Mititei



I grew up in a tall apartment building, like most Romanians during the communist era. My memories are filled with my mom's delicious homemade recipes cooked on the stove or in the oven. Grilling was a luxury, something you did when you went on a picnic during a weekend or on a longer vacation. Mititei were always the highlight of the menu on such special days - they remind me of leaving the city behind and spending some time near a lake or in the mountains. This is probably one of the dishes that you'd greatly miss, once you enjoyed it in Romania (another one is sarmale).


What makes this recipe memorable? First, it's the flavor - multiple hidden spices that make the meat taste great. Second, it's the tenderness - we usually prepare the mititei from fatty ground meats, which then keeps them tender during cooking. As such fatty meat is not that easily found abroad (and as it's not necessarily that healthy for you anyway), the recipe below introduces a twist (which might be classified as sacrilege back home, but it does the trick). Third, it's the great flavor added by grilling. Hope you have a chance to prepare and enjoy this great Romanian recipe.


Ingredients:
 - Two pounds of ground meat; ideally: a combination of ground beef, pork, and lamb; common: a combination of beef and pork; simplest: either ground beef or ground pork
 - One teaspoon each of ground cumin, anise seeds, allspice, and coriander
 - Two teaspoons each of ground pepper, thyme, and salt
 - Two cups of beef broth
 - One and a half teaspoons of baking soda
 - One tablespoon of lemon juice
 - A small head of fresh garlic, or half a large one
 - Two tablespoons of olive oil
 - Two medium-sized yellow squashes


Preparation:
 - Peel the yellow squash, discard the skin, and shred the interior.
 - Mix the baking soda with the lemon juice.
 - Thoroughly grind the garlic.
 - In a large bowl, mix all the solid ingredients. Add the baking soda with the lemon juice and also the olive oil, then mix. Now to incorporating the soup: this is a slow process where you add a bit more soup to the solid ingredients, and mix it in, then repeat. The whole process will take a while, and it's important for everything to be mixed uniformly: I use a mixer and it takes me about 10-15 minutes to form the mititei paste. If you're not using a mixer, you may want to use the olive oil to cover your palms early on: this prevents the meat from sticking to your hands.
 - Form the mititei: for each one, wet your palms with a bit of water, then take about three or four tablespoons worth of the mix, press in the palm of your hand, and roll in the form of a cylinder (the water will help it stick together and away from your hands). Do not worry if they don't yet keep the desired shape: their consistency will solidify after spending some time in the fridge (next step). Continue this process until you've used all the mititei paste.
 - Refrigerate overnight - this allows the flavors to blend, it makes the composition firmer, and allows them to keep their shape while cooking.
 - Remove from fridge, and roll again in your hands to reinforce a nice cylinder shape. The composition is much firmer now, and the mititei will keep the desired shape much better.
 - At this point, you're ready to grill the mititei. Make sure you prepare them medium-rare, such that they stay juicy and soft.


Presentation:
 - The color of mititei can hardly be compared to how tasty they are. But the presentation can greatly benefit from colorful accompanying side dishes. For example, garlic roasted potatoes and a summer salad.
 - There's nothing like a cold beer to complement this dish.

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