Milk Street Beirut Fast Food (Ep 312)

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Beef Kibbeh

Start to finish: 50 minutes (20 minutes active) | Servings: 4

Kibbeh, a popular dish throughout the Levant, is a spiced mixture of bulgur and ground meat. It may be layered with stuffing in a baking dish and baked or shaped into small portions, filled and fried, with the goal of getting a toasty, browned crust that brings out the nuttiness of the bulgur. In this version, we skip the stuffing and form the mixture into patties, then pan-fry them, rather than deep-fry, for ease. We use ground beef, but you could sub in 12 ounces of ground lamb. Pine nuts add their distinct, slightly resinous flavor to the mix. Toast them in a small skillet over medium-low, shaking the pan frequently, until light golden brown and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Serve the kibbeh, yogurt-tahini sauce and lemon wedges for squeezing with warmed flatbread.

Don’t use coarse or medium bulgur. Fine bulgur, with particles that are very small and flaky, is key for yielding a mixture that holds together when formed into patties. If you can’t find fine bulgur, process medium or coarse bulgur in a spice grinder for 10 to 30 seconds. Don’t rinse the bulgur before use because the added moisture will make the meat mixture difficult to shape. If your mixture is very sticky or wet when you attempt to shape it, refrigerate for an additional 10 minutes or so to allow the bulgur to soak up more moisture.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled
  • 1⁄2 cup fine bulgur (see note)
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 12 ounces 85 percent lean ground beef
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1⁄4 cup pine nuts, toasted and chopped
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 medium garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 cup whole-milk plain yogurt
  • 1 cup lightly packed fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup tahini
  • 4 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided
  • Lemon wedges, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

Grate the onion on the large holes of a box grater, catching the pulp and liquid in a medium bowl. Stir in the bulgur and 2 teaspoons salt. Set aside for 10 minutes, until the bulgur has absorbed the onion liquid and is slightly softened.

Add the beef, egg, pine nuts, allspice, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, 1 teaspoon black pepper and 2⁄3 of the grated garlic. Knead with your hands or mix vigorously with a wooden spoon until well combined, then cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, parsley, tahini, 1⁄2 teaspoon salt, 1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper and the remaining garlic. Set aside until ready to serve.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. Using your hands, form the bulgur-beef mixture into 12 balls (about 2 heaping tablespoons each) and place on the prepared baking sheet. Using your hands, flatten the balls into 1⁄2-inch-thick patties about 21⁄2 inches in diameter.

In a 12-inch skillet over medium, heat 2 tablespoons of oil until barely smoking. Add half the patties and cook undisturbed until browned and crisp on the bottoms, about 4 minutes. Flip and continue to cook until the second sides are browned and crisp, about another 4 minutes, then transfer to a plate. Wipe out the skillet with paper towels and repeat with the remaining oil and patties. Serve with the yogurt-tahini sauce and lemon wedges.


Lebanese Lentils and Rice with Crisped Onions (Mujaddara)

Start to finish: 50 minutes | Servings: 4

Rice and lentils with caramelized onions is a much-loved food in the Middle East. This is our take on the version we tasted in Lebanon, where the dish is called mujaddara. The rice and lentils are simmered together in the same pot, with the lentils getting a 10-minute head start so both finish at the same time. Meanwhile, the onions are fried until crisp and deeply caramelized—almost burnt, really—to coax out a savory bittersweet flavor. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with a dollop of plain yogurt. It’s a delicious accompaniment to grilled or roasted meats, but it’s hearty enough to be the center of a vegetarian meal.

Don’t use French green lentils (Puy lentils) in place of the brown lentils called for. Even when fully cooked, green lentils retain a firm, almost al dente texture, while brown lentils take on a softness that combines well with the rice. Don’t worry if the onions turn quite dark at the edge of the skillet; deep browning is desirable. But do stir the browned bits into the mix to ensure the onions color evenly. However, if the onions brown deeply before they soften, lower the heat a notch or two and keep stirring until the pan cools slightly.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 1⁄2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup basmati rice, rinsed and drained
  • 1⁄3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • Plain whole-milk yogurt, to serve

INSTRUCTIONS

In a large Dutch oven over medium-high, combine 5 cups water, the garlic, bay, cumin, allspice, 1 tablespoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil, then stir in the lentils and reduce to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to maintain a simmer, until the lentils are softened but still quite firm at the center, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the rice and return to a simmer. Cover, reduce to medium-low and cook until the liquid is absorbed and the lentils and rice are tender, about 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the onions and cook, stirring only occasionally at the start then more frequently once browning begins at the edges of the pan, until the onions are deeply caramelized and crisped, 10 to 15 minutes; adjust the heat if the onions brown too quickly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the onions to a paper towel–lined plate and spread evenly. Sprinkle with 1⁄4 teaspoon salt and set aside; the onions will crisp as they cool.

When the lentils and rice are tender, remove the pot from the heat. Uncover and lay a kitchen towel across the pan, then replace the lid and let stand for 10 minutes.

Using a fork, fluff the lentils and rice, removing and discarding the bay. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Stir in half the scallions, then transfer to a serving bowl. Top with the fried onions and remaining scallions. Serve hot, warm or at room temperature with yogurt on the side.

PHOTO CREDIT: CONNIE MILLER OF CB CREATIVES