I planned on making hamburgers tonight.  Somewhere along the line, I got sidetracked.

Actually, my thought process was quite simple.  Burgers mean potatoes, whether they be fries, chips, or salad.  I didn’t have any potatoes and wasn’t about to leave the house to get one.

I had rice, couscous, polenta, and just about every other grain imaginable, so I thought I’d find something that would go with one of them.

A Bon Appetit magazine came to the rescue.  A cold day calls for something saucy and out of the oven. Besides, I had most of the ingredients  and figured I could fake it with the ones that were missing.  I didn’t have the spinach or any fresh cilantro.  I added parsley and a pinch of coriander.

It worked.

The meatballs themselves were nice and spicy.  The half-teaspoon of cayenne was a perfect amount.  Anything more would have been too hot.  I also added a bit of harissa paste to the sauce.  The sauce was slightly sweet with a hint of heat that offset the meatballs perfectly.

I had couscous but decided on serving it over white rice.  It would have gone well with anything!

Moroccan Beef Meatball Tagine


  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/3 cup coarsely grated onion
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 1/2 cups chopped onions
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/8 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 2 cups 1/2-inch-thick carrot slices (cut on diagonal)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish
  • 1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves


For meatballs:

Line large rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Gently mix all ingredients in large bowl. Using moistened hands and scant 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs. Arrange meatballs on sheet.

For stew:

Heat oil in heavy large ovenproof pot over medium heat. Add onions; sauté about 15 minutes. Add garlic, cinnamon, turmeric, and saffron; stir 2 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juice, and raisins.

Preheat oven to 350°F. Bring stew to simmer. Stir in carrots. Carefully add meatballs to stew; gently press into liquid to submerge. Sprinkle 1/4 cup cilantro over. Cover pot; place in oven. Bake until meatballs are cooked through and carrots are tender, about 35 minutes. Sprinkle spinach over stew. Cover and bake until spinach wilts, about 5 minutes longer. Gently stir to mix in spinach, being careful not to break meatballs. Remove cinnamon sticks. Season tagine with salt and pepper. Spoon couscous into bowls; top with tagine. Garnish with cilantro and lemons.