Time: 30 minutes
Why try Iraqi food: During a phone interview, the Times-News asked Samer Al Zohiry about Iraqi cuisine and a fond food memory. Here’s what he had to say: “Oily and heavy. Delicious and happy. It’s gotta be fresh; you’re gonna cook it meal by meal. You’re not going to save it for the next day or another time. My favorite dish is Iraqi Biryani. It’s rice with meat and vegetables. We lived with about 22 people in one house. When we would get a lamb we would set up the barbecue and divide into three groups. The women would cut the meat off and slice it; the men would hold the barbecue and cook. The rest of the family would eat. So we would finish that meal in one day — the whole lamb or sheep in one meal. So those are the best memories ever. We would do that almost every month. We would get the sheep and cut it, clean it. By the time we would be done with the barbecue and everybody had eaten and was full there would be nothing left but the head and legs. That’s all that would be left for the next day. For me, the best parts are the ribs. They would put that on top of the biryani. It was a lot of fun.” — Samer Al Zohiry, in the United States since 2008
1 medium yellow onion, quartered
2 garlic cloves
1 whole bunch parsley, stems removed (about 2 packed cups parsley leaves)
1 lb ground beef
1/2 lb ground lamb
1 slice of bread, toasted until browned and soaked in water until fully tender
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground green cardamom
1/2 tsp ground sumac
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp paprika
Pita bread to serve
Soak 10 wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Remove from water when you are ready to begin. Lightly oil the grates of a gas grill (we used an indoor George Foreman grill) and preheat it to medium-high for about 20 minutes.
Prepare pita bread and fixings. Prepare other sides and salads before you begin grilling.
In a food processor, chop the onion, garlic and parsley.
Add the beef, lamb, bread (be sure to squeeze out the water completely), and the spices. Run the processor until all is combined well, forming a pasty meat mixture. (We used bison.)
Remove the meat mixture from the food processor and place in a large bowl. Take a fistful portion of the meat mixture and mold it on a wooden skewer. Repeat the process until you have run out of meat. For best results, make sure each kofta kebab is about 1 inch in thickness.
Lay the skewered kofta kebabs on a tray lined with parchment paper. (We used a lightly oiled baking sheet.)
Place the kofta kebabs on the lightly oiled, heated grill. Grill on medium-high heat for 4 minutes on one side, turn over and grill for another 3-4 minutes.
Serve the kofta kebabs immediately with pita bread, tahini (optional) and the fixings you prepared.
Takeaway: I figured this recipe was a trumped-up version of a burger on a stick with a little onion and parsley mixed in. I was naive. The combination of spices will excite your taste buds and deliver the kind of flavor a common hamburger could only hope to aspire to one day. The strong, complex, versatile spices used in this dish keeps foodies guessing, what’s next? The blend of cardamom, sumac and allspice deliver a fragrance and pungent herbal essence your nose and mouth won’t soon forget.
Source: The Mediterranean Dish
Times-News Chief Photographer Drew Nash has been photographing Magic Valley residents from other countries since 2009. Nash will attempt to cook some of their cultural dishes during this period of self-isolation. Follow the Times-News Instagram account @magicvalleytn and the hashtag #Localmatters for more insightful stories and photography.
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