lamb meatballs with pistachio couscous

The first time I had cinnamon in a savory dish was my 18th birthday. I had chosen to go out to a Moroccan restaurant in Sacramento with my family, plus Jordan and my cousin Katie and her then boyfriend-now fiance Scott. Unfortunately, I was also a vegetarian at the time and Moroccan cuisine is decidedly not vegetarian-friendly. It was a meal of meat, meat, and more meat. One of the dishes that I did tentatively sample was chicken bastilla, a pie made with a filling of ground chicken and spices wrapped in a phyllo dough crust. I remember being both confused and intrigued by the savory chicken filling topped with the lightest dusting of powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Cinnamon doesn’t often venture out of sweet territory in the dishes I usually cook, but I must admit it really is quite good when it does.  This couscous recipe was inspired by a recipe in David Lebovitz’s new book My Paris Kitchen. The warmth of the cinnamon goes wonderfully with the brightness of the lemon and the nuttiness of the pistachios. When pared with the very savory lamb meatballs, it is fantastic meal. It’s also quick to prepare. The couscous will cook in about 10 minutes and the same with the lamb. With just a bit of chopping and mixing for prep, you’ve got dinner on the table in 30 minutes.


Lamb Meatballs with Lemon Pistachio Couscous
For the lamb meatballs
1 lbs ground lamb
1/4 onion, grated
2 cloves garlic, grated
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
plain yogurt for serving

For the couscous
1 cup israeli couscous
2 tablespoons butter
1 lemon, zest and juice
1/2 cup shelled pistachios
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
fresh ground pepper and salt


Combine ground lamb, onion, garlic, parsley, cumin, salt and pepper. Stir with your hands to combine and then shape into small patties, about 2 inches across. Cover and then refrigerate. Feel free to make the lamb patties the night before.

Bring a pot of salted water to boil. Add the couscous and cook according to the package directions. Drain the couscous and put it into a large bowl. Add the butter, lemon zest and juice, pistachios, cinnamon, and parsley, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. You can serve this warm or at room temperature.

Heat a tablespoon of neutral cooking oil in a cast iron pan over high heat. Cook the lamb meatballs about 3 to 4 minutes per side, until browned and cooked through. Medium is probably what you’re aiming for.

Serve the couscous with lamb meatballs and a salad if you like. Add a dollop of plain yogurt on top of the lamb if you have any on hand. Enjoy!



San Francisco Thoughts on Life

give me your answer true

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Jordan and I met when we were 17 years old. I remember the day I decided Jordan was cute and that I should probably do something about it. We were hanging out at our friend Brian’s house making signs for our friend Aaron’s Modern Socialist Club protest of the local Wal-Mart. The girls were drawing signs, the boys were horsing around and playing guitar.  And in that silly, clichéd way of every high school movie ever, I looked up from my sign and there was Jordan with his floppy hair and skater t-shirt, playing guitar and cracking jokes, and I was smitten.

Over the past eight years, we’ve grown up together. The eight years between high school graduation and ‘real life’ are big ones, and we’ve navigated them, somehow sticking together through a hell of a lot. There’s been stuff that felt really big and tough at the time, as things often do when you’re 19, and stuff that legitimately is big and tough no matter how old you are, and so, so many good times too. Having that shared history, those shared eight years of highs and lows, it feels even better than I could have anticipated.

I don’t think I’ve ever doubted that Jordan was a good egg, that he was exactly my kind of guy. There isn’t anyone who can make me laugh harder or comfort me better, often both at once. He’s funny and smart and strong, this unique blend of mellow and intense that I absolutely adore. He is just so good.

He also pushes my buttons, just enough to keep things interesting, and when I look up to give him a piece of my mind, he’s got this sweet, mischievous twinkle in his eyes. A good reminder not to take life too seriously, one I sometimes need.

Jordan also lets me do my thing, and I’ve taken him up on that plenty. It’s quite the trick to give someone the space they need to grow, while still being so intimately involved in their life. Jordan has never failed to rise to the occasion, steadfast in his support and trust, silly puns at the ready.

I would not be the person I am today without our relationship. A fact that is probably obvious, but deserves to be said nonetheless. And what this all brings me to is some happy, happy news. Jordan and I are engaged.

