Fresh from a Slump

I hit a slump last week. I had been on a high since Christmas. I got some compliments on my homemade gifts, and I got to make dinner for my family. I was on a roll with some delicious soups. I even sold my first chutney! Then I made one so-so dish–chicken fricassee—and then felt a cold coming on. I was over-tired, groggy, blah. I cooked another “meh” dish—“pistou” shrimp. After that I nearly had a melt-down. I had followed the recipes to a tee. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I began to pull out my hair. I breathed hard out my nose and said “herrrumphh.” I’m not good with failure.

I was going to bag the cooking for the rest of this week, but thankfully Jim coerced me to change my mind, though he was unconscious of doing so. See, he had no idea how much I was struggling, even commending me for being such a “big girl” and taking my “meh” dishes in stride. I was just too tired to outwardly make a fuss over the dishes (which must really mean I’m sick) and I didn’t complain, smiling grimly and eating my dinner, too tired to start anything over, but repeatedly telling myself that I needed a rest. Jim, the healthy boy he is, couldn’t wait for the next night, excitedly talking about recipes, looking at me with puppy-dog eyes and asking what’s next.

I had mentioned meatballs with a cilantro sauce days ago, but after my shrimp debacle, I wasn’t keen on trying another new recipe, and hoped Jim would forget I mentioned it. Then, as I was getting my morning oatmeal ready for work, he woke up and groggily said he was excited for meatballs that night. Busted, I thought. But he looked so cute and bleary-eyed that I quickly gave in, sloughing off my slump. I went over the recipe in my head. I realized that part of my wanting to forego it was because I had reservations. I didn’t want all the spices involved. I wanted to tweak, and add, and finagle here and there—but before the morning, when my cute boyfriend looked at me admiringly, I was so down-in-the-dumps that I wouldn’t have let myself be confident enough to mess around with a recipe. Revived, I made it through the work-day, rolled up my sleeves at home, and got to work making something that I knew would be good—cooking with my gut.

It turned out fantastic—so much better than the mediocore meat I’d thought myself capable. The cilantro sauce was punchy and creamy, not to mention prettily, lift-up-my-spirits green. We slathered it on the small bison meatballs and into some couscous on the side. I ate and ate, and suddenly didn’t feel so sick anymore.

Bison Meatballs with Cilantro Sauce

makes about 24 meatballs//adapted from Bon Appetit, Feb 08


for Cilantro Sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk Greek-style yogurt*
  • 5 green onions, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 pinch sugar
  • Salt to taste

for Bison Meatballs

  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 tablespoons whole-milk Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 pound ground bison (often labeled buffalo)
  • 1 large egg, beaten to blend
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Place all ingredients in blender. Process until smooth sauce forms, scraping down sides frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover sauce and chill. Can be made 1 day ahead. Keep refrigerated.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy small skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sautΓ© until soft, stirring frequently, about 7 minutes (do not brown). Cool. Toss breadcrumbs with water (or milk) in small bowl to moisten. Place cooled onion mixture, breadcrumb mixture, cumin, coriander, hot pepper flakes, curry, and yogurt in processor. Using on/off turns, process until coarse puree forms. Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add bison, egg, cilantro, sage, 1 teaspoon coarse salt, and pepper. Using hands or fork, mix until just blended. Using damp hands, form bison mixture into 1 1/4-inch balls. Cook meatballs in batches in skillet over medium-high heat until browned on all sides. Serve with sauce.

10 thoughts on “Fresh from a Slump”

  1. Oh I hear you well on the sick thing. I got it on New Year’s Eve and didn’t cook anything other than the necessary things to feed the girls! Glad you got you “mojo”back!

  2. Oh my gosh I saw these in Bon Appetit and wanted to make them. Love at first sight kind of thing. Also love at first sight were the pancakes on the cover. I think those might make an appearance this weekend.

    What is it with the new year and getting sick? I got pretty sick right after Christmas and it lasted until the new year. I’m glad you’re better! I love your blog and it’s always nice to read your updates πŸ™‚

  3. what a sweet recap. I’m so glad you went ahead, these look just wonderful. hope you’re feeling better and I’m glad you made something that had you not only feeling better physically but had you feeling better as a cook. we all have weeks like that, yes? πŸ™‚

  4. You know I saw that recipe in the magazine and got inspired as well. So yesterday I bought some ground bison from Whole Foods. I plan to make the meatballs tonight.

    I am not following the recipe though. I will be adding ground lamb and using a sweet and savory bbq-esque sauce that I usually top my meatloaf with.

    I hope you don’t mind me linking to your rendition on from my blog.

  5. Glad you didn’t let your slump get you down, those look amazing!

    I’ve been making some pretty awful meals lately, I need a good one like this to get me back into things!

  6. these look great! i keep seeing bison meat at the grocery store and hubby really wants to try it. this just might be the perfect recipe to try out!

  7. What a wonderful thing to find on my first visit to your site! I love all things cilantro so I know this would be good. But Bison meatballs… how very unexpected. Now, where might a gal find herself some bison?

  8. Don’t you hate those times when noting comes out right? But doesn’t it feel good to tell everyone about it? I wrote about a week of disasters last year and was so amused by all the comments and emails I got congratulating me for being brave. (What else was I going to write about? πŸ˜€ )

    Last week I was in a funk, and I just knew that if I tried to cook, it would be useless. So I took that as a sign from the universe that it was time to visit some of the new restaurants we’d been meaning to try. By Friday, I was back in the mood again, and a trip to the farmers market yesterday cleared up any lingering blues.

    Your slump-buster meatballs sound delish. We can’t get local bison here, but I bet they’re good with beef, too.

  9. lr- ohh those pancakes look so good don’t they. I think I’ll have to try them out too. And thanks for reading my blog!! πŸ˜€

    melissa- yes, i guess we all do. Thankfully, I’m feeling better and this upcoming week should be back in business!

    brilynn- I’m sure your meals are not awful!! And even if they are, you’ll get out of the slump soon no doubt.

    Caroline- i got bison prepackaged from Whole Foods, it should be at most supermarkets (maybe in the frozen meat section?) It’s also called buffalo on the packaging sometimes.

    Anita- yes, using the bison doesn’t make that much of a difference since there’s a lot of spices going on in the dish. Just make sure you get lean beef. Going to good restaurants (and of course farmer’s markets) always gets me back in the cooking groove if I’ve hit a funk. Can’t wait to read about your new dishes!!

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