Sweet and Spicy Meatballs with Couscous

One of the most intense cravings I’ve ever experienced was for these very meatballs! My taste buds cried out for a spice drenched meatball in a sweet sauce rife with dried fruit like cranberries and cherries. The craving was so specific that I could taste them. Being they didn’t even exist yet the job of conjuring up the recipe was made much easier. All I had to do was match up the right spices in a combination that would give me the result I was looking for.

That meant emptying out my spice cabinet into the pot! And using some spices I haven’t used in a seriously long time. So, I just went for it: cinnamon, allspice, coriander, chile powder, smoked paprika, fennel seeds and a touch of cayenne all went into the mix at one point or another. In the midst of this I realized what a spice rut I’m in, using mostly the same few spices over and over for months on end. Right then and there I decided to be more adventurous and experimental in my spice use. And with herbs too. It is my namesake, after all. There it is; my one and only resolution for the new year! How fitting that it has everything to do with cooking.

Drenched in spices, the meatballs are soft, tender orbs of sweet and savory goodness. Floating around in the exotic sauce are meaty little hunks of cranberries, cherries and golden raisins. They leak their rich and fruity sweetness into the sauce and in return absorb some of the characteristics of the meat. Whole-grain couscous serves it’s purpose well as a bed for the meatballs and as a vehicle for soaking up the rich and deeply flavored sauce. Lucky for me, there were leftovers! The experience of eating them a second time was even more rewarding then the first, as the flavors developed further over time.

The doors were blown right off my craving and every single cell of my spice-craving self was satisfied!

Sweet and Spicy Meatballs w/ Couscous
(by Reeni)
1 + 1/4 pound ground beef or turkey
1/4 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup seasoned bread crumbs
1 small onion, diced
olive oil, for sauteing
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup raisins, chopped (I used golden)
1 + 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 + 1/2 teaspoons chile powder
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon smoked or sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon allspice
a dash or two of cayenne pepper
1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
1 can (14 ounce) beef broth
salt and pepper
1/4 cup heavy cream (regular or light) or half and half
whole wheat couscous, for serving

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large mixing bowl using a fork combine all the meatball ingredients. Form into meatballs and place on a baking sheet with side or a large roasting pan. Bake for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile in a large, deep sided skillet saute the onion in a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium low heat until tender. Add garlic, cherries, cranberries, raisins and all of the spices; season well with salt and pepper; if pan is dry add another tablespoon or two of olive oil. Mix the fruit and spices into the onion and slowly saute for 4-5 minutes, stirring often.

3. Stir in beef broth and juice from the tomatoes. Chop the remaining tomatoes into a small dice and add them to the sauce. Add meatballs and simmer for 35-40 minutes. Taste and re-season halfway through.

3. Stir in heavy cream and simmer for 5 additional minutes. Meanwhile cook the couscous according to package directions. Serve immediately over whole-grain couscous.

Serves 5

Sweet and Spicy Meatballs with whole-grain Couscous

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