I’ve been harvesting recipes from the internet – a carefully pruned collection of newsletters in my inbox – for quite a while despite the fact that I have a decent library of cookbooks. It’s interesting how similar recipes are circulated overtime. Last week, a recipe for Syrian Meatballs in Cherry Sauce recipe crossed my desktop. As I cut and pasted it to save as a word document, I came across a similar recipe circulated by Jewish food maven Joan Nathan’s in 2019. Keftes Garaz: Sweet-and-Sour Syrian Meatballs.
Jews have lived in Syria for centuries. Like other communities in the Eastern Mediterranean, their population was bolstered by the Sephardic Jews expelled from Iberia in the latter years of the sixteenth century. Today, only a small elderly community remains in their ancient homeland.
In general, Jewish Syrian food is rich with spices from the Far East and Persia. Jewish and other spice traders perfumed the cuisine with allspice, cumin, sumac, and cinnamon. Traditional meals feature grains, legumes, vegetables, and dried fruits, often featuring with sweet and sour flavors. These recipes represent that latter – sweet and sour.
I took liberty in combining ingredients of both recipes and Constant Companion voted the results a “keeper.”
Syrian Meatballs in Cherry Sauce. Starting with the meatballs, mix together one pound each of ground beef and ground turkey.* Add the following to the meat mixture: two finely chopped onions, 2 minced garlic cloves, ½ cup matzah meal, 1/4 tsp each cinnamon and allspice, 2 beaten eggs, some kosher salt to taste. Add 1 tsp tamarind paste and 2 tsp tomato paste. Form into walnut-sized meatballs. Bake on a baking sheet in a 350 (moderate) degree oven for 20-25 minutes.
*The recipes called for only beef; I prefer to mix the two meats.
The sauce: sauté one diced onion, when softened add ¼ cup lemon juice, 1 tsp allspice, 1cup of tamarind paste, 2 drained cans sweet cherries,* 1 ½ cup dried cherries, 1 cup beef stock,+ and 1 cup red wine. Bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for 20-25 minutes. Add the finished meatballs to sauce, make sure to turn and cover completely. Simmer til nicely done. How’s that for a general instruction! Serve with rice and a nice salad.
*I excavated a bag of frozen cherries languishing in the depths of my deep freezer.
+There was no beef broth in my pantry; I simply used water.
Another dish I prepared this week was something I made a few weeks ago when faced with overripe persimmons. One of my mother’s favorite fruits was persimmons. I think it was something available in the streets of New York of her youth. I came to savor this fruit in dried form during my frequent trips to Korea.
More recently, last fall while in Albania both persimmons and pomegranates (another beloved fruit in our household) were ripe. The trees full of fruit were lovely to see.
Persimmon jam or paste. Quarter four to five ripe persimmons,* removing the stem. Place into a small sauce pan with one or two tablespoons of lemon juice and lemon zest. Bring to a boil, then simmer til really soft. When cool process in a blender. I enjoy a dollop with my morning cottage cheese.