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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quick Lamb Kofta with Harissa Yogurt Sauce



Kofta? Harissa? Hope I didn't lose anybody with those two words...

In Turkish, kofta is spelled köfte, but aside from the spelling, it's basically the same thing. Kofta, köfte, kufteh, qofte or whatever you call it is a football-shaped meatball (American football, that is), most often made of lamb, that is traditionally grilled. My first Turkish köfte came from a Turkish-Armenian market in a nearby town that I'd bought frozen, except I'd thought they were fully cooked. I was about to plate my thawed köfte when I realized they were bleeding on the plate. I don't believe that any version of Kofta is tartare.
I've since learned to make my own. I usually make them with lamb and bulgur, however, I wanted to check out this recipe from the April 2010 Cooking Light. They suggest serving the kofta with boil-in-bag jasmine rice cooked with one teaspoon of saffron threads, then sprinkled with green onions. My grocery cart was swelling with items and saffron threads, while yummy, are expensive. So we went with regular old jasmine rice.

Quick Lamb Kofta with Harissa Yogurt Sauce

Kofta
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tbsp fresh grated onion
2 tbsp 2% Greek-style plain yogurt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp bottled minced garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 lb lean ground lamb
cooking spray

Sauce
1/2 cup 2% Greek-style plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped bottled roasted red bell pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp bottled minced garlic
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/4 tsp salt

1. Combine cilantro and next 9 ingredients (through lamb); shape into 12 oblong patties.

2. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook 10 minutes or until done, turning occasionally to brown on all sides.

3. While kofta cooks, prepare sauce. Combine 1/2 cup yogurt with remaining ingredients. Serve sauce with kofta.

The Verdict: I like this recipe better than my current köfte recipe. And I don't generally equate raw meat with smelling wonderful, but in this instance, it definitely was. Unfortunately, I cooked this dish earlier in the day and reheated it. While it still tasted great, I think it dried it out. So definitely don't overcook it, and if you plan to reheat or make enough for leftovers, beware that the microwave takes away some of the juiciness.

The vegetables you see are from a bag of frozen Mediterranean blend from Whole Foods. They were, in a word, horrible. Frozen zucchini and other water-heavy vegetables do not freeze well. Noyan suggests that a good Turkish-type side dish is simply sliced cucumbers or tomatoes.

By the way, I didn't have any coriander. I had a large container of it that was not in a spice bottle. It was an annoying size that kept getting in the way and eventually it got moved to the kitchen counter. Bad idea. Amir soon knocked it over, making my whole kitchen smell like a Middle Eastern grocery. If you have a sprightly toddler whirling around your kitchen and lose your coriander that way, or if you just don't have any, no fear. A substitution in a pinch is sage mixed with a little lemon zest. The recipe does call for fresh cilantro, but while cilantro is the plant coriander comes from, the tastes are entirely different.



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