Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

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As a newbie blogger, I like to think I’m following all of the blogging etiquette rules out there. (Although honestly, I have no idea… I could be committing some blogger faux pas with every post for all I know… someone give us a heads up!) But one thing I do know – because it’s common sense for one – is that you don’t just copy and paste someone else’s content and share it verbatim as your own. Now, if you’ve read our blog prior to today, you’ll notice that we share a healthy mix of personal creations and recipes that originated with others. When we’re using someone else’s recipe, before sharing it on here, we take care to tweak it a bit to our personal and non-copyright-infringing tastes AND to share the recipe in our own words. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the original inspiration for tonight’s dish was a pin I found on Pinterest. It had a gorgeous picture of meatballs in a tagine and the recipe sounded delicious! As I was getting ready to work on the dish for tonight, I found this recipe from the BBC’s Good Food site – it is WORD FOR WORD the exact same as the blog post I originally saved. Ugh! 😡 Maybe it shouldn’t bother me so much, but I like following the rules. And then when I went back and looked at my pin, it appears that the picture in the pin is stolen as well! Double ugh! 😡😡 So I deleted my pin, and we’ll credit the real inspiration instead 😘 Thanks Good Food!

Anyways, back to the recipe! We love meatballs around here! One of these days I’ll share the meatballs I grew up on – very different from these and just about any others I’ve ever had. [Check out our other Bon Appetit Baby meatballs – from our Sultan Selim Kofte & Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha) to our Thai Turkey Meatballs!] Tonight’s recipe caught my eye because of the unique (to me at least) ingredients – the lemon and the olives! I’m glad it did, because this recipe is one of my new favorites! It’s slightly spicy, but just beautifully bright and tangy from those olives and lemon. Fancy chefs on TV always talk about balance in dishes, and while I don’t always know how to achieve balance, this recipe definitely has it! You’ve got spice and tang and earthiness and just the slightest hint of sweetness. I think this is why I gravitate towards Middle Eastern/North African dishes – they never just hit one note – they’re always multi-faceted. Whatever you call it, these meatballs are a treat! I ate them over pearl couscous (highly recommend), while Selim just ate them plain and was pretty darn happy! I can also see them being delicious with some fresh baked flatbread. Maybe next time? Because there definitely will be a next time for these!

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Tangy Moroccan Meatballs

(Adapted from BBC Good Food)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped – divided
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 large lemon (zested & juiced)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • Generous pinch of saffron threads
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup beef stock (or lamb if you have access to it)
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, halved
  • Handful of fresh cilantro, roughly torn
Instructions: 
  1. In a large bowl, combine ~ half of the chopped onion, lamb, lemon zest, cumin, cinnamon, paprika, and parsley. Using your hands, form small meatballs – roughly the size of a ping-pong ball. Set them aside.
  2. Now, heat the oil in a tagine if you’re cooler than us and have one, or a small dutch oven if you’re not.
  3. Add the remaining onions, garlic, and ginger. Cook for just 2-3 minutes until starting to soften and become fragrant. Top with the saffron and cook just another additional minute.
  4. Add the juice from the lemon, cayenne, tomato paste, stock, and olives and bring to a simmer.
  5. Once the liquid has reached that simmer, lower the heat and gently add the meatballs. Cover and cook on low for 25 minutes. Halfway through, flip the meatballs over.
  6. Remove the lid and raise the heat back to a simmer. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until the liquid has reduced and thickened. Toss in the cilantro right before serving.
  7. Serve with couscous or rice.
Serves 4.
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Sultan Selim Kofte

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Köfte is one of those dishes that calls to mind something slightly different for every person. Apparently, some company in Turkey determined that there are 291 varieties of köfte native to that country alone. (I get my information via Wikipedia’s kofte page, because I can’t read the original article in Turkish – so hopefully it’s not lying to me.) And that’s just within Turkey! Köfte (or kofta, kufta, kyuft’a, qofte, cufte, keftés, kopta…) is common everywhere from Morocco to Pakistan, and Azerbaijan to Croatia, with so many variations in between.

