Mint, cumin, and chopped almonds give these delicious meatballs their Middle Eastern flavor. There's plenty of mint and cumin in the tomato sauce, too. Serve the meatballs and sauce over steamed couscous to be authentic. We think they're great over rice, too.
1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
3 tablespoons chopped blanched almonds
3 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
5 tablespoons chopped fresh mint
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
4 tablespoons cooking oil
1 onion, chopped
1 2/3 cups crushed tomatoes in thick puree (from a 15-ounce can)
How to Make It
In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, almonds, bread crumbs, 3 tablespoons of the mint, the garlic, 1 teaspoon of the cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, and the pepper. Shape the mixture into 16 meatballs, about 2 inches in diameter.
In a large nonstick frying pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning, until browned on all over, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
In a large deep frying pan, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil over moderately low heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce the heat, and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
Add the meatballs to the tomato sauce and simmer, covered, until the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons mint.
Wine Recommendation: Thanks to its warm cumin spiciness, refreshing herbal taste of mint, acidic tomatoes, and meaty lamb, this dish is a challenge to wine. A medium-bodied red that has crisp acidity, not too much tannin, and flavor that isn't too assertive is the best bet. Spain's famous Rioja is just such a wine; if possible, try an older one, indicated by the words reserva or gran reserva on the label.
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