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Meatballs in Tomato-Cumin Sauce

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

Cumin, a staple of Syrian spices, is used to liven up the tomato sauce in this dish. Serve over rice.

Serves4 to 5 (about 25 meatballs plus sauce)

Cooking Methodpoaching

CostModerate

Easy

Total Timeunder 1 hour

Kid FriendlyYes

One Pot MealYes

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationhalal, kosher, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free

Mealdinner

Moodblue

Taste and Texturegarlicky, meaty, savory, spiced, sweet, tangy

Ingredients

  • ¾ pound ground chuck
  • 2 tablespoons matzah meal or dry plain bread crumbs
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • Small dish of ice water
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onions
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • Two 6-ounce cans unsalted tomato paste
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 1¼ teaspoons ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 recipe Basic Syrian Rice 
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen and defrosted peas, steamed and kept warm, for garnish

Instructions

  1. Prepare the meatballs. Combine all the meatball ingredients, except the ice water, in a medium-size bowl and squeeze together with your hands until well blended and the meat is very soft. Shape into individual meatballs by rolling them between the palms of your hands, 1 tablespoon at a time. (Dip your fingers in the dish of ice water and keep your palms wet to keep the meat from sticking. If it does stick, scrape it off with a blunt knife and return it to the bowl.) Place the meatballs on a plate and set aside.

  2. Prepare the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook the onions, stirring, until golden and soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until golden, another 1 minute, stirring constantly so the garlic does not burn. Add the rest of the sauce ingredients and cook for 5 minutes.

  3. Gently drop the meatballs into the sauce. Stir gently to coat the meatballs with sauce, being careful not to break them, and cook over low heat, covered, until the meatballs are fully cooked through and fairly soft but firm, 30 to 35 minutes.

  4. Serve the meatballs and sauce hot over the rice in a large serving bowl and garnish with the steamed peas.

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