For Selim, his memories of köfte are just as variable. Think of how varying “American” meatballs can be… there’s variation in meat content (pork, beef, chicken, veal, lamb, turkey, tofu), sauces (marinara, BBQ, mustard, gravy), and cooking technique (crockpot, microwave, baked, fried). Köfte is no different, there’s a lot of variability within families, regions, and countries. I think most people will say that traditionally, köfte is charcoal-grilled as it imparts a distinctive smokiness and flavor that’s so unique. Unfortunately, we don’t have a grill, which kind of ruins that plan, so we decided to broil these to approximate that grilled flavor as much as we could. After living and cooking in our Columbia, SC apartment for over 2 years, we finally set off the smoke detector!

For our köfte tonight, we didn’t try to replicate a specific, authentic type of köfte. Instead, we tried to channel our favorite flavors into our own creation. Ally named these köfte after (one or the other of) Selim’s namesakes to differentiate from all of those 291 original Turkish varieties. You can be the judge as to which Sultan Selim Ally is referencing… Sultan Selim I (aka Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute) who was a fiery tempered ruler who greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire or Sultan Selim II (aka Selim the Blond) who was a well-loved, soft, generous ruler. Our köfte has a spicy taste/temperament but is sure to be well-loved by all, a perfect combination.

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Selim, outside of Sultan Selim’s tomb

Sultan Selim Köfte

Ingredients: 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 shallots, grated
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tbsp sumac
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • Pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 lb lamb (80/20 – you want some fat here)
  • 1 egg (whisked)
Instructions:
  1. Make the spice mix by combining the spices in a small prep bowl, set aside.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the garlic, shallot, and lamb.
  3. Work the spice mix into the lamb slowly, ensuring that there aren’t any clumps of spice and continue working the meat with your hands until well mixed.
  4. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes.
  5. Now stir in the whisked egg until well-combined.
  6. Using your hands, form into sigara-shaped patties and place on a sheet of foil.
  7. Broil/Grill/Pan Fry: watching carefully until the tops begin to brown and crisp, flipping once to ensure even cooking and charring. (Broilers, grills, and pans are so variable that we don’t want to tell you a specific time and screw up your köfte!) *If grilling, we highly recommend using skewers so as to not lose any köftes to the flames.
Serves 2-4

North African Wedding Soup

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This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.

These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!

Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)

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One of my favorites from our wedding ❤  Photograph by Lauren D. Rogers Photography

North African Wedding Soup

(Adapted from Little Spice Jar)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 8 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups of chopped carrots
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme
  • 8 cups beef broth
  • 1 1/2 cups pearl couscous
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
  3. Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  5. Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
  6. Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
  7. Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
  8. Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Serves 6-8
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily. 

Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)

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Today is World Food Day. I’m not going to lie, when I saw that name, I thought – “Yesssssss, a day dedicated to my favorite thing, food! Let’s eat tons of food in the name of this brilliant holiday!” Well, I guess that’s sort of true, but come to find out, there’s a lot more behind this holiday than my original superficial thoughts. World Food Day was created by the United Nations’ Food & Agriculture Organization to commemorate the founding of that branch of the UN. Their goal for this day and its events around the world is to “promote worldwide awareness and action for those who suffer from hunger and for the need to ensure food security and nutritious diets for all.” Check out their website for more information and details.

Each year, World Food Day has a theme, usually reflective of the geopolitical issues of the world. The theme relates back to one of the organization’s overall goals – #ZeroHunger by 2030. For example, 2016’s WFD concentrated on climate change, 2011’s on food pricing, 1998’s on women, and 1987’s on small farmers. The theme for 2017 focuses on the vast numbers of migrants and refugees through the lens of food. Their focus is on mitigating the need for migration through increasing food security. Of course, many migrants and refugees don’t have the option of remaining in their homes, and are at incredibly high risk for hunger and food insecurity.

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For us and this blog, this day turned out to be even more of an inspiration for our dinner (and blog post, obviously) than I originally anticipated. In honor of the day and this year’s theme, I decided to use our dinner to pay homage to the incredibly devastating humanitarian crisis coming out of Syria. The last statistics I saw stated that there are 5.1 million Syrian refugees and 6.6 million internally displaced people. I think sometimes, whether it’s because of the sheer volume of the negative news barrage or perhaps even personal biases, we don’t think about the individual people behind the buzz phrase “refugee crisis.” What would we do if we were in their shoes? Certainly our dinner and little blog aren’t going to improve the lives of any refugees, but it can’t hurt. Food is a great equalizer; we all need it and most of us love it. I like to think that food can be the bridge and shrink our large, scattered world, one meal at a time!

