Walking through the Hollywood Farmer’s Market is nothing like walking through the shuk in Israel. The result, however, is the same. Bags full of beautiful, fresh produce and provisions. While the produce at the shuk’s is amazing, the mainstream there has yet to explore the heirloom quality vegetables that are so ubiquitous at the farmer’s markets here in Los Angeles. This week the market was full of heirloom carrots, potatoes and tomatoes. Piles of fresh herbs were everywhere, offering up rich scents and colors. This wonderful bounty inspired me to make boulettes. A boulette is a meatball wrapped in potato or zucchini, then fried and sautéed. Part of what makes them so special is that boulettes are packed with loads of fresh mint, parsley and cilantro. The flavors are bright and wonderfully fragrant. Boulettes are often served with couscous, although I recently learned that they are generally served as a first course or as an appetizer.
Boulettes are one of the few recipes I learned to make directly from my father. I distinctly remember making them with him throughout my childhood. He always served them with couscous, but I prefer serving them on their own. You’ll need to allow yourself at least 2 hours to make this dish but it’s well worth the effort.
The holiday season is upon us and I’ve been thinking about my family and their holiday dinners. Cooking with them during the holidays is a trip My dadʼs sisters always spend the holidays together. They number around 30 people, all of whom cram together at the dinner table (which is really three tables cobbled together). They hash out the menu over pastries and coffee and split the duties amongst the three sisters. Personally, I love doing the pre-holiday prep; making detailed lists and checking things off, shopping for the special foods, setting the table, arranging flowers, etc. I always try to make an event it. My aunties are much less formal. For all of us, however, it’s about the food and spending the time together.
3-4 large white, purple or pink potatoes. Do not use russet or rose potatoes
1 lb lean ground beef
1 large yellow onion finely diced
1 cup cilantro finely chopped
1 cup flat leaf parsley finely chopped
1/2 cup mint finely chopped
5 slices of sourdough bread
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp harissa
1 egg- beaten
2 cloves of garlic shredded
1 tbs tomato paste
2 cups of flour
1 cup of oil for frying
3 tbs oil used to fry boulettes
1 tsp paprika
1/4-1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped mint
3 ribs of celery coarsely chopped
2 cloves of garlic chopped
1 large tomato cut into 8 pieces
2 cups of water
First cut the potato all the way around using a paring knife. Soak the clippings in a bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt for 15 minutes. Rinse the potatoes well after soaking, then pat dry with a towel.
Soak the 5 slices of bread in water then squeeze them dry. Then take all of the filling ingredients except the potatoes and put them in the food processor. Combine well. Form the filling into egg size balls then wrap the potato clipping around the meatball. Place all of the meatballs on a tray. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan on medium high heat.
Dredge the boulettes, first in the egg then in the flour. Make them in batches. I did about 4-6 at a time. Immediately place them in the hot oil, frying on both sides until golden, about 3-4 minutes on each side. Remove them from the oil and set aside. Finish all of the boulettes. Reserve 3 tbs frying oil.
In similar sized or deeper frying pan, heat the oil from the boulettes, add the tomatoes, garlic, celery, mint, salt and paprika, and sautée for 3-5 minutes. Add water and mix well. Place all of the boulettes in the pan and cook for 30 minutes, rotating once 1/2 way through.
Serve individually and garnish with mint.