Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lamb Kebabs Is a Dish Inspired by New York City Street Food

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Lamb Kebabs Is a Dish Inspired by New York City Street Food

Article excerpt

One of the great things about living in New York City is its wealth of street food, which provides us with easy access to dishes from the four corners of the earth. One of my all-time faves a favorite in the Middle East and Far East goes by many names, the most common of which is kofta kebab.

It is heavily spiced ground meat usually lamb or beef or a combination of the two that's been molded into sausage-like oblongs, grilled on skewers and served with a garlicky tahini/ yogurt sauce in a pita pocket or flatbread. It's no wonder that, with minor variations, kofta is a staple of Middle Eastern cuisine from Afghanistan to Turkey.

Happily, it's quick and easy. One of the dish's two key elements is texture. The meat should be firm, not to say springy. If you buy your meat at a supermarket, just follow the instructions in the recipe and pulse it in a food processor until smooth and almost paste-like. If you buy your meat from a butcher, ask him or her to grind it extra fine. Then, after adding all the spices, knead the meat on the counter (yes, like dough) until it's smooth and sticky.

The second of the recipe's key elements is its spices. Different cultures call for different spices, so I chose the mix that most appealed to me: cumin, paprika, allspice, black pepper and fresh parsley. Onions and garlic are universal, but they're always added in raw form. I opted instead to saut the onions and garlic to maximize their flavor and sweetness .

Once the meat has been seasoned, it needs to be chilled. This firms up the meat so that it holds its shape on the skewers when grilled. Three hours of chilling is good; 24 hours is better.

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GRILLED GROUND LAMB KEBABS

Yield: 4 servings

For the kofta

cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing on the meat

2 teaspoons minced garlic

pound ground beef

pound ground lamb

1 teaspoons paprika, preferably hot smoked

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

teaspoon ground allspice

teaspoon black pepper

1/3 cup minced parsley

For the sauce

1/3 cup tahini, stirred well

cup plain Greek yogurt

2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

teaspoon minced garlic

4 (6-inch) pitas with pockets, of the top cut off to form pocket

Shredded romaine lettuce for garnish

Hot sauce for garnish

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