Kids in the Kitchen: Spanish Almond Meatballs and Saffron Chorizo Rice

matt - spanish meatballsMatt prepared Spanish food for the family today. We discussed various dishes to make, thumbing through my copy of Mark Bittman’s The Best Recipes in the World, but he was drawn once again to meatballs. Not that I can say I blame him – what kid doesn’t like meatballs? (His favorite dish in the world is spaghetti and meatballs, as evidenced by one of his earlier turns in the kitchen.) In addition to the meatballs, we settled on a Spanish saffron chorizo rice, and some simply steamed green beans.

The meatball recipe was modified to be gluten-free, of course. This is a rather easy change to make. I made gluten-free breadcrumbs by toasting slices of old gluten-free bread I made, and then processing them into crumbs in the food processor. Of course, you could use any gluten-free bread or rolls to do the same. In Mark Bittman’s recipe, he called for dusting the meatballs with flour – I simply omitted this step. I also baked them instead of pan-frying, just to make things easier. Matt, of course, enjoyed forming the meatballs, and again attempted to create “the biggest meatball ever.”

matt - biggest meatball ever

The saffron chorizo rice was based on a Mark Bittman recipe as well. This dish has flavors similar to that of a paella, only it’s a bit simpler and does not have that characteristic paella “crust.” It did, however, have the wonderful aroma of saffron and that pleasant saltiness of the chorizo.

matt - spanish yellow chorizo rice

The verdict? The meatballs were okay, but lacked a depth of flavor, and were a bit dry. I used a lean ground beef, and perhaps next time should make them with a fattier meat. I also would prefer to add an herb in the meatballs to boost flavor – whether that would make them less “Spanish”, I’m not sure. As for the rice, it did have a wonderful blend of flavors. Mark Bittman’s recipe did call for a diced tomato, which I omitted. I think next time I’d leave that tomato in, to further balance the flavors and add a bit of acidity to the dish. But regardless, Matt was pleasantly surprised at how tasty the rice was (the part of the dish he was most skeptical about), and in addition, he had a great time – which, to me, is what being in the kitchen is all about.

matt - spanish meatballs - full plate

Almond Meatballs, adapted from Mark Bittman:

2 lbs ground beef or pork

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 c gluten-free bread crumbs

2 T minced garlic

1/2 c blanched almonds, roughly chopped

salt and black pepper to taste

canola spray

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine the meat in a bowl with the egg, bread crumbs, garlic, almonds, and salt and pepper. Mix well but don’t knead. Form into balls of any size you like (we made them about 1 1/2 inch in diameter).

Spray two baking pans with canola spray, and place meatballs on the pans. Place baking pans in the upper 1/3 and lower 1/3 racks in the oven, and bake for 10 minutes. Switch the pans, and bake for another 10 minutes or until cooked through. Makes about 48 1 1/2 inch meatballs.

Saffron Chorizo Rice, adapted from Mark Bittman:

2 1/2 c vegetable stock

large pinch of saffron threads

6 oz Spanish chorizo, sliced

1 T minced garlic

2 t Spanish smoked paprika

1 1/2 c Arborio or other short-grain rice

salt and pepper to taste

chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish

Warm the stock gently in a saucepan with the saffron. Heat a deep skillet to medium heat. Add the chorizo, and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, smoked paprika, and rice and continue to cook, stirring, until the rice is glossy, just a minute or two.

Add the stock, along with pepper (and salt if you think you need it – I didn’t.) Cover and adjust the heat so the mixture simmers gently. Cook until the rice is done, about 15-20 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning, garnish with the parsley, and serve. Makes about 4-5 servings.


  1. jenn says

    Sorry the meatball didn’t turn out too well. But they look good. There’s always next time. But that rice looks wonderfully delicious. I could go for rice any day of the week.

  2. says

    We love saffron!! The first time I used it my husband was awed – a month or so later he heard on Food Network that it’s the most expensive spice that exists. And then he said, “Honey, tell me we don’t use saffron.” Of course, I had to remind him that he loves saffron and we just restocked.

