Monthly Archives: January 2010

Kufta, the Kebab of Love

Every country has street meat.

I remember giving a 12 or 13-year old Iraqi boy a $5 bill for falafel (ok, it’s not meat, but hey- it’s amazing), which he would run to us as fast as he could. Down the street to the falafel stand, back to us, then back to the stand with more bills. The falafel was fantastic, nestled with lettuce, tomato and sumac in distinctive diamond teardrop shaped pita bread. I heard a rumor once that this falafel stand in Hwar Rajab was then-Iraq commander General Petraus’s favorite in all of Iraq.

Our interpreter Ricky was surprised I knew what sumac was. He had tried explaining the spice to another American, who thought it was the American poison sumac and that the Iraqis were trying to poison him. Iraqi sumac is different. It’s a ground red berry, gritty and lemony. I was delighted to find a jar in a Indian market.

Sumac is an essential ingredient in another quintessential Iraqi street food: kufta kebab. Most Iraqis just call it kebab, which confuses Americans who expect chunks of meat or vegetables (Americans can be lax about naming street food). In Iraq, a ground meat sausage on a stick is kebab, chunks of meat on a stick is tikki, and shaved, roasted ground meat is shawarma. Kebab is my favorite- it’s ground fatty lamb, seasoned to perfection and grilled until the fat melts and drips out, leaving behind a lace of meat and spice.

I deconstructed kebab while in Iraq, badgering Ricky to get more details about the recipe. I’ve made it a few times here, where it’s hard to get fatty lamb. I usually use a mix of fatty hamburger and lamb to get the texture close to right. The original recipe didn’t have garlic in it, but garlic and lamb seem like such a good fit.

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Group Brew

I spent yesterday at an event run by the Snake River Brewing Club, the homebrewing club that I’ve been a part of for several months now. We brewed around 80 gallons of strong scotch ale and split it up into smaller portions to ferment it. We’ll be getting back together in a month or so to combine the beer into a used Merlot barrel to age for several months.

My brewing system only handles 5 gallons at a time, so I cooked a pot of chili and photodocumented the brew while the guys with 10 and 15 gallon systems did the brewing. The chili was a cheaper version of my favorite recipe– I had chipotle peppers this time, and I used ground beef instead of the tastier chuck roast. One of the other guys brought a Bacon Explosion, which I was interested to try. I’ve never seen one up close before.

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Thanksgiving, Redux

Here’s a lighter take on Thanksgiving that I made a couple weeks ago. Marshmallow-topped yam casserole became roasted yams with caramelized onions; turkey gravy became celery pesto, and mashed potatoes became turnip gratin. We ate this with a bottle of Avery Fifteen, an anniversary ale with hibiscus, figs and white pepper, fermented with a strain of the wild yeast Brettanomyces. The beer complimented the meal in stellar fashion- the brett gave it a tart, wild flavor that cut the richness of the yams and gratin well, while complimenting the celery and capers in the turkey.


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Christmas Dinner

Little late here, but I thought I’d post about Christmas. Beth and I got to spend our Christmas alone this year- after the craziness of a two-family Thanksgiving, it was a welcome change to have a quiet holiday. We opened a few presents- Beth got me Charcuterie, and told me that the “real present” would be letting me make the recipes- and then spent most of the rest of the day cooking.

Beth made Vanilla-Peach jam and several desserts while I made dinner. We invited her neighbor over for the meal, and I served my first-ever attempt at Beef Wellington, along with brussel sprouts and maple-glazed turnips and carrots. We served a Lost Abbey beer called 10 Commandments- a dark strong Belgian ale with rosemary, raisins and honey. For dessert, Beth showed me up with a delicious Gateau D’Liege (a Belgian sweet yeast bread with pearl sugar and raisins), a buttermilk rhubarb pound cake and a arborio rice pudding with mascarpone cream and strawberry preserves.

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