Moroccan Carrot Salad with Sesame Lamb Meatballs and Couscous

Things have been pretty low-key around here lately. After my short escape to 80-degree weather and sunshine, the return to this seemingly non-ending winter has re-dampened my spirits a little bit. What little tan I obtained lasted all of about 3 days and already I’ve slipped back into the normal daily routine following that post-vacation high.

I’ve been finding ways to keep my mind and my hands busy though, other than using them to repeatedly place dark chocolate Cadbury mini-eggs in my mouth.  I’m finally starting to make use of that gym membership I signed up for over a month ago and last weekend my roommates and I hosted a small brunch gathering complete with sourdough waffles, sweet potato frittata, plenty of bacon, mimosas, and a day long marathon of Survivor reruns. I also saw The Grand Budapest Hotel and was more than satisfied with Wes Anderson’s newest bizarre yet brilliant creation. And throughout it all I’ve been eating lots of Moroccan food.

When it comes to comforting food, I rank those with loads of warm spices among the likes of all things cheesy, brothy, and carby.  For me, the flavors of Morocco, Greece, and India are some of the most inviting and throughout the last few years I have been striving to expand my repertoire of spice knowledge and ethnic cooking, mainly because I just love it so much. This past week I combined a few Moroccan inspired recipes and came up with these awesome carrot salad and lamb meatball bowls. Carrots are cooked until soft, mashed, and doused with a lemony cumin dressing. They’re piled over a mound of buttered couscous and topped with olives, scallions, feta, and preserved lemon. Finally, little sesame lamb meatballs are placed alongside. It was as excellent as leftovers as it was the night I made it and was the perfect companion to a glass of wine on a snowy evening.

Moroccan Carrot Salad with Lamb Meatballs and Couscous
Salad adapted from David Tanis’ One Good Dish
Meatballs adapted from Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook
Serves 4

Please note that, although optional, the preserved lemon really makes this dish. It’s a little hard to find and a bit unkind to the wallet but I definitely think it’s worth the effort to find some.

For The Salad
2 lbs. Carrots, peeled
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
3 Tbs. lemon juice
½ tsp. finely chopped garlic
1 tsp. grated ginger
pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper
¼ cup olive oil
4 oz. feta cheese
1 small preserved lemon – rinse, remove the pulp, and finely dice the rind
2 scallions, chopped
a large handful of kalamata olives chopped

For The Meatballs
1 lb. ground lamb
2/3 cup fresh breadcrumbs
¼ cup water
1 tsp. salt
1 large egg
2 cloves of garlic, minced
½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. smoked paprika
a large pinch of red pepper flakes
2 Tbs. sesame seeds, toasted

To Serve
1 cup couscous, cooked according to package instructions
1 Tbs. butter

Place the carrots in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain, and let cool for about 10 minutes. To make the dressing, combine the cumin, coriander, lemon juice, garlic, ginger, cayenne, and salt & pepper in a small dish. Whisk in the olive oil. Use a potato masher or a fork to roughly mash the carrots. Pour over the dressing and stir to combine. Taste and add salt if needed. Sprinkle over the feta, preserved lemon, scallions, and olives.

While the carrots cook, start making the meatballs. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Combine all of the meatball ingredients in a large bowl and use a fork/your hands to mix everything together until evenly combined. Do not overmix. Divide the mixture into quarters and make four meatballs out of each quarter for a total of 16 meatballs. Place them on the baking sheet and bake in the oven for about 13-15 minutes until the internal temp. is 160-165 degrees.

Make your couscous and once cooked, add in the butter and toss until melted and mixed. Divide the couscous amongst 4 bowls, followed by the carrot salad. Finish each bowl with 4 meatballs per person.