divide the meatballs into 2 pans and bake the same.
Place pan(s) in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Top with Salsa Ranchera (below) and serve warm.
Ranchera sauce is a very common salsa in Mexican cooking. It's tomato and onion based. To make this a bit more liquidy, I actually added tomato sauce, which is not always typical. I used canned because it tends to have a more pure tomato flavor than jarred, which tastes more like marinara sauce. The idea here is to add a bit of moisture without compromising the taste of the tomatoes and onions. Like the albondigas above, I left out the peppers. If you want to include them, feel free.
6 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup plain, canned tomato sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 jalapeno, chopped and seeded (optional)
Place chopped tomatoes and onions in a large frying pan. Saute until onions are slightly brown and tomatoes are soft and can be easily mashed. If you are cutting down on fat, you can saute the vegetables in water instead of oil. Just add enough water to barely cover the tomatoes and onions, then proceed as above. You might need to add a little more water if the mix dries out but is not ready yet.
Once the tomatoes and onions are ready, add the tomato sauce, water, jalapeno (if using) and the spices. Simmer for about 20 minutes. If you want the sauce a little thinner, it's ok to add more water; it won't affect the taste. Mash the tomatoes with a fork to make the sauce smoother as opposed to chunkier.