North African Meatballs with Dried Date Cous Cous

>> Saturday, February 19, 2011

I was browsing Food Network's site and decided to look at some Melissa D'Arabian's recipes. She is the host of the TV show $10 Dinners, and after our Valentine's splurge, we needed some cheaper recipes! While I'm not sure how authentic this recipe (I know virtually nothing about African cuisine despite the fact that my parents lived in Nigeria for several years), but it sure was tasty! I loved, loved, loved the ginger in the meatballs and the sauce married beautifully with the slightly sweet cous cous. Even my 19 month old liked it!

I adapted the recipe only slightly but I loved it as I made it so I wanted to write it down so I didn't forget my changes.

North African Meatballs
adapted slightly from Melissa D'Arabian

for the meatballs:
1 egg
2 T tomato paste
4 T cilantro leaves, minced
1 T fresh ginger, finely grated
1 t cumin
pinch of cinnamon
1 lb ground beef
1/3 c breadcrumbs (I used Italian breadcrumbs b/c that's all I had on hand)
3-4 T vegetable oil, for cooking

for the sauce:
1 T olive oil
1/2 small white onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 to 3/4 c good quality green olives, chopped
1/2 c white wine
1/2 c chicken broth
1 14-oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
pinch of cayenne pepper
pinch of cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the cous cous:
2 c chicken broth
1 T butter (or vegan butter)
1/3 c dried dates, finely chopped
1/3 white onion, diced
1 c quick cooking cous cous
salt and pepper

For the meatballs: Combine the egg and tomato paste in a large bowl and mix until well blended. Add cilantro, ginger, cumin, cinnamon and bread crumbs. Stir in the beef and combine gently. Wrap bowl with plastic wrap and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Roll meat mixture into 1-inch balls.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Brown the meatballs in batches until golden brown on all sides. (If they aren't completely cooked at this stage that's okay since they'll be simmering in the sauce.) Transfer meatballs to plate and cover with foil to keep warm.

For the sauce: In the same pan that you made the meatballs, add olive oil and saute onion, making sure to scrape up the browned bits on the pan from the meatballs. Cook for about 3 minutes and add the garlic. Cook an additional minute before adding the lemon zest and olives. Stir to combine and cook 1 minute. Add the wine and chicken stock and let the sauce reduce for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, cayenne and cinnamon. Season with salt and pepper. Turn down heat to medium-low. Add meatballs back into the pan, cover and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

For the cous cous: After adding the meatballs into the sauce, bring chicken stock, butter, dates and onions to a boil in a small sauce pan. Once it comes to a boil, stir in cous cous, remove from heat and cover with a lid. Let it sit for 5-7 minutes, fluff with a fork and serve with the meatballs and sauce.


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