Food Trends for 2018: Look to the Middle East. Yes: Lamb Balls in Stew

By on January 8, 2018

Food Trends for 2018: Look EAST. Or at least to the Middle East.

Middle Eastern culinary influences have made their way west for years, and 2018 will bring these tasty traditions into the mainstream. Things like hummus, pita and falafel were tasty entry points, but now consumers are ready to explore the deep traditions, regional nuances and classic ingredients of Middle Eastern cultures, with Persian, Israeli, Moroccan, Syrian and Lebanese influences rising to the top. Spices like harissa, cardamom and za’atar are hitting more menus, as well as dishes like shakshuka, grilled halloumi and lamb. Other trending Middle Eastern ingredients include pomegranate, eggplant, cucumber, and parsley.

I discovered harissa when I went to Tunisia last fall. It’s a tried and true flavor enhancer that comes in a toothpaste like tube, and tunes up dishes from salsas to stews.

Tunisian Lamb Balls in Stew

Makes about 8 servings

A lot of food is served in the cooking pan and meant to be scooped out by hand. This spicy mixture tastes great when scooped onto pitas. Or just put it into soup bowls and eat it with a spoon. Yum.

2 pounds ground lamb
1 cup Italian bread crumbs
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon EACH: ground fennel, coriander, dried mint
1/2 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup colossal green olives, pitted and spilt in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons harissa paste*
8 ounces tomato puree
1/2 cups water
1 16- oz can white beans, drained
1 medium carrot, cut into coins
½ cup pearl onions
1 cup cauliflower, cut into bite sized pieces
1 lemon , grated zest and juice
1 pomegranate, seeded
1 package pita bread or 1 French baguette for dipping

In a mixing bowl, combine lamb, bread crumb, egg and spice mixture and mix well. When all the ingredients are combined, form into 48 small meatballs. Combine olives with meat balls. In a large saucepan, heat oil. Sear olives and meatballs in the hot oil. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add onions to the pan, and sweat until translucent. Add tomato paste, harissa, tomato puree, water and white beans, and bring it to a boil. When it reaches a boil, turn down the heat and simmer slowly about 10 minutes. Add additional water if needed. Add meatballs and olives and cook for 15 minutes more. Add vegetables and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, along with lemon zest and juice and serve in a bowl, garnished with pomegranate seeds and accompanied by a pita.

*harissa paste is readily available on the internet. Buy a couple tubes and keep it on hand to tune up flavors.

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About Linda Eckhardt

Linda West Eckhardt, is an award winning journalist, food writer, and nutritionist. Her more than 20 cookbooks have garnered prizes including the James Beard prize for the best cookbook for a text she wrote with her daughter, Katherine West DeFoyd, entitled Entertaining 101, Doubleday. Their follow-up book, Stylish One Dish Dinners, Doubleday, was also nominated for a James Beard prize. Their next book, The High Protein Cookbook, Clarkson Potter, remains a best seller after 12 years. That book was designed to accompany low carb diet plans. Her ground-breaking book, Bread in Half The Time, Broadway Books, was named the Best Cookbook in America by the prestigious IACP, The Julia Child award. Her award winning radio work with Jennifer English, for a national show on the Food and Wine radio network, was nominated for a James Beard Prize for a show called, “I Know What You Ate Last Summer.”