Many months ago, I used my mama’s recipe to make one of my favorite meals – kifta wa batata in tahini sauce. Kifta is a kabob/meatball-like dish that’s made with either ground lamb, ground beef or a combo of the two. It’s mixed with onions and parsley and baked with potatoes and sauce (either tomato or tahini) and served over rice. I’m sure there are hundreds of variations of this dish, but that’s how I grew up eating it and how I enjoy it most.
Well, over the last several weeks, I’ve been a little burnt out on cooking Arabic food. I was still cooking, but I opted to cook food I’d been craving instead. I needed a little culinary inspiration to get back into the kitchen and back to my mama’s recipes. I tried out a few salad ideas and discovered I need some serious help with dressings. I have an unhealthy addiction to vinegars – particularly the balsamic variety – so I tend to overdo it with the acid. I had no idea making salad dressing from scratch could be so difficult. Any pointers on a full-proof vinaigrette?
Thankfully, all of the impromptu cooking I did over the last few weeks was exactly what I needed to jump start my desire to get back to basics. One of the things I hoped to learn from this project is the confidence to take my mama’s recipes and add my own flavor to the classics. I am a timid chef and tend to try to follow the letter of the law when it comes to measurements and ingredients.
This time around, I decided to spice things up and give kifta and batata (potatoes) a makeover. I opted for grilled kifta vs. baked. I roasted up the potatoes separately and opted to make a cold couscous salad instead of plain white rice. I also made a refreshing cucumber-yogurt dipping sauce to accompany the kifta kabobs. I didn’t have recipes for anything but the kifta and just took a chance on creating dishes based on flavors I thought might work well together. Feel free to ignore the less-than-mouthwatering names I came up with for these side dishes. : )
See this post: Kifta
2 cups of baby yellow potatoes
couple of tablespoons of semneh (clarified butter)
cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste
Coat the potatoes (leave skin on for texture) with the semneh and the spices to taste. I think I went with a tsp. of everything but the salt. I added a bit more salt. Spread out onto a cookie sheet and bake in the oven on 450 for roughly 20 minutes or until golden brown and cooked through.
Cold Couscous Salad
1 package of plain couscous cooked according to the directions given. I used chicken stock vs. water to give some extra flavor.
Let cool and add:
1 tomato, chopped
variety of olives, chopped (kalmata, green, etc.)
marinated artichoke hearts, chopped
couple handfuls of feta cheese
1 1/2 tbsp. olive oil
juice from half a lemon
tsp or so of fresh black pepper
Mix it all up and there you have it!
Cucumber-Yogurt Dipping Sauce
1 english cucumber, chopped
3 cups plain yogurt
half a lemon
tbsp. olive oil
7-10 fresh mint leaves, chiffonade
2 cloves of finely chopped garlic
salt and pepper to taste
Chop cucumber into small bites and mix into the yogurt. Add lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. Chop garlic and chiffonade fresh mint leaves and add to the mixture.
I tried to keep the flavors consistent to the ingredients you see throughout the meals I’ve cooked. I just tried to use them in different ways. It was fun being a culinary “rebel”!