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Middle Eastern Kofta Kebabs

I love Middle Eastern food. The flavors of Lebanese, Turkish, and Persian cuisines in particular are some of my all-time favorites. One of my most-likely orders when I’m at a Middle Eastern restaurant are kofta kebabs. Kofta are essentially meatballs, and kofta kebabs are meatballs that are shaped around a kebab skewer. Kofta is a popular dish in many different countries, and there are endless variations, depending on the country, culture, and individual cook’s preferences. In this version, I used a blend of lamb and beef, seasoned with beautiful, warm spices — cinnamon, allspice, cumin, coriander, and ginger — plus onion and parsley. I shaped them around a skewer into long skinny meatballs, let them hang out in the fridge for a couple hours, then cooked ’em up.

And, heavens, they turned out AMAZING. This was a Sunday supper I made for my family a few weeks ago, and I declared (loudly and proudly) that it may have been the tastiest Sunday supper we’ve had … EVER. I served them as pictured, with rice, salad, homemade hummus, pitas, and tzatziki sauce, and it was a seriously perfect dinner. I was so confident that this dinner was going to rock that I doubled the recipe when making it, and froze half of the kofta kebabs (uncooked) for a future meal. I’m already eager to thaw those out soon, and replicate this fantastic dinner again!

Also, a quick note on the serving size: this recipe makes the 6 large kofta kebabs pictured. For our family, this perfectly served 2 adults + our toddler. If you’re serving a bigger crowd (or older kids who can likely eat more than our 2-year-old), this recipe doubles or triples easily.

Kofta Kebabs

serves 2-3, adapted from Food Network Kitchen

Ingredients

3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound ground beef chuck
1/2 pound ground lamb
3 tablespoons grated onion
3 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
Olive oil, for brushing the grill

Directions

Smash the garlic cloves and, with the flat side of a large knife, mash and smear mixture to a coarse paste. Mix the garlic paste with the salt, beef, lamb, grated onion, parsley, and all of the spices (coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, ginger, and pepper).

Line a pan with aluminum foil. Divide the meat mixture into 6 large balls. Mold each piece around the pointed end of a skewer (if you use wooden ones, soak them in water for at least 15 minutes before threading them), making a 4-5″ oval kebab that comes to a point just covering the tip of the skewer. Lay the skewers on the pan, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 12 hours.

There are two ways to cook the kebabs — by grilling, or by baking. Instructions for both are below.

TO GRILL: Heat a grill pan over medium heat or prepare a grill. Brush the pan lightly with olive oil. Working in batches, grill the kebabs, turning occasionally, until brown all over and just cooked through, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki and pita bread.

TO BAKE: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place the kebabs in a single layer on a lightly-oiled sheet pan. Bake for 18-20 minutes, flipping once, until they are browned + just cooked through. Transfer to a serving platter and serve with tzatziki and pita bread.