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A Meatball Maven

A chef inherited a love for meatballs in all their guises.

When I think about the foods of my childhood, I get nostalgic about meatballs. While I was growing up in Chicago, my father and I would have them at my Moroccan grandmother's apartment every weekend. They were flavored with ginger, coriander and cardamom, and we'd scoop them up with warm anise bread, making sure to get lots of the cumin-turmeric sauce. Other times my father would take me to one of the Italian delis downtown near where he worked as a butcher, not far from the stockyards. He always ate spaghetti and meatballs, and I would have a meatball and red-pepper sandwich with tomato sauce spilling out of the roll.

Today I live in Los Angeles and own a restaurant, Authentic Cafe, where the menu usually offers at least one kind of meatball. My cooking is a mixture of different ethnic ingredients and influences, and my meatballs are eclectic, too--even more than those of my youth. I still love the Italian-American kind, but after traveling through Turkey, I was inspired to make lamb and bulgur meatballs that are both sweet and spicy. My light Mexican meatballs are made with chicken--a variation on the heartier, traditional albóndigas, which use ground pork. And my North African meatballs re-create the recipe I adored from my grandmother's kitchen.

Published May 2000
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