mediterranean meatballs with pomegranate glaze, parsley pesto, and cauliflower purée

mediterranean meatballs with pomegranate glaze, parsley pesto, and cauliflower purée

Here is a recipe for meatballs! And here is where I do a really hypocritical thing and encourage all two of you who actually read this (Hi Dad!) to consider the freedom and possibility that comes from NOT following a recipe, but instead allowing yourself to be swept away by your own internal instincts, by the magic of your senses, by believing that you had the knowledge in you all along.

These meatballs came to me during an idle daydream, as most good ideas do. I was dreaming about what to do with the 10+ pounds of grassfed ground beef in my freezer and simultaneously craving Mediterranean flavors, as I so often do (I’ve swooned over chickpeas and tahini and sumac here before). Reaching onto the highest bookshelf of my brain, I recalled recipes I had read that involved pomegranate sauce, and tahini, and roasted nuts, and raisins with parsley, and ALL the flavorful things. And poof! This dish was born. The flavors jumped around gleefully together and I felt happy in my heart, reminded of the power that comes from running on instinct. 

In a world where we often do what we think we should instead of what we know is right, where we put others’ opinions and happiness before our own, where we try to fit our square selves into round life holes, where we fill the daydreams with distraction, this moment in the kitchen is a time to reconnect with that instinct, and to realize once again to listen to your wise lil heart, and go with your gut.

Recipe below loosely inspired by Sameh Wadi (ad-libbing strongly encouraged). This may seem like a lot of components, but the puree and pesto can be made up to a day ahead to save you some multi-tasking stress and time. 

for the meatballs:
• 1 lb. ground beef (please buy grassfed and humanely raised)
• 1 clove garlic
• 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp. finely minced shallots, divided
• 2 1/4 tsp. garam masala
• 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
• 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint
•  3 tbsp. almond meal
• 1 large egg
• 1 tsp sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste
• 1 tbsp. butter, or ghee
• 3-4 tablespoons pomegranate juice
• 1-2 tbsp. pomegranate molasses (sub regular molasses or honey in a pinch)

for the parsley-raisin pesto:
• 1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted
• 1/4 cup raisins, soaked in hot water for 10-15 minutes, then drained
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
• 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh parsley
• 3-4 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 1 clove garlic
• 1/2 tsp. sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cauliflower puree:
• 4 cups chopped cauliflower, steamed (see NOTE), plus 1/3 cup reserved steaming water
• 1/4 cup tahini
• 1 small clove garlic
• 3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
• 1 cup cooked chickpeas
• 1 1/4 tsp. sea salt
• freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for sprinkling:
pomegranate seeds, chopped parsley, and chopped walnuts

Make the pesto: Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high-powered blender, and blend until well combined but still a little chunky. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Make the puree: combine all ingredients in a high-speed blender or food processor. You can use the same device you used for the pesto and you won't have to clean it twice! Bonus! Place puree in a small saucepan and warm gently over low heat when you're ready to serve.

Make the meatballs: Preheat oven to 400° F. Combine all meatball ingredients EXCEPT the 1 tbsp. of shallots, butter, pomegranate juice, and pomegranate molasses. Roll them into cute little 1 tbsp. sized balls, and place them on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake just until the meatballs start to lose their pink and start to firm up, 5-6 minutes. 

When meatballs are cooking done in the oven, heat the butter or ghee in a large (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium high heat. Add the shallots, and cook gently until they start to soften. Add all of the meatballs to the pan, and cook, flipping gently as they start to brown. Add the pomegranate juice and pomegranate molasses, and continue to cook until juice reduces down and coats the meatballs in a luscious glaze. 

To serve: Pile a giant spoonful of the cauliflower puree on a plate, swirl in a few spoonfuls of pesto, then top with meatballs and some of the pan glaze. Sprinkle with fresh pomegranate arils, chopped fresh parsley, and chopped walnuts as much or as little as your smart little heart desires. 

NOTE: To steam the cauliflower, place it in a shallow pan with a lid, and add just enough water to cover, plus a few big pinches of salt. Bring water to a boil over high heat, cover the pan, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer and steam until cauliflower is fork-tender. Reserve 1/3 cup of the cooking water for the puree before draining. 

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