"MY mother’s meatloaf was correct — moist, well seasoned, part oatmeal, mostly beef, with a band of bottled red chili sauce down the center. It was dependable, but it was not the stuff of dreams. Other mothers’ meatloaf recipes sometimes appeared, like a stuffed, cheesy one I liked, but mostly the house version prevailed throughout my childhood. To my emerging sensibilities, the occasional stuffed cabbage was more interesting, and chafing-dish Swedish meatballs had a certain appeal. I also liked the smell of hamburgers before they were cooked, sprinkled with salt and pepper and resting on wax paper.
Out in the larger world, I discovered that meat put through the grinder could be so much more than a plain burger. There were sausages, and meatball subs, and pasta sauces, and hearty, fiery dishes with beans. Who knew? By now, all grown up, I’ve sampled and cooked many more kinds of ground-meat concoctions, from spice-laden saucy Moroccan boulettes to rustic French pâtés to Italian polpettine, both simmered and fried.
"The Middle Eastern way with ground lamb, or beef, for that matter, is in combination with cracked bulgur wheat and onion. There are hundreds of ways to turn this delicious mixture into kibbe, little football-shaped savory treats sold and eaten everywhere and made daily in homes throughout the region. (There are other kinds of kibbe, too, like fish, but that’s another story.) For a less labor-intensive version, kibbe can also be baked like a flat cake. It makes an extraordinarily fragrant meatloaf, adorned with long-cooked caramelized onions and pine nuts, to be eaten hot, warm, cold or reheated.
"This recipe comes from the Lebanese grandmother of a good friend. It’s a basic baked kibbe that depends only on onion and cumin for its satisfying flavor. The granddaughter says that her people are from a mountainous area of Lebanon where not many spices are used. Other cooks might add cinnamon, allspice or clove to the meat, or a pinch of saffron to the onion.
"The preferred accompaniment is good, thick plain yogurt, but the dish is very good, too, with a salad of tomato and cucumber, bathed in a dressing of garlic, herbs and yogurt."
|Photo by Bruce Barone.|
1 cup fine-grain bulgur
1 pound lamb shoulder, ground fine
1/4 cup grated onion
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch cayenne pepper
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan
2 cups sliced onions, 1/4-inch thick
1/2 cup pine nuts, lightly toasted
Greek-style yogurt, for serving.
1. Rinse the bulgur well, then cover with cold water and soak for 20 minutes. Drain well.
2. Put the drained bulgur, lamb, grated onion, cumin and cayenne in a large mixing bowl. Season with 2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Mix well with your hands to distribute the seasoning. With a wooden spoon, beat in about 1/2 cup ice water. The mixture should be smooth and soft.
3. Heat the olive oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and fry gently, stirring occasionally, until they soften, about 5 minutes. Season generously with salt and pepper. Raise the heat and add 1/4 cup of the lamb mixture. Continue frying, allowing the meat to get crumbly and the onions to brown nicely, another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the pine nuts and taste. Let cool to room temperature.
4. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil a shallow 9-by-13-inch baking dish, then press half the remaining lamb mixture evenly over the bottom of the pan. Spread half the onion-pine nut mixture over the meat. Add the rest of the meat to the pan, patting and pressing it with wet hands to make a smooth top. If desired, score the top with a sharp paring knife to make a traditional diamond pattern at least 1/2-inch deep.
5. Bake uncovered for 35 to 45 minutes, until the top is golden. Spread with the remaining onion-pine nut mixture. Serve warm, at room temperature or cool, with a dollop of yogurt.
Yield: 4 to 6 servings.
Note: I added a good pinch of saffron to onion mixture. Very interesting and I will make it again. And it was delicious cold the next day, too!
|Photo by Bruce Barone.|
|Photo by Bruce Barone.|
2 cups flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
1 cup diced, cored, unpeeled apples, preferably Pink Lady
1/2 cup diced red onion
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons ground urfa biber peppers, smoked paprika or chipotle chile pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons honey
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Coarse kosher salt
1 cup walnuts.
1. Mix the parsley, pomegranate seeds, apples and red onion in a medium bowl. Stir in the pepper or paprika, honey, lemon juice and olive oil. Season to taste with salt and mix thoroughly. If desired, at this point the mixture may be covered and refrigerated for up to two days.
2. In a dry skillet over medium heat, stir the walnuts until toasted, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle the walnuts with a pinch salt and crush them with the side of a knife or in a mortar and pestle until they are in coarse pieces.
3. Stir in the crushed walnuts. (If the tabbouleh has been refrigerated, set it out at room temperature for an hour before adding the walnuts.)
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
~Adapted from Michael Solomonov, Zahav, Philadelphia