Meatball Couscous with Raisins and Zibibbo
Tunisian tabil and Sicilian moscato are at the heart of this sweetly aromatic stew.
Zibibbo is the Sicilian name for the grape variety Muscat of Alexandria, also known as moscato. It is said the grape was brought to the island from North Africa by Arabs who primarily cultivated grapes for raisins which they used in their cooking.
In the 13th century, Norman conquerors expelled any Sicilian Muslims who would not convert to Christianity, but Arab and Berber influence persists in the local viticulture and cuisine to this day. For this Sicily-inspired dish from writer and drinks expert Tammie Teclemariam, raisin-spiked meatballs are stewed in a sweetly aromatic zibibbo-and-browned-onion sauce seasoned with tabil, a Tunisian spice blend. If you can’t find a Sicilian zibibbo, substitute another dry, aromatic wine like Southern French muscat, or even riesling. Find zibibbo raisins online from Gustiamo.
Featured in: “Moscato by Another Name Is Not as Sweet.”
Yield: serves 4
Time: 1 hours 15 minutes
For the tabil:
- 1 tbsp. coriander seeds
- 1 tsp. caraway seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. crushed red chile flakes
For the meatballs:
- ¼ cups panko, or bread crumbs
- ¼ cups finely chopped parsley, plus more as needed
- 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp. fine salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ cups coarsely chopped zibibbo raisins or substitute golden raisins
- 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 lb. ground veal
- ½ cups all-purpose flour
- ⅓ cups olive oil
- 1 medium onion, grated
- 2 cups zibibbo, or other dry, aromatic white wine
For the couscous:
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 1 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for garnish
- 1 tsp. fine salt
- Pinch saffron (about 20 threads), finely ground
- 1 cup couscous
- Make the tabil: To a small skillet set over medium heat, add the coriander and toast, swirling the pan, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the caraway and cumin and toast, swirling, until they begin to pop, 20–30 seconds more. Transfer to a plate to cool, then use a mortar and pestle or spice grinder to grind finely; set aside.
- Make the meatballs: Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350°F. To a pie plate or shallow bowl, add the flour. In a large bowl, use your fingers to combine the panko, parsley, black pepper, salt, raisins, and garlic, then mix in the veal by hand until incorporated (do not overmix as this toughens the meat). Roll the meat mixture into tablespoon-size meatballs. Place a few meatballs in the pie pan with the flour and toss to lightly coat, then place them on a sheet pan beside the stove. Repeat with the remaining meatballs.
- To a large a Dutch oven set over medium heat, add the oil. When hot and shimmering, add the meatballs and cook, using two forks to turn occasionally, until golden on all sides, 5–7 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to a plate, then fish out and discard any stray raisins and meat bits that remain.
- To the empty pot, add the onion and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and caramel colored, about 10 minutes. (If the pot looks dry, add more olive oil by the tablespoon.) Stir in the reserved tabil and cook for 1 minute, then add the wine, turn the heat to high, and boil for 2 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Remove from the heat, return the meatballs to the pot, cover, and transfer to the oven. Bake until the meatballs are cooked through and the liquid is bubbling, about 30 minutes, then uncover and cook until the liquid reduces slightly, about 10 minutes more.
- Meanwhile, make the couscous: To a small pot set over high heat, add the butter, olive oil, salt, saffron, and 1¼ cups water. When the water boils, add the couscous, cover, and turn off the heat. Let rest until the liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes, then fluff the couscous.
- To serve, spoon the couscous into individual bowls and top with the meatballs, their sauce, and chopped parsley.
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