Recent trips to local Labanese gem Aziza’s on Main have left me in la-la-la-love with Lebanese food. Foody compatriot Jonny D has joined me on my culinary flight to the Middle East and requested that I make Kabees el Lift, the fun-colored turnip pickles that fill jars adorning Lebanese delis aplenty. From my beet bounty, as you may recall, I whipped up some fantastic beet greens. Do see the last post for that tidbit!
During my first visit to Aziza’s, Jon introduced me to kibbeh, a lovely ground meat and bulghur mash-up with tinges of mint. We’ve since speculated that Aziza’s may, in fact, use ground beef, whereas my recipe calls for lamb. Also, if you were to google kibbeh, or even order it in another restaurant, you would likely find a torpedo-shaped concoction that somehow marries a crunchy ground-meat outside with a smoother ground-meat inside. It’s a delicate process that involves creating an egg-shaped mound of ingredients and then stuffing them with an almost identical filling, much like a croquette.
I’d certainly never made kibbeh or seen it made before, so I just went for flavors and a bit of texture. I believe I accomplished something of both of those essential elements, though my kibbeh is by no means ‘traditional.’
1 lb. ground lamb
1 c. bulghur wheat
1 small onion
I c. fresh mint
2 T. pine nuts
1 clove garlic
Preheat oven to 350. Mince the onion, garlic, and pine nuts. Chop mint. Combine all ingredients, and work well with your hands – You want to thoroughly combine and then sort of ‘knead’ the mix. Unlike typical meatloaf recipes where you want to be gentle with the ground meat, the key to kibbeh texture is to work all the ingredients so that you end up with an almost pasty texture. Spread kibbeh mix evenly into a pan-sprayed 9 x 9 casserole dish. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the kibbeh “shakes,” or has rendered away from the sides a bit.
To serve the kibbeh, cut into desired shapes, (go nuts: I chose triangles) and then pan fry in a dab of olive oil so that each side gets a lovely golden crust.
Resident piggy pony Boo Boo Darlin’ sampled the kibbeh and remarked, “It’s so good. You can taste each individual ingredient.” While Jonny D said, “Yum. Are those pine nuts? Nice.” I served mine with tabouli and a snazzy roasted tomato hummus* and the following:
Pickled Turnips (Kabees el Lift)
3 large turnips, peeled and cut into 1/4″ batons
1 beet, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 c. water
1 c. white vinegar
2 T. salt
Combine all ingredients. Cover tightly and leave alone for 10 days, at which time the pickly feasting may begin!
* A note on snazzy roasted tomato hummus and pita:
I prefer Thomas’ Sahara Pitas in, get this, the wheat variety! Yes, it’s true. I’m usually a pretty white-pita kind of girl, but one dreadful day the Cary St. Kroger had only the wheat to sell. Slave to hummus and pita that I am, I naturally had to get something, so I threw them in the cart went ahead to the self checkout. Turns out they’re fabulous. Who knew?!
And as for the hummus, I made a standard hummus recipe: chick peas, lemon juice, tahini, garlic clove, salt, a scosh of vegetable stock, and vrrrrrrh, blendy blendy. Then, I added some of those Divina Roasted Tomatoes, to which I am a sincere devotee. Tangy. Tomatoey. Waaay Garlicky. Dip some of those wheat pitas or a bite of kibbeh in there, and badaaaaah!