This recipe is part of Asif’s Open Kitchen Project where cooks who were evacuated during the war are invited to a home in Tel Aviv to cook a dish that they miss from their own home. Would you like to participate in the project? Register here
In normal times, Anat Meir, 70, from Moshav Manot in the north, is always busy. For years she served as the president of Rotary International, an organization dedicated to global humanitarian aid. After her husband passed away 12 years after a cardiac arrest, she found solace in volunteering at the cardiology department of the Galilee Medical Center in Nahariya. “Working there is healing for me and I miss it very much,” she shares with her host Michal Hedi in the kitchen of her Tel Aviv home, where Meir is currently cooking with her friend Valerie Chen.
Before the war, the two friends attended sculpture and ceramics classes near their homes on Moshav Manot. Now, they find themselves in Hedi’s kitchen in perfect harmony, cooking homemade food that they yearn for during their stay at the Metropolitan Hotel in Tel Aviv.
Due to her busy weekdays, Meir confides in her host that she reserves her culinary passion for the weekends. On Fridays, her home kitchen is typically filled with stuffed artichoke hearts, Moroccan fish, couscous, soups, and mini pastries she prepares with love for her children and grandchildren — including two teenage grandsons who devour everything.
This easy recipe for meatballs in tomato sauce with green beans, a favorite of her grandchildren, is dedicated to them. As the bubbling stew rests on the kitchen counter, Meir helps her friend roll stuffed grape leaves.
Before bidding farewell and returning to their hotel, the two friends make sure to leave food in the refrigerator for Hedi’s children. Their warmth and delicious offerings delight the hostess’s family.
For the meatballs:
500 grams (1.1lb) ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped or grated and squeezed well
½ bunch parsley, finely chopped
4 slices wholewheat bread or challah, soaked in water and squeezed well
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons oil
Salt, to taste
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ras-el-hanout spice mix
Oil, for frying
For the sauce:
¼ cup oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
400 grams (14oz) crushed tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup water
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
Ground black pepper, to taste
Salt, to taste
800 grams (1.75 lb) frozen green beans, thawed in water and pat-dried
Steamed white rice
- Prepare the meatballs: Place all the ingredients except for the oil in a bowl and mix well with your hands until evenly combined. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the sauce: Heat the oil in a wide pan over medium heat. Add the onions and fry until golden, 7-10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and fry for 4 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, water, and spices and mix well.
- Add the green beans, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat and gently simmer while preparing the meatballs.
- Shape the mixture into meatballs the size of ping pong balls and press lightly to flatten.
- Pour frying oil into a sauté pan, filling it to a depth of approximately 1-2 cm (½ -1 in) and heat over medium-high heat. The oil is ready when bubbles begin to form around a piece of the mixture added to it. Fry 5-6 meatballs at a time until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on each side.
- Transfer the fried meatballs to a plate lined with a paper towel, then transfer to the sauce. Pour a teaspoon of the sauce over each meatball. If the sauce is too thick, add a little water and mix.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce to a low heat, cover and cook for 45 minutes.
- Serve over steamed white rice.