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.

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