I want to start off this post by wishing my dad a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! I decided to share (without telling him, of course. Hi Dad!!) an old photo of my pops to commemorate this special day. He was a pretty cute kid, no? And, before I get into the boring food stuff, I just wanted to take a moment to share a little bit about my father.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I think the world of my dad. He is sincerely one of the kindest individuals I’ve ever known, and I’d like to think a lot of my “save the world” shenanigans can be attributed to his influence. He’s a beautiful artist who taught me a lot about the importance of creativity and supporting the arts. He’s a great cook, a patient (well, somewhat patient) teacher and a awesome human being.
When we were younger, my dad used to take my brother and I over to the Arboretum on Sunday afternoons. We’d pack a small bag with stuff like water, lifesavers and snacks and we’d walk the trails together and explore nature. He called them ‘trust walks’. There were times we’d meander through the trails with our eyes closed and trust that dad would guide us safely to our next destination. I remember one such Sunday when I was instructed to open my eyes at our given destination only to discover he’d led me right over to a lizard. Now, I’m not a fan of lizards. I inherited that disdain from my mother, and my irrational reaction to their presence apparently served as great amusement for my father that day. That little lizard and I were having a staring contest, y’all. We were that close to one another.
I never thought much about that story until now, and those walks really say a lot about my dad. No. Not that he enjoys freaking his children out with the things they fear most. Ok, well maybe a little. Mostly, those moments served as comic relief. They were there to remind us not to take everything so seriously and to enjoy the little things in life. I wish I could say I’ve taken those lessons to heart more than I have, but I suppose it’s never too late to get with the program!
So, in honor of his (undisclosed age) birthday, I decided to make a dish he loves – kibbeh. I have to say I was a bit worried about making this dish. After going through both my mama’s recipe and the recipe in Sahtein, I’d convinced myself this week’s attempt at cooking was going to result in an epic fail. I really wanted to try to make this on my own because it’s kind of lame to have your dad help cook his own birthday dinner. Alas, I needed his help throughout the process.
The recipe I shared last week was pretty spot on and I only made a few minor changes. Instead of using lamb in the stuffing and beef for the raw kibbeh, I opted to use ground sirloin for the kibbeh stuffing and combination of lean ground beef and ground lamb (1 lb. of each) for the raw mixture. I added all the spices to the raw mixture and not just salt and pepper per the recipe. We also added about a tbsp. of a spice called ‘sumac’ because my dad likes the flavor. Sumac is a tart spice with a somewhat lemony flavor. I don’t know that sumac is traditionally used in kibbeh, but it was definitely a nice addition to the dish.
Aside from that, the only other minor change was the amount of burghul needed. Three cups proved to be a bit too much for the amount of meat we used, so we scaled it back a bit. I’d say we used about 2 and a half cups and it was just right. I will also chill out on how much oil/butter I use next time. I underestimated the natural fat that the meat brings and used a wee bit too much added fat to the dish. I know butter is never a bad thing, but sometimes less is more. It also took more than 30 minutes to cook. We did end up baking the dish at 400 vs. 450 and it cooked for a little under an hour. Make sure to keep a close eye on it after the 4o minute mark so it doesn’t overcook/burn.
The results, I am happy to say, were fantastic. It tastes just like I remember baked kibbeh to taste and, lemme tell ya, it’s been awhile. I paired it with some plain yogurt (I’m not brave enough to try making my own laban just yet) and a cucumber & tomato salad. I’ll share the rest of the photos tomorrow, but for now enjoy a lovely pic of the final product – cheesy mint leaf garnish included.