A brief statement of purpose

There are already about a billion food blogs, so what might be a justification of yet another one, and who am I to do it?

What I aim to do in this blog is more than simply provide recipes. While recipes of my own will, in fact, be posted, some of the blog will consist of a variety of comments about restaurants and their practices, food preparation tips, personal annoyances (such as loud restaurants and the epidemic of misspellings on menus), and whatever else pops into my head relating to what we put in our mouths (and swallow, I hasten to add). The whole thing is meant to be somewhat provocative. I hope, if nothing else, it won't be boring. I, of course, solicit reader participation.

As for who I am and why I think I might have something to contribute to public discussions on this essential and pleasurable activity - eating - you'll have to click here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Ground lamb kabobs on eggplant cream

Lamb kabobs are to the Middle East and South Asia as borscht is to Russia: There are umpteen different recipes for them, and there is no standard or “master” recipe. I’ve been making kabobs, kefta, kofte, and köfte – all similar - for many years, varying spices and other ingredients, except for the ground lamb, which is the only constant – except when it involves lamb chunks. I think this might be one of the better ones, but the “best” is probably the one I’m eating at the time. This is an amalgamation of Lebanese, Syrian, and Turkish recipes, although the eggplant sauce seems to be more distinctly Turkish. Its preparation isn’t at all difficult.

For the kabobs:
Ground lamb, 1 pound
Anaheim chiles, 2 (or one can of minced mild green chiles)
Sumac, 1 tsp
Paprika, 1 tsp
Mediterranean oregano, ½ tsp
Ground cumin, 1 tsp
Green peppercorns, dried or in brine, crushed or mashed, 1 tsp
Minced pimientos

1. If you’re using fresh Anaheim chiles, place them under a broiler for however long it takes to char the skins. Check on them frequently. Then place them in a plastic bag and wait until they’re cool enough to handle. Cut off the stem end, split them, remove the skin and discard, and remove the seeds and veins (although this is not a hot, as in picante, chile). Toss the pieces in the processor along with the other ingredients.
2. You can either mix all the above ingredients by hand, or you can leave the task to Mister F. Processor - unless you allow Mr Processor to turn it all into mush; sometimes he just doesn’t know when to stop. I suggest you take advantage of this essential kitchen tool. So, put everything in the processor and let it do its job for, oh, about thirty seconds, using the pulse button.
3. After everything is combined, put the mixture in a bowl and place it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours to firm up.

For the eggplant cream:
Globe eggplants, 1 large or 2 medium (A better alternative, although less readily available,  is Japanese eggplants, in which case, use about 5.)
Heavy or light cream or milk, ½ cup
Pomegranate syrup, 2 Tbs
Garlic clove, 1 large
Liquid smoke, ½ - 1 tsp
A hard cheese such as Manchego, Parmesan, Romano, Kefalotyri, or Kasseri, 4 oz, grated
Salt and pepper

Two long, metal skewers

1. Heat the oven to 400˚. Cut the eggplants in half length-wise, and place them in a pan, cut side down. Roast for around 45 minutes for globe and half that for Japanese. The idea is to roast them until they can be easily pierced with a fork but not so long as to turn them into charcoal briquettes. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool. Scrape out the flesh and place in a food processor, along with the remaining ingredients. Process until pureed.
2. Spray non-stick spray on the skewers. You’ll need two long ones or four shorter ones. Shape the meat mixture into hot dog-like lengths and slide on to the skewers.
3. Heat or reheat the eggplant mixture.
4. Brush olive oil on all sides of the meat.
5. The skewers may be either cooked on an outside grill or inside under the broiler.
6. When done, put the eggplant cream on plates and rest a skewer on top, or remove the kabobs first. The photo shows some cherry tomatoes I quickly sautéed and a scattering of minced parsley. The red dusting is Aleppo pepper, a somewhat spicy pepper from Syria. Paprika or any other ground chile or pepper is fine if you can’t find it.

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