Bite-sized lamb meatballs with roasted red bell pepper aioli

  • For Meatballs:
  • 1 lb. ground lamb
  • 3 heads roasted garlic
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped nicoise olives
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped fresh rosemary
  • ¼ tsp. Freshly ground black pepper
  • ¾ tsp. Salt
  • For Aioli:
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise (homemade is great)
  • 1 large red bell pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. Chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tsp. Chopped fresh thyme
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare the Aioli: Cut the stem end and base off the bell pepper, then cut pepper into 3 or 4 sections lengthwise. Place the sections on a sheet pan covered with foil. Place peppers under a broiler until skins are completely blackened, approximately 7 minutes. Wrap the peppers in their foil and allow them to cool to room temperature. Remove peppers from foil and slip off charred skins. Save any juices that have collected in the foil. Puree the peppers and any juices in a mini chopper or blender. Mix the pepper puree with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl; refrigerate until ready to use. Aioli keeps for about three days if stored in an airtight container. Makes approximately 1 cup aioli.

Preparing and serving the meatballs: Slice the tops off the garlic heads so the tops of each clove are exposed. Sprinkle garlic heads with a little salt and pepper, then drizzle olive oil over the tops of each. Place garlic in a small baking dish, cover with foil and roast in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for about an hour or until the garlic is soft and has turned a golden color. Remove garlic and allow to cool until it can be handled. Remove the roasted garlic cloves to a small bowl using a paring knife. Mash the cloves with a fork until you have a thick paste.

Mix the roasted garlic, olives, rosemary, and salt and pepper into the ground lamb using your hands. When completely mixed form the meat into tiny balls and place on a plate. You should yield about 30 meatballs. Fry the meatballs in a non stick sauté pan (using a little olive oil if necessary) over medium-high heat until they are nicely browned on all sides. Place on a serving platter and keep in a warm oven until they are all cooked. Mound the meatballs on one side of the platter, leaving a space for a bowl filled with aioli. Serve meatballs warm with decorative toothpicks or tiny forks for dipping. Makes about 30 meatballs, enough for 10 to 15 guests to have 3 or 2 appetizers each.

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