I find myself seeking out new food and cuisines as I read my vast collection of food magazines and cookbooks. I recently ordered one of new favorites entitled “Ottolenghi, The Cookbook” an incredible collection of recipes by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.
There food voices spoke to me instantly, the ingredients and spices both so familiar and so differnt that I feel in love with their concepts and needed to own them for myself.
This first recipe is one that I have enjoyed at restaurants in my travels, a traditional ground lamb kabob (koftas.) These are absolutely delicious with many layers of flavors mixed with wonderful rich spices. Koftas of all varieties are quite commonly found as street food in many middle eastern countries like Egypt, Israel and Turkey.
I have modified the original recipe a bit by using spices in my pantry as well as including spice flavors I adore. The combination of spices can be whatever you like, making this dish very versatile and exciting every time. I also preferred to use large petal couscous in place of the stale bread in the koftas for a more interesting texture and authentic flavor.
The sauce I created for this is based on Yotam’s original sauce, but I choose to roast, blacken and smoke some fresh ripe plum tomatoes for a richer, spicy sauce for the koftas.
zucchini-wrapped ground lamb koftas with spicy smoked plum tomato sauce
2 garlic cloves, chopped
red pepper flakes (to taste)
bunch of fresh basil leaves (to taste)
fresh ripe plum tomatoes, washed and sliced in half
Set your oven to broil and place the cut halves of plum tomatoes on a baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and season lightly with sea salt.
Roast until the skins begin to blacken and the tomatoes begin to fall apart. Remove and set aside. In a small skillet, drizzle olive oil and sauté the chopped garlic until aromatic and aft (do not brown.)
Add the roasted tomatoes to the skillet (you can remove the skins if you prefer; I like to keep some for texture and flavor.)
Sauté for a few minutes until combined and remove skillet from the heat. Set aside (keep warm.)
2 tbsp or so of pine nuts
1/2 cup or so of cooked large pearl couscous (I cooked mine in vegetable stock for full flavor); room temperature
about 12 oz. of ground fresh lamb
2 oz. of crumbled feta or goat cheese
1 1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 garlic clove, minced
1 large whole eggs
small bunch of italian flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 medium fresh zucchini; washed and dried, skin on
Combine the ground lamb, egg, chopped garlic, feta cheese and all the spices together in a large deep bowl. Gently mix these ingredients together and add in the cooked couscous; using your hands mix this until all is well blended. Add the chopped fresh parsley and blend in well into the meat mixture. Cover and set aside to rest for a few minutes.
Using a large vegetable peeler or mandoline; cut paper thin slices of the zucchini lengthwise until done. Season very lightly with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and place on a baking sheet in the oven or a grill pan and cook very quickly until lightly browned and remove to cool.
Usine your hands take the meat mixture to form the koftas into an oblong shape, approx. 3 to 4 inches wide by 6 to 8 inches in length (I made mine a bit smaller for this post.) Place the koftas in a skillet with some olive oil and brown them quickly on both sides and remove immediately. Allow them to cool a bit.
Take the cooked zucchini strips and begin to wrap the koftas with 2 -3 strips until covered. Place on a well oiled baking sheet. Place in a pre-heated oven set to 450 degrees for approximately 8 to 10 minutes or so until cooked through.
Remove from heat and serve immediately with the spicy tomato sauce.
P.S. I served these with a North African flatbread called Kulcha (a recipe I found in Andrew Zimmern’s collection.)
Delicious with these koftas as well as any other savory filling for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I will share my modified recipe for these lovely flatbreads soon.
Note: Photography by Daniel J. Venditti