If you like the sultry, exotic spices of North Africa and the Middle East, you'll love this meatball sammie. And the barley salad just makes it a little more authentic. Sometimes I just make the meatballs. Sometimes I just make the salad. And when I put them together, it's a wow combo you'll want to make again and again. Lots of ingredients and steps, but it's really simple. I do not do complicated.
To make the meatballs: Pre heat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking pan with cooking spray and set aside. In large bowl, mix together all the meatball ingredients except the chicken. Now add the chicken without working the mixture too much.
Form 15 to 16 1-1/2 inch meatballs and place on prepared baking sheet and cook 30 minutes.
To make the sauce: While meatballs are cooking, make the sauce. In large saucepan heat oil on low. Saute onion for 5 minutes to soften. Add garlic and cook another 2 minutes. Now add the lemon zest and olives. Cook a few minutes more. Increase heat a bit and add white wine. Cook until wine is almost evaporated and aromatics do not burn. Stir in water, tomato sauce, sugar, red pepper flakes, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Return to low simmer covered for about 10 minutes. When meatballs have cooked for 30 minutes in the oven, add them to the simmering tomato broth. Lower heat even more and simmer (covered) on low another 10 minutes.
To make the salad: Cook barley according to package directions and cool. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and toss with the cooled barley. If you're short on time, substitute couscous for the barley, it's a quick cook and doesn't compromise the dish.
To make the dressing: Combine all ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine. Pour about half the mixture on the barley salad and save the rest to drizzle individually on sandwiches.
Grill or toast your pita rounds so they are soft, warm and toasty. Lay a handful of baby spinach leaves on the top of each pita round. To each pita, top with 3 meatballs and an extra helping of aromatic tomato sauce. Add the barley salad, a little more honey lemon dressing and sprinkle with cilantro sprigs (optional). Fold up and enjoy your meal in the casbah.