Friday, October 27, 2017

Moroccan "Meatballs" with Saffron-Lemon Tomato Sauce - A Recipe That Saved My Marriage

Ordinarily, I shy away from the processed fake meat crumbles at the grocery store. I've never really found much that they're good in. Then a few weeks ago, as part of a failed and traumatic "Hamburger Helper" experiment, I was left with an extra package of the sad, gritty crumbles in the back of my refrigerator. Desperate not to repeat my traumatic experiment that both led to two days of indigestion and a near collapse of my fledgling 6-month marriage, I decided to try making north African meatballs. And you know what? They were amazing! Since this recipe basically restored my marriage, I'll definitely be back at the store next week buying more of these once heretical faux-beef crumbles!

Prep time 3 cocktails

(I use bulgur instead of couscous, and really any grain will work - just adjust liquid and cooking time accordingly)
1/4 cup dried dates, chopped up to raisin-size if not already that small (or you can substitute raisins)
3/4 cup veggie stock
3/4 cup water
1 cup bulgur
2 TBSP butter (substitute faux butter to make this vegan)
Pinch of ground cinnamon

A few TBSP olive oil
1/2 medium/large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic
1/2 of a cinnamon stick
A pinch of saffron threads, crumbled up
1/3 cup veggie stock (store-bought or homemade)
1 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 TBSP finely grated lemon rind (using the finest side of a box grater or a microplane)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, chopped coarsely

1/4 tsp whole cloves
1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
Pinch of ground cinnamon
2 pinches of ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
Red pepper flakes, to taste (optional)
1 TBSP grated or minced ginger
1 12-ounce package faux hamburger crumbles
2 TBSP tomato paste
4 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup white flour
1/4 cup oats, ground into a flour using a spice/coffee grinder or food processor
3 TBSP finely chopped Italian parsley
3 TBSP finely chopped cilantro
3 TBSP chopped green onions
5 TBSP olive oil
Additional white flour for dusting

Garnishes (all optional):
Additional finely chopped cilantro, parsley, and green onion
A dollop or two of plain yogurt

First, get your bulgur or couscous started. Place the dates (or raisins) in a bowl and pour hot water over to soften. Let sit a few minutes before draining water. Meanwhile, combine the stock and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the bulgur and reduce to a low boil, cover, and cook until the liquid is absorbed, about 12-16 minutes. When liquid is fully absorbed and the grain is tender, remove from heat and stir in drained dates, butter, and cinnamon until butter is melted. Adjust salt, if needed. Set aside with the lid on.

While your bulgur is simmering, start the sauce: In a saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and saute until fully translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add the garlic and saute another minute. Add the cinnamon stick and saffron and saute yet another minute. Now stir in the stock, tomatoes, wine, lemon rind, and salt. Reduce to simmer and let it reduce into a nice, somewhat thick pasta sauce consistency, about 10-25 minutes. After you've reached the desired consistency, stir in the olives and adjust salt to taste. Remove from heat.

Now make the meatballs. Combine the cloves, coriander, and cumin in a spice grinder and process into a powder. Now combine this with all the other meatball ingredients EXCEPT for the dusting flour and oil in a mixing bowl and stir until everything is incorporated. Heat a large frying pan over medium heat with the olive oil. Once the oil shimmers, you're ready to start adding meatballs. Make each meatball small--an inch in diamater and dust or dredge with flour. Then add it gently to the hot oil. Cook each side until it is fully browned, then carefully turn with a tongs. Repeat until the meatballs are deeply browned (but not burned) on all sides. Remove from the frying pan and blot dry with a paper towel.

Now take your frying pan off the burner and replace it with the tomato sauce, keeping the heat at medium. Gently stir the meatballs into the tomato sauce and let it heat up for just a minute.

Now serve the meatballs over a bed of bulgur/couscous, garnish, and serve.

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