And if you had to pick a new meal to try, this would be a great one! The flavors are delicious and a quite a bit different than your average American meatball. We served it over rice and were thinking that the only thing that might make this better, would be a sprinkling of feta cheese on top!

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Syrian Mini Meatballs (Dawood Basha)

(This recipe is slightly adapted from this one from syriancooking.com)
Ingredients: 
  • 1lb ground beef
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley + more for garnish
  • 2 tsp bharat, divided [I made this mix myself, following these proportions]
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • 3 medium fresh tomatoes
  • Salt & pepper
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together ground beef with chopped parsley, 1 tsp bharat, 1/2 tsp salt, and a few turns of fresh ground black pepper.
  3. Roll out mixture into small, ~1 inch meatballs. Lay out on a cookie sheet lined with foil.
  4. Bake meatballs for 20 minutes so they have begun to brown.
  5. Meanwhile, in a pan with high edges, heat the oil. Once warm, add the sliced onions. Top with a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  6. Cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 15 minutes until onions are nice and browned.
  7. Puree the tomatoes in a food processor (or dice by hand).
  8. Add the tomatoes puree to the pan with the onions. Cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat, still stirring occasionally, as some liquid burns off and the sauce thickens.
  9. Add the meatballs to the pan. Continue to simmer the tomato sauce, lowering heat slightly, for an additional 20 minutes, coating the meatballs with the sauce.
  10. Five minutes prior to serving, stir in the remaining 1 tsp of bharat and additional salt & pepper if needed.
  11. Serve garnished with additional parsley if desired.
Serves 3-4.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

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I was browsing my ol’ faithful – Pinterest – when this recipe (eventually) caught my eye. I have a love-hate relationship with Pinterest when it comes to inspiring my dinner. Love – well, what’s not to love? There are literally millions of gorgeous photos, leading you to so many different recipes. It also lets me check out other blogs I would’ve never found otherwise. But sometimes it’s almost TOO much. It certainly doesn’t help me narrow down my plan if I have no idea what I want to make tonight. Even though I try to organize my Pinterest into food categories, the options are still overwhelming. Let’s take my “Chicken Entrees” board. I started there because we had chicken in the freezer that probably should be eaten. Obviously, each of these dishes appealed to me in some instance, because I saved them. So why did I find reasons to not make any of them tonight?? Browsing this board, I first clicked on Senegalese Chicken Yassa – 💭💭 nah, takes too long to make. Then, oooh Chicken & Dumplings – 💭💭 ehhh, Selim probably won’t want that tonight. Chicken Tikka Masala –  💭💭 oh yum, but I’m trying to write a new blog post and we’ve already done a tikka masala on here. Greek Chicken Meatballs – 💭💭 welllll we did just go on a rant about Greek food, so probably should hold off. But meatballs, that sounds good… let’s go down that rabbit hole… ⌨️ “chicken meatballs” 🖱️ And many clicks later, here we are.

And I’m glad we finally made it. These meatballs are great! And are a likely a bit healthier than the last meatballs you made. We ate them over rice noodles, which was great, but I think they’d be perfect as an appetizer as well.

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Thai Turkey Meatballs

(Adapted from The Bewitchin’ Kitchen blog)
Ingredients: 
  • 1 cup chopped carrots
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 + 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced + 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp dried cilantro
  • 5 large fresh basil leaves
  • 5 turns fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp coconut oil
  • 1 can light coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Combine the first twelve ingredients (carrots through pepper – including the 1 tbsp of lime juice and 3 sliced cloves of garlic) in a food processor. Pulse until well-processed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the mixture, ground turkey, and egg. Stir to combine well.
  4. Using your hands, form the mixture into small meatballs. (It will feel really wet!)
  5. Place meatballs on a lined cookie sheet.
  6. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Then flip and bake another 15 minutes.
  7. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce.
  8. In a large, high-edged pan over medium heat, swirl together coconut oil and just a dash of the coconut milk.
  9. Add the remaining garlic (2 cloves, minced) and cook for a few minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  10. Now stir in the red curry paste. Allow to cook for just 1-2 more minutes.
  11. Then add the rest of the can of coconut milk and the remaining 2 tbsp lime juice.
  12. Maintain the sauce over medium heat, stirring occasionally until it thickens up a smidge.
  13. When the meatballs are done, place the in the pan. Remove from heat. Coat with the sauce.
  14. Serve over rice or rice noodles or with toothpicks as an appetizer.