Monday, January 24, 2011

North African Meatballs (over couscous)

I mentioned in another entry that I started recording 10 Dollar Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian after discovering that all the "good" shows were shown on Sunday mornings.

This recipe already has almost 450 reviews on the Food Network website and 5 stars. It sounded delicious so I had to try it.

I truly love just about any cuisine and really enjoy ethnic foods. I haven't met a spice I didn't like (though I'm not as keen on really hot spices) and rarely meet a flavor combination I don't like. Jason is much more adventurous than before we were married but still isn't a fan of things he sees as "weird." I knew he would be cautious about this dish but to my surprise, he ate an entire plate of it and just commented he'd rather the olives not be included. He's not a fan of olives other than black olives but I think they added a salty texture that was important, which is why I didn't just leave them out all together.

I really love the typical African sweet and savory combinations in food. This had much of that feel to it - there was some sweetness but lots of salty taste, too, especially thanks to the olives. I thought it was absolutely delicious and I could have eaten the entire pan. It's a very complex flavor combination ~ if you like Moroccan food, you'll like this.

To cut down on dishes, I made the meatballs first in the skillet, transferred them to a plate after browned, and used the same skillet for the sauce. Worked great!

North African Meatballs
For the North African Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 lemon, zested
1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup chicken stock or broth (I used stock)
1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes (I used crushed)
1 teaspoon light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Pinch ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the Meatballs:
1 egg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch ground cinnamon
3/4 pound ground beef (I used a pound)
1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs (I used panko)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking (I used EVOO)
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Couscous with Dried Dates, recipe follows

To make the North African Sauce: In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

To make the Meatballs: In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.

In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed. Transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve over the Couscous with Dried Dates.

Couscous with Dried Dates
1 cup water
1 cup chicken stock or broth (I used up my carton of stock so it was 1.5 C stock, 1/2 C water)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped dried dates (I couldn't easily find so I used dried cranberries instead)
1 cup quick-cooking couscous
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the dates followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.


  1. I made these for dinner the other night and they are amazing! thank you so much for sharing this unique and wonderful dish. We just served it over plain couscous but it soaked up all the flavors from the meatballs and sauce.

  2. I'm so glad y'all loved it, too! It's truly one of my favorite meals.


See Aimee Cook

Designed by:

Munchkin Land Designs Elements by Amy Teets
Designed by Munchkin Land Designs • Copyright 2012 • All Rights Reserved