Monday, April 9, 2012

Maghrebi Veal Meatballs with Spinach and Chickpeas

The slow part of this recipe comes from cooking the chickpeas. I've found that cooking a giant batch of chickpeas in my slow cooker and then freezing in 1 cup portions in plastic bags works for me and cuts down on dish prep times. This recipe isn't exactly a weeknight meal, but it's also not an all-day project.

To give the sauce more flavour and because I wasn't cooking chickpeas just for this recipe, I used chicken stock instead of chickpea liquid in the sauce. The original recipe also calls for a separate skillet to brown the chickpeas and wilt the spinach. I followed some suggestions to turn this into a one-pot meal. I thought wilting the spinach ahead of time made it slighty slimy, so I'm going to suggest wilting it directly into the sauce. If you aren't up for experimentation, wilt separately ahead of time. Finally, the spice mixture calls for ground spices. I used whole when I had them available. If you don't have all of the spices listed, you can also substitute 4 1/4 tsp ground coriander and a pinch of ground caraway, but I hope you have the spices!

Maghrebi Veal Meatballs with Spinach and Chickpeas (slightly adapted from The Slow Mediterranean Kitchen)

1/2 cup dried chickpeas, cooked (I suppose you could also use 1 can)
olive oil
1 1/4 cups chopped onion
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken stock
pinch crumbled saffron
2 lbs fresh spinach (I used one bag or around), stems removed and roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 cup diced firm-textured white bread, I used stale baguette
1/4 cup soda water
1 1/2 tbsp chopped garlic
4 tsp sweet paprika
salt and pepper
340g ground veal
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 egg yolk
3 tbsp olive oil
Spice Mix (see notes)
1 tbsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground caraway
1/8 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp ground fennel or anise
1/8 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1/8 tsp ground cloves

1. Grind together spice mix ingredients.
2. Soak bread in water for 10 minutes and squeeze dry.
3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, grind garlic, spice mix, paprika, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper, and 2 tbsp water to a paste.
4. Add veal to paste and pulse until well combined.
5. Add bread, parsley, and egg yolks to veal and pulse to combine.
6. With oiled palms, roll mixture into 20 balls each the size of a walnut. Refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.
7. Set a 5-quart heavy casserole over medium-high heat. Add 3 tbsp olive oil and fry in small batches, turning until golden brown on all sides, about 3 minutes. Transfer using slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate.
8. Add more oil if needed to equal 3 tbsp and reduce heat to medium. Add onions and 1/4 cup water and cook until onions are soft but not brown, 5 minutes.
9. Add tomato paste and cook until it sizzles and water has evaporated.
10. Add meatballs, chickpeas, and chicken stock to casserole. Add saffron and cover with a sheet of crumpled foil and a lid. Cook over medium heat for 30 minutes.
11. (See notes above.) Add spinach handfuls at a time until wilted. Fold in and cook uncovered for an additional 5 minutes.
12. Gently stir in parsley and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve.

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