Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lebanese Kibbeh

Kibbeh with garlic yogurt sauce, hummus, baba ghannouj, pita bread, olives and veggies

Last night I decided to make a batch of kibbeh to go along with the hummus and baba ghannouj I made on Sunday.  These delightful little treats are like crispy meatballs filled with pine nuts and onion.  They are so very crave-able.

I have to admit it has been a very long time since I made kibbeh.  I was taught by the fiance of one of my best friends way back when I was in graduate school.  She was from Lebanon, and made these all the time, but I could never quite get them right until she taught me.  They are not terribly difficult, but are a little bit time consuming.  I think they are well worth the effort as they can be eaten hot or cold, which makes them a perfect choice for sweltering summer days.  With the garlic yogurt sauce they are hard to stop nibbling on!

Kibbeh are traditionally made with ground lamb since ground beef is relatively rare in the middle east and lamb is plentiful.  We have the opposite situation in the United States, ground beef is ubiquitous and ground lamb is a luxury.  I like them made either way and present my recipe using ground beef.  If you are using lamb, just substitute it for the ground beef.

Lebanese Kibbeh
makes 24

Kibbeh "dough"
1 1/2 cups bulgur wheat
1 1/2 lbs ground beef (or ground lamb)
1 cup finely diced onion
3 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

Kibbeh filling
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/2 lb ground beef (or ground lamb)
1/2 cup finely diced onion
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

vegetable oil for frying

Place the bulgur wheat in a medium-sized bowl and cover with several inches of cold water.  Allow the bulgur wheat to absorb water for 20 minutes drain and squeeze to remove excess water.

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel chopping blade combine hydrated bulgur wheat, ground beef, onion, salt, cumin and pepper.  Pulse to combine and gradually increase the time processing the meat mixture until it pulls together to form a very smooth meat "dough".

Remove "dough" from food processor and refrigerate while preparing filling.

To prepare filling, in a medium skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium high heat until golden.  Remove pine nuts from skillet.  Add ground beef, onion and spices to hot skillet and cook until meat is browned and broken into small pieces.  Add pine nuts to meat, stir to mix and remove from heat.  Allow to cool to room temperature.

Assembly and cooking:
Preheat deep fryer to 350F.
With wet hands, divide chilled meat "dough" into 24 equally sized balls and place on wax paper.  Now, with damp hands, pick up each ball and cradle in the palm of your hand and poke your finger into the center of the ball making a tablespoon sized hole.  Scoop 1 Tbsp of filling into the hole, then reseal the ball by pinching together carefully and gently roling the ball into the traditional egg (or football) shape.  Place on wax paper. Repeat until all the balls have been filled and rolled.

Uncooked kibbeh, filled and rolled into the traditional egg shape, ready for the fryer...

Fry the balls several at a time for about 4 minutes until crisp and golden.  Drain on paper towels.  Serve hot or room temp (or even cold) with garlic yogurt sauce.

Golden crispy kibbeh fresh from the fryer!

Garlic Yogurt Sauce
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt
1 large clove garlic minced
1 1/2 tsp salt
minced fresh herbs (mint, dill, oregano, parsley) optional

on a cutting board, mince the clove of garlic then sprinkle salt on top of the garlic.  With the edge of your knife, press the salt into the garlic and smear acros a small area of the board. Repeat until salt and garlic form a smooth paste.  Add garlic/salt paste to yogurt and mix well.  Add fresh herbs (optional).

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