We got engaged in a parking lot on a street corner in San Francisco. Franklin and Page streets. Like we’ve approached most big life things that we’ve been through over the past eight years, we decided this one together. And then we went to our favorite izakaya to celebrate with bacon-wrapped mochi and a beer. Perhaps not terribly romantic by some standards, but very, very us. I can’t imagine life any other way, and couldn’t be happier.

My sweet Jordan, I love you.

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Bacon Wrapped Mochi 
3 pieces kirimochi (savory Japanese glutinous rice cakes), cut into thirds after boiling
5 slices of bacon, cut in half

Bring a pot of water to boil. Unwrap the kirimochi and drop them into the boiling water. Boil for just a minute (or microwave for 20 seconds), until they become tender. Remove from the water and cut into thirds. Wrap each piece of mochi in a piece of bacon and secure the bacon with a toothpick. Grill the mochi over high heat or cook in a cast iron pan over high heat, until the bacon is brown and the mochi is oozing. Enjoy hot from the grill with a bit of soy sauce. The bacon is smokey and salty, the mochi is chewy and strange—it is a wonderful combination!


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Ps. Our rings were made for us by our friends Rachel and Andrew, who kept a great secret for a few weeks.




A few years ago for his birthday, I got Jordan the meat grinder and sausage stuffer attachment to our kitchen aid mixer. While the meat grinder has been put to use a few times for meatloaf, burgers and paté, the sausage stuffer had yet to make it’s debut. Until a few Saturdays ago…


We decided to team up with our friends, the ever-adventurous Russ and Kelly. The ladies would make pretzels, the men would make sausages, and then we’d eat it all in the grandest of all backyard bar-b-ques, Sausagefest! Now this was the real deal, there were natural pork intestine sausage casings, there was food-grade lye for legitimate pretzeling—we were not messing around.

And it was delicious. How could it not be? The sausages were beyond juicy and perfectly seasoned, cooked in a beer bath and then finished on the grill. A nice dip in lye gave our fluffy pretzels the characteristic flavor and deep brown color. There were even grilled peaches with whipped cream and macerated strawberries for dessert. Food heaven on earth.

The cookbook Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman and Brain Polcyn was our guide for the sausages. I will not pretend to have internalized enough of the process to give accurate instructions, so I recommend you check out their book if you want to give this a go at home. We made the bratwurst and pork sausage with poblano and cilantro. Both were off the hook.

Generally the sausage-making process goes like this: cube and seasoned the meat the night before, grind the meat, mix the meat with additional flavorings like cream for bratwurst, or poblano and cilantro for the other sausage, soak and wash the casing, stuff the sausage, refrigerate the sausage, cook the sausage, and then eat the sausage!

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One top tip: while you’re stuffing the sausage, some air will get pushed into the casing. Obviously you want your sausage stuffed with meat, not air,but do not panic. Keep a safety pin handy and just prick the casing near the nozzle a few times and squeeze gently but firmly to push the air out. When you’ve filled the entire length of sausage with all of your meat, give yourself a few more inches of casing for slack and then cut the casing.

To portion out your sausage, we found it was easier to squeeze in between the two links and then push some of the filling one way and some the other. Then twist them off. If you just try and twist them straight away, the casing will burst open. After you’ve twisted them, put them on a plate in the fridge and let them sit for an hour. Then with scissors cut at the twist to portion the sausage into individual links.

We cooked ours in a beer bath (2 tall cans of PBR will do ya) on the stove for 10 – 15 minutes, then finished them on the grill. You want them mostly cooked in the beer, they’ll float when they’re ready, and then char them quickly on the grill. We did this for both the brats and poblano sausages and it turned out great.

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Now the recipe for gorgeous pretzels is from the Bouchon Bakery Cookbook and like all things Thomas Keller, they are very delicious and the recipe behind them is rather intense. I can’t begin to consolidate TK bread recipes here, so please comment if you’d like me to send you the full recipe, I’m happy to oblige.

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It was a blast and we’re hoping to make Sausagefest an annual thing and get more folks involved next year. We’ve got enough pork casing for 200 lbs of sausage and now have a decent stuffing technique down, which begs the question, who’s in?

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