The lighting in my dining room is whack.
Middle Eastern food is perfect summer fare - there's a lot of grilled meats and cold dishes. There is also the added benefit of their diet traditionally being low in fat and high in fiber, and rich in olive oil - good for your heart! I've been ready for a flavor change - as I've been doing a lot of Tex Mex, Asian, and pizza (the Holy Trinity in our house) - and I love the complexity of Middle Eastern cuisine. Pungent spice blends, fresh herbs, tangy yogurt, earthy grains; it's all wonderful.
On the menu last night were kofta (a grilled spiced meatball), cucumber/carrot/onion salad with yogurt dill dressing, and lemony boiled potatoes with carrot greens.
I've never made my own kofta, so I spent quite a bit of time looking up different recipes to see if there is a hard and fast traditional spice blend to use. Turns out that it varies by region, like barbecue here in the states, so I made up my own. There are also a few different ways to cook the meatballs, including skewered, baked, and directly on hot coals. I went with making little slider-sized patties on the grill. The only thing I forgot was some pita or lavash type bread, and I didn't feel like going to the store, but these would also be great stuffed into a pita with the carrot/cuke salad on top.
This makes more than you need for the recipe - save the rest to rub on meat or fish - with a little olive oil - for the next time you grill!
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp allspice
1 tsp good quality paprika
1 tsp cardamom
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cracked pepper
1# ground beef or lamb
1 T minced garlic
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp fresh mint, chopped
1 handful chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp spice blend
Combine all ingredients, shape into meatballs or small patties, and grill to preferred temperature.
Carrot Cucumber Feta Salad w/ Yogurt Dill Dressing
1T lemon juice
1 tsp raw sugar
handful fresh dill
2 cucumbers, seeded and sliced
3 -4 carrots, sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
4 oz feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add carrots, cook for 1-2 minutes until bright orange and al dente (tender to the bite). Drain, then drop carrot slices into large bowl of ice water. (This arrests this cooking process and retains the nice bright color of the carrot as it flash-cools them.) Drain well.
Toss all ingredients with the dressing, chill for at least a half hour to allow flavors to blend.
You know in the movies when someone goes to the grocery store and they leave with the paper bag that has a baguette and the fronds of a bunch of carrots sticking out of the top? Yeah, what is that?
I am going to assume that if you have ever purchased a bunch of carrots that still have the tops attached, you have cut them off and thrown them away. Big mistake! They taste a little like carrot and a lot like parsley, and are chock full of vitamins. I used them straight up in place of parsley in the following recipe, so if your store only carries carrots in plastic bags just use parsley instead.
Lemony Potatoes with Carrot Greens
2# red potatoes, quartered and boiled
1 bunch carrot greens
1/4 c olive oil
2 T lemon juice
Toss, serve warm or room temperature.