Lamb kebabs is a dish inspired by street food

  • A kofta 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.

    A kofta 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. Sara Moulton/Associated Press

 
By Sara Moulton
Associated Press
Updated 6/8/2016 6:17 AM

One of the great things about living in the 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. So good! 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. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. (It'll also do wonders to tone up your forearms.)

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, pepper and fresh parsley. Onions and garlic are universal, but they're always added in raw form. I opted instead to sauté the onions and garlic to maximize their flavor and sweetness before adding them to the meat mixture.

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. It also gives the seasonings time to permeate the meat. Three hours of chilling is good; 24 hours is better. One tip about shaping the meat on the skewers: The meat will be easier to mold if you keep wetting your hands with cold water.

• Sara Moulton is the host of public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals." She was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows, including "Cooking Live." Her latest cookbook is "Home Cooking 101."

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