Thursday, January 14, 2010

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

I had a secret New Year's resolution...and it's not what you think. It wasn't to go to the gym more or try to rein in the bag and shoe habit, but rather to consider becoming a vegetarian. I didn't tell anyone about this resolution other than NAK, who gave that cute, crooked smile he usually flashes when he thinks I'm kidding.

I wasn't. I was seriously thinking about becoming a vegetarian. Not for health reasons or animal rights, just more so that I seemed to have lost the taste for meat. I can't remember the last time I cooked meat and it just stopped appealing to me.
But then we spent the last two weeks of December in glorious Argentina where becoming a vegetarian would be viewed as virtually unpatriotic. Meat is such a part of the culture there and we were more than happy (myself included) to partake in the oversized (and by that I mean gigantic!) steaks served at every meal. And with that, out went my vegetarian hope for 2010.
When we arrived home in these frigid temps, we had many a food magazine waiting to greet us. But I delved into Bon Appetit after catching a glimpse of the best meatball recipes of the year that were pictured on the cover. I picked this recipe, Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine, and was thrilled with the results. Who knows, maybe we've found our next food - I mean vacation - destination.
This recipe looks fairly long and complex. There are several steps to it but if you can prepare the vegetables in advance, you will cut down on the prep time.

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine

Adapted from Bon Appetit, January 2010

1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/3 cup coarsely grated onion
1/3 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 large egg, beaten to blend
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 cinnamon sticks
1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled – I skipped the saffron
2 cups beef broth
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1/4 cup golden raisins – I skipped the raisins
2 cups 1/2-inch-thick carrot slices (cut on diagonal)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish
1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves
Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice (recipe below)
Lemon wedges (for garnish)

Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 2/3 cups water
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1 1/2 cups plain couscous
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Meatballs - Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet.

Stew - Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté about 15 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and saffron; stir 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, and raisins.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring stew to simmer. Stir in carrots. Carefully add meatballs to stew; gently press into liquid to submerge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cilantro over. Cover pot; place in oven. Bake until meatballs are cooked through and carrots are tender, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle spinach over stew. Cover and bake until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes longer. Gently stir to mix in spinach, being careful not to break meatballs. Remove cinnamon sticks. Season tagine with salt and pepper.

Couscous - Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and turmeric; stir 1 minute. Add 1 2/3 cups water, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; mix in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional coarse salt, if desired.

Spoon couscous into bowls; top with tagine. Garnish with cilantro and lemons.

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