Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Ethnic Comfort Food: Moroccan Meatball Stew

Last Saturday morning I turned on the Food Network as I was sipping my coffee and cuddling with my furkid. Rachael Ray's new show happened to be on and I'll admit, I was hooked. She prepares a whole week's worth of meals in one day and provides instruction on how to finish the meal on the day you choose to serve.

Most of the meals looked "just ok" however one meal caught my eye and taste buds. Her Moroccan Meatballs with Eggs was unlike any other dish I'd ever seen. She made little meatballs with lamb, mint and traditional meatball binders. Then she created what I call a stew with diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, onions and zucchini. What gives this dish its ethnic (Moroccan) flare is the spice mixture known as Ras El Hanout. She provided a recipe to make your own from spices in your cupboard.

Ras El Hanout
1 Tbsp Turmeric
1 Tbsp Cumin
1 Tbsp Coriander
1 Tbsp Paprika
1 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Allspice
1 tsp Cardamom
1 tsp Cayenne Pepper
1/2 tsp Cloves

I made the spice mix and stored it in a glass jar. You won't use all of this in one recipe--you could also mix and match these spices to your liking and make very little if you didn't want leftovers.

Moroccan Meatball Stew
1 pound ground lamb or beef (I used beef)
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
5 eggs, 1 for meatballs, 4 for poaching and serving, optional
1 medium onion, 1/4 onion grated and juiced, 3/4 onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, 2 minced or pasted, 2 sliced
1 small handful fresh mint leaves, leaves picked and finely chopped
Pinch ground cinnamon
Few grates nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil, for liberal drizzling
1 small zucchini, sliced on an angle or chopped
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Spice Blend or Ras el hanout
1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas
A handful cilantro, leaves picked and chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

In the large mixing bowl, combine the meat, bread crumbs, 1 egg lightly beaten, 2 to 3 tablespoons grated onion and juice, 2 cloves minced garlic, mint, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, pepper, and a liberal drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil, about 2 tablespoons. Roll the meat into walnut-size balls and arrange the meatballs on a large baking tray. Roast the meatballs until cooked through, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meatball ingredients before mixing

Meanwhile, heat more extra-virgin olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium to medium-high heat. Add the chopped onion to the pan with the sliced garlic, and zucchini. Cook 7 to 8 minutes, then add the diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, honey, and spice blend, and bring to a bubble. Drain the chickpeas and stir into the sauce. Remove the meatballs from the oven and slide into the sauce. Cool entire mixture completely and store in fridge for make-ahead meal.

When I was ready to serve this, I reheated half of the meatball mixture in a smaller sauce pan over medium heat. Add a bit of water if the sauce is too thick. I made 2 "wells" in the sauce and dropped one egg in each well. Cover the pot and simmer the eggs in the bubbly mixture until poached. Carefully scoop the mixture into a shallow bowl, being sure not to break the egg. When ready to eat, break the yolk and stir around like a gravy! YUM!

Served with crusty French bread. This was perfect for a snowy March night!
Brent's review: While he enjoyed this, I knew it wasn't a hit with him when he didn't take it as his lunch the next day. 

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