Tuesday, January 12, 2010

North African Meatballs with Date Couscous

I made North African Meatballs with Fig Couscous a few months ago. We really enjoyed it, but I would say it isn't for everyone. First, you have to like green olives. Second, it has some unique flavor profiles in the both the meatballs and the sauce. The couscous was great, even though the seeds in the dried figs get stuck in your teeth. The meatballs were unbelievably tender. It was a very cheap meal (probably around $10) and ALMOST a one pot wonder. I will definitely make it again.

I also love Melissa D'Arabian if you didn't already know.

Recipe Courtesy of Melissa D'Arabian


For the North African Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 small onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 1/2 cup pitted and chopped briny olives
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 (14-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Meatballs:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 pound ground beef
  • 1/3 cup finely ground rolled oats or fine bread crumbs
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, for cooking
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Couscous with Dried Dates, recipe follows


To make the North African Sauce:
In a large saucepan heat the olive oil over medium heat and saute the onion and garlic until soft but not brown, about 3 minutes. Add the lemon zest and olives and cook for 1 more minute. Add the white wine, deglaze the pan, and let it reduce for a 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, canned tomatoes, sugar, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon, and simmer to blend flavors, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
To make the Meatballs: In a medium bowl, add the egg and tomato paste and stir until smooth. Add the cilantro, ginger, cumin, and cinnamon and mix until well blended. Stir in the ground beef and oats, season with salt and pepper, to taste, and combine gently after each addition. Do not overmix. Rolling with your hands, make about 32 meatballs, about 1-inch in diameter.
In a large saute pan, heat 3 tablespoons vegetable oil over medium heat, and brown the meatballs in batches until golden on all sides. Add more oil, as needed. Transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce and let simmer for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve over the Couscous with Dried Dates.
Couscous with Dried Dates:
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup chicken stock or broth
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped dried dates
  • 1 cup quick-cooking couscous
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Bring the water, stock, and oil to a boil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the dates followed by the couscous. Cover the pan tightly with a lid, remove from the heat, and allow to sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.
Yield: 4 servings


  1. that looks so delish. i will make that for sure...in 3 years maybe. yay for the blog!!

  2. what kind of couscous do you use? do you use the instant couscous? whenever i've made that i've reeeally disliked it. i feel like it has a weird flavor or something.

  3. yeah, i use instant. i don't think it has any flavor at all, though. i don't like the stuff that comes in a box (especially the ones with seasoning packets). i buy the big container of plain, instant couscous. it is around $6.50. i like couscous two ways: served cold like a pasta salad with a bunch of veggies and some dressing OR served with something saucy like this.

  4. i made a pasta salad with veggies and the couscous tasted like cardboard. it was gross. oh well, maybe i'll try again with a different brand.