North African Meatballs, Couscous with Dried Dates and Glazed Carrots:

If you’re like us, when it comes to planning what to have for dinner, it can sometimes be somewhat of a process. We like to be adventurous, but we have the kids to think about. We like to eat healthy, but then again…will the kids be into it?

About two years ago, we stumbled upon an episode of “10 Dollar Dinners” with Melissa d’Arabian on Food Network. She was making her North African Meatballs and they looked and sounded so good! Meatballs cooked in a tomato sauce with white wine, lemon zest, garlic, ginger, cumin, cinnamon, kalamata olives, cilantro and more…we’re listening! We thought we’d give it a try and see how the family liked it. With just a few tweaks of our own to the recipe (ground turkey instead of beef and an extra can of tomatoes so there is plenty of sauce for leftovers), it was a hit! Our kids absolutely LOVED it! They asked for second helpings and just devoured it. We prepared it with Melissa’s Couscous with Dried Dates and Glazed Carrots…the ideal perfect side dishes!

Last night we told the kids we were having North African Meatballs and Couscous for dinner and their response, “Yay! We love African meatballs!” As we sat there as a family enjoying this delicious meal, we knew we needed to share this recipe.

So here it is, give it a try. The flavors are just so amazing, we’re sure you’ll just love it!



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 (we use 28-oz whole tomatoes and crush ourselves)
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 (we used ground turkey meat)
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


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.


Glazed Carrots:

1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
3/4 pound carrots, cut on the bias into coins
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

In a small skillet, combine the broth, water, butter, brown sugar, cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add the carrots, reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until just tender, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Uncover the pan and let the liquid cook down until it reduces to a glaze, about 2 to 3 minutes. Toss the carrots to generously coat them with the glaze. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve.

Yield: 4 servings