Syrian Meatballs in Cherry Sauce Recipe

Science and Health

Kibbeh cherry (or “geraz” in Arabic) is a classic Syrian dish. It’s made up of a kibbeh roll, essentially a meat jelly roll, braised in a tamarind-laced sweet and tangy sauce. The roll is complicated to make, using ground beef and a mixture of beef and rice ground together, called kibbeh dough. I strip away the layers (literally!) and braise simple meatballs in the flavorful cherry sauce. Simple enough for a weeknight, though special enough for Shabbat, these meatballs are a family favorite. Like most saucy Syrian dishes, this is best served over a bed of rice to soak up the sauce. 

Note: This dish can be prepared in advance. The meatballs can be made a day ahead of time and stored on a covered plate in the refrigerator. The meatballs can also be frozen raw; there’s no need to defrost them before adding to the sauce. Alternatively, the finished dish can be frozen. Reheat, covered, in a 375 degree F oven or in a saucepan over low heat.

Tamarind Tips

Tamarind may seem out of reach, but it’s easier to find than you may think!

  •  If you have access to a kosher supermarket, look for “prepared tamarind” near the tahini. This tamarind is exactly what my grandma makes: pulp, sugar and lemon juice simmered and strained. It’s ready to go right out of the jar and is the consistency of pancake batter.
  • Pure tamarind is easy to find on Amazon or in the Thai section of your supermarket. Check for a small jar near the rice noodles — it’s the sweet and sour flavor in pad Thai. The consistency is thinner than prepared tamarind and it doesn’t have added sugar or lemon. To use this type of tamarind, add an additional 2 Tbsp of lemon juice and 2 Tbsp sugar. 
  • No tamarind? No problem! Swap in ¼ cup prune butter (lekvar) + 2 Tbsp sugar + juice of 1 lemon (and please don’t tell my grandma!).

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