New Orleans to South Carolina to Chicago to San Francisco to Portland. The places of my past. If you’ve moved before – cities, states, countries – then you’ll understand what I mean when I say that with the excitement, with the wonder and the freshness, there is a requisite period of quietness. Quiet, peaceful loneliness is how I think of it.
Weekend calendars, when you’re the newbie in town, are blank, dinner parties are dyadic (if you’re with a partner, else it’s just a one-person show, even better), and the number of late-night ice cream shop visits crawls too high to admit to you here. No? I’m the only one who has extended the old ice-cream-as-relationship-void-filler to platonic relationship loss and longing? You should try it, next move. Might I recommend sea salt and caramel in a cone. Works like a charm.
But as the days unfold and the place begins to take on that familiar feeling of belonging, they inevitably start to blossom like flowers in spring – friendships, that is; and those little flower humans surround your days, slowly but surely becoming a kind of garden of People.
When I woke up on a recent Saturday to spring-inspired skies, and the buds on my backyard garden were starting to pop through, I just wanted to be with those people who have, slowly, over time, replaced the sea salt and caramel ice cream in my Portland life. So Barrett and I, doubtful that this would actually work out so last minute but willing to try anyway, picked up our phones and texted a handful of our closest friends, “Firepit + drinks + dinner tonight? 5pm?” To our surprise, every single one wrote back, accepting the embarrassingly late invitation. They must have felt in the cheerful springtime friend-connecting mood, too.
Because of the whole lack of time to plan thing, and because our floors looked like Bourré had shed his entire coat on them overnight, we opted to cook something that took little to no effort and that everyone could lend a hand in creating: tacos. Tiffany sliced the radishes, Colin and Rachel and Barrett toasted the tortillas, Jess gathered the place settings, I cooked the chorizo, and the rest of our friends kept us well entertained.
And I have to admit, despite my tendency to fall for complicated time-consuming dishes, both in this blog space and beyond it, that night renewed my interest in doing simple, shareable, divvy-up-the-tasks-among-the-ones-you-love meals that can come together with many hands in minutes. It’s the same with these Lamb Meatball Flatbreads, made with Flatout’s soft, chewy flatbreads, which, appropriately given the recent fire pit gathering influence, have a subtle kind of smokiness from hovering over open flames. I’m a sucker for toasted-over-flames bread topped with fresh ingredients.
The lamb meatballs are dotted with herbs and heavy aromatics, pan-seared for a crisp outer layer and finished off in the oven for a soft juicy middle. The meat itself has a heavy dose of brightness from the addition of lemon rind and parsley rolled into the mix, which pairs perfectly with a simple – so simple that it has just three ingredients – and densely nutty smear of garlic tahini sauce. And finally, because it’s officially spring and my parsley plants have not-so-subtly erupted to remind me of this little shift in the calendar, the flatbreads are topped off with a light parsley and cucumber salad for texture and crunch.
At one point during our little fire pit gathering, before we’d made our simple pile-meat-and-veg-on-top-of-bread communal meal, I walked outside with my camera in hand and saw our friends in the hodgepodge of mismatched chairs and sofas that was scattered around the pile of crackling wood. I’m not totally sure what they were talking about at the time, I think it had something to do with the magical versatility of tortilla chips. But for some reason, the scene itself stopped me for a second or two and there was a kind of fullness that had nothing to do with chips or tacos or flatbreads.
These are My Portland People.
Thanks to Flatout Bread for sponsoring this post and for creating these chewy flatbreads for us to toast and top! As always, all thoughts and opinions found in this space are my own.
- 1 pound of ground lamb
- 3 eggs
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 4 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- ⅛ cup of parsley, chopped finely
- ½ cup of breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese
- 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon of red pepper flakes
- zest of ½ lemon
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- 1 cup of tahini
- 3 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, or 1 teaspoon of table or sea salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ to ⅓ cup of warm water, adjusting to suit your desired thickness
- 2 cups of loosely packed parsley leaves
- ⅛th of a red onion, sliced into very thin strips
- 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 cucumber, sliced into thin rounds
- 4 flatbreads, I like the original flatbreads from Flatout, toasted briefly over an open flame or under a broiler
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Combine all of the ingredients in a medium sized mixing bowl. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Roll meatballs into 16 small balls, about 1.5 ounces each. Fry meatballs in the skillet turning gently as they cook, until golden brown on all sides, about 4 minutes.
- Transfer to a baking tray and cook in preheated oven until the meatballs have reached 150 degrees F, about 12-14 minutes.
- Combine tahini, garlic, salt and warm water in a food processor and puree until creamy and smooth.
- Toss the parsley, onion, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cucumbers together in a medium sized bowl.
- If desired, and this is optional, toast the flatbreads over a flame either on your range or an open campfire until they’re blistered in some parts.