Posts Tagged ‘African’

Spaghetti with Sicilian Meatballs

January 13, 2013

IMG_9502When we were in Italy, what struck me most is that there truly isn’t “Italian” food. Rather, their food is identified by the region you are in. Spaghetti and clams in the Italian Riviera. Boar in Tuscany. Pizza in Naples. That is why I was so intrigued when I saw a recipe for Sicilian meatballs in Bon Appetit.

The food of Sicily has a Greek and sometimes African influence, making it have more olives, capers and currants than you would find in the “boot.” So when looking at the meatball recipe, at first glance it seemed very traditional. Sausage meat (which was an interesting twist on the typical beef, veal, pork combo), breadcrumbs in milk, garlic, onion, etc. Yet, then they add pine nuts and currants to make it have a bit of nutty sweetness. They are baked, and then smothered in a traditional Italian red sauce.

This dish has that same warm, comforting result as typical Italian meatballs, but they do have an interesting sweetness to them that makes them have a “hmm, what’s that?” factor. It is a great alternative to a typical bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, and will be making its way to our dinner table as a great Sicilian (not Italian!) dish!

SPAGHETTI WITH SICILIAN MEATBALLS
Serves 4-6

Sauce:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 28-ounce cans diced tomatoes in juice
4 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Meatballs:
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 large egg
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
2 tablespoons dried currants

1 pound spaghetti

For Sauce:
Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-low heat. Add onion; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic; stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes with juices and 2 tablespoons basil; bring to boil. Reduce heat; simmer until sauce thickens, breaking up tomatoes with fork, about 1 hour. Mix in 2 tablespoons basil. Season with salt and pepper. Set sauce aside.

For Meatballs:
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil baking sheet. Mix crumbs and milk in medium bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Mix in Parmesan, onion, basil, egg, garlic and pepper. Add sausage, pine nuts and currants; blend well. Using wet hands, form mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Place on baking sheet. Bake until meatballs are light brown and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Add to sauce.

Cook spaghetti in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite. Drain. Mound in dish. Bring sauce and meatballs to simmer. Mix with and spoon over spaghetti.

Kefta Tagine with Eggs and Roasted Cumin

January 16, 2012

After 2 weeks of not cooking, due to a lack of dishwasher (yes, we were actually so lazy we dirtied as few dishes as possible!), I wanted to try something lengthy, complicated, warm and comforting. Something that could go terribly wrong, but could also go terribly right. So, I broke out my Tagine cookbook, by Ghillie Basan, to find something spicy and filling to warm us on a cold winter night.

This dish caught my eye because even though it was comprised of the traditional lamb that is in many African dishes, it came together as meatballs, with sunny side up eggs, all cooked in the tagine.

The meatballs are called kefta, and they are filled with amazing spices, and are poached in water (which helps them keep their perfect shape), then cooked in spiced liquid that absorbs into the meatballs, and creates a hot, dry bottom of the tagine in which to cook the eggs.

Not only did the dish turn out perfectly, but the combination was nothing we had ever experienced. The spice, ras-el-hanout, is worth seeking out (I found mine at my local spice store, but you can also find it online).

My only caution is to be careful of the spice level. I will write this recipe with the spice level I used so hopefully it will do the trick (vs. the original recipe from the cookbook).

Trust me, it is worth the effort. And, ironically enough, at the end of the day there really weren’t many dishes to speak of – except the tagine itself (which doesn’t go in the dishwasher).

KEFTA TAGINE WITH EGGS AND ROASTED CUMIN
Serves 4

For the Kefta:
16 ounces ground lamb
1 onion, finely chopped
2 teaspoons dried mint
3 teaspoons ras-el-hanout
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Rest of the Dish:
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
6-8 eggs
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, dry-roasted and ground
a small bunch of fresh flatleaf parsley

To make the kefta, put the ground lamb, onion, mint, ras-el-hanout, cayenne and parsley in a bowl, season with salt and pepper, and mix well together. Using your hands, knead the mixture and mold it into small balls.

Fill a tagine (or dutch oven) with water and bring it to a boil. Carefully drop in the kefta, a few at a time, and poach them for about 10 minutes, turning them so they cook on all sides. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain them on paper towels. Reserve roughly 2 1/2 cups of cooking liquid.

Add the butter to the tagine with the reserved cooking water and bring to a boil. Stir in the salt and cayenne and drop in the poached kefta. Cook over high heat until almost all of the liquid has evaporated (about 15 or so minutes). Carefully crack the eggs around the kefta, cover the tagine with the lid, and cook and steam until they are just set. Sprinkle the roasted cumin seeds and the chopped parsley over the top of the dish. Serve with pearl couscous and flat bread.

Lamb and Chickpea Tagine

March 6, 2010

So far to date, I have only made one recipe with lamb. I know, it is obvious that it scares me a bit – especially since the only recipe I have used lamb in is pastitio (using only ground lamb). But, I thought I would continue to ease into the meat, and try a lamb stew.

Previously I blogged about a Moroccan stew that is one of our winter favorites. This one looked a bit similar, but had lamb, a few different spices and the addition of honey. It was a cold winter night (hopefully one of our last) so I gave it a try.

The stew is so hearty and warming, it makes you feel cozy inside – the cilantro is a bright addition to the heavy dish and the pistachios (although I originally I thought were odd) gave a great flavor and crunch. I served it over couscous in true African tradition, but you could certainly serve without.

I got this recipe from Cooking Light and it came with a wine pairing so I thought I would try the two together. I was happy when I found the wine at my local Biggs and on sale for $20. It is a Rodney Strong 2007 “Knotty Vines” Zin from Sonoma County. If you can find it, I would recommend it with the tagine – it has a deep fruit flavor that complements the sweet and spicy nature of the dish.

SPECIAL NOTE: “Tagine” is named after the pot in which the stews are cooked in Northern Africa. It is truly unique – like a Dutch oven but with a cone-shaped lid. Most of us don’t have one, so a Dutch oven works perfectly!

LAMB AND CHICKPEA TAGINE
4 Servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lamb stew meat
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 teaspoons honey
2 1/2 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup golden raisins
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
1/3 cup chopped pistachios
2 tablespoons small fresh cilantro leaves

Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add lamb; sauté 4 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove lamb with a slotted spoon. Add onion, salt, pepper, and cumin to pan; sauté 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return lamb to pan; stir in tomato paste and honey. Cook 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add broth, raisins, and chickpeas; bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to medium, and cook 50 minutes or until lamb is tender, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle with pistachios and cilantro.


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