Since Ingrid Bergman walked into Humphrey Bogart's Moroccan "gin joint" in the 1942 classic Casablanca, moviegoers and romantics have been fascinated with this North African country. The appeal of Morocco extends beyond the crossroads of World War II traitors, spies, French Resistance heroes, and lovers visiting Morocco. The rugged mountainous terrain of the Atlas and Rif ranges and the stark flatness of the Sahara Desert, juxtaposed with the lengthy coastlines of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, offer a stunning visual glimpse into this tiny corner of the world rich in exotic contrasts. Moroccan food is no exception to its plethora of diversity. Lamb, a breed that stores its fat in its tails, often takes center stage at the table. Stews, skewers, tajines, and meatballs are all made from lamb. For those brave hearts ready to dive into unfamiliar territory, a mouthful or two of these meatballs introduce your palate to a complex intersection of European meets Mediterranean meets African cuisine. No worries--you won't start bleating by eating lamb meatballs.
Ingredients for the meatballs1 pound ground lamb 4 large garlic cloves, minced 1 shallot, minced 2 eggs 3/4 cup flat leaf parsley, chopped 1/3 cup fresh mint, chopped 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger 1/2 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs olive oil 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 1 teaspoon sumac 1 cup pomegranate seeds Mint and parsley leaves, garnish
for the pomegranate glaze1 shallot minced olive oil 1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice 1 tablespoon honey 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon allspice
Directions for the meatballs
- Place all the meatball ingredients except the olive oil, pine nuts and sumac in a large glass bowl. Gently fold the mixture incorporating all of the ingredients, but do not press together or the meatballs will lose their tenderness.
- Use a 2" diameter scoop to measure uniform balls (do not press the meat into the scoop). Release the ball and gently roll to make round and set on a platter. Repeat until all meat has been formed into balls.
- In a LARGE HEAVY BOTTOMED SKILLET that can go from the burner to the oven and to the table, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat. Place the meatballs in the skillet and sear the meatballs until they are a rich caramel brown on all sides. Place the skillet in the oven and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meatballs are cooked through but not dry.
- In a SMALL PAN, toast the pinenuts over medium-low heat until golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and toss in sumac. Set aside.
for the glaze
- In a 1 QUART POT, sauté the shallot in a drizzle of olive oil over medium heat and cook 2 to 3 minutes until the shallot is tender.
- Add the juice, honey, molasses, cayenne, allspice, salt and pepper, raise the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced to 1/2 cup.
- Remove from heat and set aside.
- Pour the glaze over the meatballs.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts, mint, and parsley leaves.
- Finish the plate with the fresh pomegranate seeds.
Make cooking easier and buy ready-to-eat pomegranate arils. The meatballs may be made through step 3 and frozen (place on a baking tray lined with parchment until frozen before placing in a Ziplock freezer bag). Onion may be substituted for the shallot in the meatballs. May be serve with couscous, rice or pita (a good substitute for the traditional bread khobz), but delicious as a passed hors d'oeuvre served on individual spoons.