Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Whipping up pomegranate glazed meatballs

Reem Kassis

THE WASHINGTON POST – It was the last days of summer, the sticky heat giving way to a jasmine-scented evening breeze, when my mother walked in from the garden, her cheeks twitching and her eyes, as we say in Arabic, sparking flames. I could tell. She was angry.

“I can’t, I just can’t,” she started. “If your father starts with the pomegranates now . . .

I don’t know what I’ll do with him.”

I knew what was coming.

“He has a basket and he’s already picking pomegranates off the tree!”

The two pomegranate trees in our garden in East Jerusalem are as old as our home, 25 years, planted soon after my father finished building it. This season, they bore so much fruit their branches drooped under the sun, like a person weighed down by life.

Pomegranates are a festive fruit in many cultures, and I thought there would be no better way to celebrate the holiday season than by incorporating this rich molasses into holiday dishes.

Pomegranate-glazed meatballs. The sticky-sweet concoction can convert even the most sceptical of diners. PHOTO: THE WASHINGTON POST

Here is how to make pomegranate-glazed meatballs.

This recipe takes inspiration from a common dish across the Levant – fried chicken livers coated in pomegranate molasses.

The sticky-sweet concoction can convert even the most skeptical of diners. The glaze also provides additional flavour to complement the robust spicing of the meatballs.

If you have extra meatballs, toss them with tomato sauce for a flavourful accompaniment to pasta.

Storage Notes: Leftover meatballs can be refrigerated for up to two days. Gently reheat in a preheated 350-degree oven.

INGREDIENTS FOR THE MEATBALLS

One pita or 1 1/2 ounces white bread with crust removed, torn
1/2 medium tomato (about 4 ounces), roughly chopped
1/2 medium red or yellow onion (about 4 ounces), roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1/2 small handful fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more for optional garnish
1/2 small handful fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves and tender stems, plus more for optional garnish
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil, plus more for greasing hands
1 1/2 teaspoons fine salt
Generous 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 fresh green chilli, such as serrano (optional)
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1 pound ground beef (can substitute lamb, veal or a combination)

FOR THE GLAZE

1/4 cup pomegranate molasses 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 tablespoons water, plus more if needed
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 small clove garlic, minced or finely grated
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Toasted sesame seeds, for serving

DIRECTIONS

Make the meatballs: Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In the bowl of a mini food processor, combine the pita, tomato, onion, garlic, olive oil, cilantro, parsley, salt, allspice, cinnamon, black pepper and cumin and the optional chilli and coriander and pulse until the mixture forms a paste.

In a large bowl, mix together the meat with the bread mixture until well combined.
Grease your hands and, using a one-tablespoon measuring spoon, scoop out one heaping tablespoon of the meat mixture, roll into a ball between your palms and place on the prepared baking sheet.

Continue with the remaining meat mixture, greasing your hands with olive oil as you go to avoid the meat sticking, until you run out of the mixture.

Roast the meatballs for 12 to 15 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

Make the glaze: While the meatballs are roasting, in a medium skillet over medium heat, combine the molasses, brown sugar, water, orange and lemon juices, tomato paste, garlic, olive oil, thyme, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer.

Decrease the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring frequently to avoid scorching and sticking on the bottom, until slightly thickened, about five minutes. (If using store-bought molasses, which is thick, you may need to add a couple more tablespoons of water.) Remove from the heat.

Working in batches, transfer the cooked meatballs to the pan with the glaze and gently swirl to evenly coat.

Transfer to a serving platter and repeat with the remaining meatballs. If you have any remaining glaze, you can drizzle it over the plated meatballs.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and parsley and/or cilantro, if using, and serve.

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