I’ve run a lot of Friday polls over the years and I would like to think I’m getting pretty good at guessing what you guys are going to vote for. I’m not so confident as to actually cook the thing before the final poll results are in, but I’m almost there.
I was pretty sure lamb meatballs would win just because they are interesting and sound delicious. The only thing that surprised me was how close the results were with brussel sprout salad coming in a close second!
I love brussel sprouts, but I thought I was sort of the only one!
Anyway, lamb meatballs won after all. They were pretty easy to make with one or two annoying steps. All in all, completely worth it though!
Lamb Meatballs with Harissa
Yield: 20 meatballs
1 small onion, diced
3 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted
3 dates, diced
1 pound ground lamb
2/3 cup cooked couscous
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil for cooking
3-4 red jalapenos, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 roasted red pepper
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons caraway seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground
1 teaspoon paprika (smoked is best)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Cast Iron Skillet
Mini Food Processor
1) To make harissa, roughly chop ingredients and add them to a food processor. Pulse until mostly smooth. Season with salt and refrigerate until needed.
2) For meatballs, cook couscous according to directions. It should only take 4-5 minutes.
3) Toast your pine nuts in a dry skillet over low heat until fragrant (a few minutes). Then chop roughly.
4) Mix ingredients together in a large bowl.
5) Form 1 1/2 inch meatballs with the mixture. YOu should get about 20 meatballs.
6) In a large cast iron skillet, heat a drizzle of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add as many meatballs as will fit without crowding the pan. Let them cook until browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes.
7) Optionally, you can also bake the meatballs in a mini muffin tin at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until they are cooked through, about 25 minutes. Turn once while baking.
8) Serve meatballs with harissa sauce and cilantro as an appetizer.
9) If you want to make a meal out of the dish, I recommend serving the meatballs and sauce over egg noodles stirred with a bit of butter.
This sauce was actually my favorite part of the meal. It’s one of those sauces that I just want to keep in a huge jar and use on everything I eat.
You just need a few basic things to make it happen. If you don’t want to roast the red pepper yourself, you can also use jarred roasted red peppers. You probably need about 2/3 of a cup of chopped jarred roasted red peppers.
Chop all your ingredients roughly and then add them to a mini food processor.
Pulse everything together until it’s mostly smooth. I added more vinegar and oil than in the original recipe which I think was a good call. It was a bit too thick for my liking originally.
Adjust according to your tastes though definitely.
The only thing I would change about this sauce recipe is that I would double it next time so I had extra.
These meatballs have three ingredients that I’ve never seen in meatballs before: Pine nuts, dates, and couscous.
The pines nuts aren’t too far out there. Toast them in a dry skillet over low heat and then roughly chop them and they add a wonderfully nutty flavor to the meatballs.
The dates work almost as a binder for the meatballs and also give some sweetness to them. I definitely wouldn’t leave them out.
The couscous is kind of weird and annoying to cook separately, but it does make the meatballs really light. I think you could substitute leftover rice if you had some in the fridge. At the end of the day though, couscous just takes a few minutes to cook so just make it happen.
Combine everything together well in a large bowl. Really get your (clean) hands in there to make sure everything is mixed well.
Then form the meat mixture into large tablespoon sized balls. You should get about 20 meatballs out of the batch.
I got 19, but whatever.
Cooking the Meatballs
The recipe says to cook these meatballs in a cast iron skillet with a drizzle of oil.
This worked okay for me. You have to be pretty gentle with them or they will fall apart and they definitely take longer than the nine minutes that the recipe says to finish cooking.
Mine took closer to twelve minutes. You have to do them in batches though and it isn’t the easiest cooking job ever.
Personally, if I were going to make these again, I think I would try to bake them using the mini muffin tin method from my buffalo meatballs.
That worked perfectly and is my favorite way to cook meatballs now.
The advantage of the cast iron skillet though is that they do get a very nice browned crust on the outside which is delicious.
I think you can do either though based on the equipment, time, and patience you have.
This dish was originally supposed to be an appetizer so you could serve the meatballs with some of the harissa sauce, cilantro, and toothpicks.
If you want to make a meal out of it, just serve the meatballs over a bed of buttered egg noodles.
Really delicious dinner!
Couscous in a meatball… goodness gracious.