From The New York Times

DAVID TANIS       Time1 hour 15 minutes     Makes about 36 meatballs

These North African Meatballs are classified as a Mediterranean diet entree. The Mediterranean Diet has long been thought to protect against Alzheimer’s. If something guards the brain against damage from disease, there is a good chance that it will also slow progression of the disease as well.

This is a fun do-together recipe. Mixing the spices into the ground meat—by hand—and rolling out the meatballs provides wonderful sensory feedback for a person with dementia. Almost all of the spices in this dish are thought to provide protection to the brain. I recommend frying in coconut oil.

Everything in the meatball ingredient complies with the restrictions of Keto and Paleo diets except the bread. If you are following one of these diets you can eliminate the bread or use a Keto friendly substitue; something with almond flour, for example. And you will, of course, need to serve it with something other than the pastas or rice suggested in the recipe. Cauliflower rice works well.

North African Meatballs

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE SAFFRON TOMATO SAUCE

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 and 1/2 cups finely diced onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 inch piece cinnamon stick
  • Large pinch saffron, crumbled
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 cups chicken broth, vegetable broth or water

FOR THE MEATBALLS

  • 1 and 1/2 cups cubed day-old firm white bread
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallion
  • All-purpose flour, for dusting
  • Coconut oil or olive oil

PROCEDURE

MAKE THE SAUCE

Heat oil over medium-high heat in a wide, heavy bottomed saucepan. Add onion and cook without browning until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, tomato paste, cinnamon and saffron, and stir well to incorporate. Season generously with salt and pepper, and allow to sizzle for 1 minute more. Add broth and simmer gently for 5 minutes. May be made several hours in advance, up to a day.

MAKE THE MEATBALLS

  1. Put bread cubes and milk in a small bowl. Leave bread to soak until softened, about 5 minutes, then squeeze dry.
  2. In a mixing bowl, put squeezed-out bread, ground meat and egg. Add salt, pepper, garlic, nutmeg, ginger, turmeric, paprika, cayenne, cloves, coriander and cumin. Mix well with hands to distribute seasoning. Add 2 tablespoons each of parsley, cilantro and scallion, and knead for a minute. May be prepared several hours in advance, up to a day.
  3. With hands, roll mixture into small round balls about the size of a quarter. Dust balls lightly with flour. Heat a few tablespoons of oil, or a quarter-inch depth, over medium-high heat and fry meatballs until barely browned, about 2 minutes per side. Drain and blot on paper towel. Simmer meatballs in saffron-tomato sauce, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until tender.
  4. Garnish meatballs with remaining parsley, cilantro and scallion.

Serving suggestions:

  • Couscous
  • Brown rice
  • Roasted tomatoes
  • Pilaf