    Your rice pic is so beautiful. I could learn a thing or two from you.

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Amy – Hilarious. The fun part about it is, while it’s expensive, you don’t really need a lot to get that aroma and flavor. I’ve even found it for “cheap” at World Market before, just FYI…and thank you.

      Angelia – Thanks!

      Jenn – It wasn’t too bad. I think it was a decent recipe, perhaps my lean meat was enough to make it less-than-spectacular. Oh well! It was simple and my “test” meatball was tasty, so I wouldn’t knock the recipe itself. And as for rice – I could go for it anytime too! Especially short grain like arborio.

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Divina – Of course – thank you! And agreed, chorizo and rice and tomatoes are awesome!

      Ruth – I could eat the rice all by itself too!

      Pegasuslegend – Thank you!

      Diana – forgot to mention, yes, I do have a facebook account. Not so good at updating or checking it often though! (shame on me!)

  3. says

    Alta, I just love how you do this with the kids. That Spanish rice looks awesome! Of course, in my opinion (LOL!) anything with Spanish chorizo is a keeper 😉

  4. says

    Fun! Any experience with kids in the kitchen should be celebrated. And kneading that ooey, gooey meatball mix is a sure attraction (and a great opportunity to reinforce washing hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat). You could add some olive oil to the mix to deal with the dryness without having to switch to a higher fat meat. Smoked paprika and saffron in the rice – yum!

  5. says

    It’s good to have disappointments in the kitchen when cooking with kids….I think, anyway. They learn about adjusting flavors, what works/what doesn’t work. –My girls had a day off from school last week and they followed your post on Sheppard’s Pie and made us dinner (I was supervisor)….they did a great job and had a lot of fun!

  6. says

    Ah, should have left the tomato in, I suppose…It looks amazing and juicy though! And obviously that rice is CRAZY good with the saffron and chorizo! I feel sad for the poor vegetarians who won’t get to enjoy that delicious, fatty sausage…

  7. says

    Hi Alta!

    I love meatballs! You could also try adding a little water to the meat mixture before shaping them into balls, it will give you a more tender meatballs, got that tip from Tom Ford when he guest-ed on Martha! :)

  8. says

    OK, the non-cook is going to try something for dinner tonight. I have some feral boar sausage (long story) that I’ll put with some rice, spices and diced tomato. I may have to track down some saffron. It’s not a spice that DH has invested in yet. Won’t he be surprised? The green beans look good, too…

  9. says

    D’oh – PS – I made meatloaf Friday and used crushed rice cakes instead of breadcrumbs in it as a gluten-free ingredient. Worked perfectly…

    • tastyeatsathome says

      Cindy – what a great and easy idea! And to be honest, regarding the green beans – I used one of those steam bags in the frozen aisle. In other words, I CHEATED! (gasp!) Those are so easy and taste just as yummy as fresh, surprisingly. But I didn’t talk it up because it wasn’t like I actually cooked them.

      Gaga, Mirinda, Simply Life, Miriam – Thank you!

      Diana – Thank you so much! I just saw it. So honored!

      Olive – hmm, good tip! Thanks!

      burpecuzme – It was still yummy! And yes, that saffron and chorizo, yum! Not a vegetarian-friendly dish though! Oh well, I’ll make it up for the vegetarians on another dish, promise!

      Debi – yeah, Matt liked the meatballs, actually. I was a bit pickier and would have preferred moister ones. And so glad that your daughters enjoyed making Shepherd’s Pie! It’s one of our family favorite dishes!

      Liz – great idea, thanks!

  10. says

    Wow, this looks delicious. I’m drooling. I had an amazing Albondigas soup in San Francisco while attending the BlogHer Food Conference. Now I see this. It’s a sign I need to get busy making that soup. I can only eat a very small amount of rice in any given month, so I have to change it up and it’s not as traditional as yours. These dishes look great.


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