Monday, March 24, 2014

Grilled Lamb Kofta Kebabs with Pistachios and Asian Greens Wrap

Riverslea Farm lamb, kofta style, nestled in a bed of Herb Farmacy's microgreens (dressed in extra virgin olive oil and fresh lemon juice) with pickled red onion, on homemade flour tortilla.  A drizzle of sheep's milk yogurt and extra virgin olive oil, and a few grains of Herb Farmacy's 'garlic sea salt' made for finishing touches. 
'Kofta' is a middle eastern term for, typically, "ground meat cooked on a skewer."  Lamb and mutton are the more common meats used, but some cultures also use beef or chicken.  With the quality of meats available locally to our NH Seacoast, any of the above could be used confidently, but being spring (so they say), lamb was in order.

So here's what the plan was for an equinox party for 25 friends (which ended up being a party of 11 adults and 6 children):

First, I picked up ground lamb from the recent winter farmers' market.  I bought 6lbs, but 4lbs would have been plenty based on the actual turnout; that, and a tempeh option for vegetarian friends was also offered, and of course the omnivores couldn't resist.  I also had to find ground 'sumac', a key ingredient for this dish.  Lemon zest would have been the back up plan had I not found it. Philbrick's Fresh Market came through on the sumac.

Ground sumac, cumin, chili powder, fresh thyme = seasoning base for the ground lamb
Into the bowl of ground lamb went a whole lotta seasoning, and ground pistachio. Sumac is very affordable.  Pistachios are not.  At just about $20/lb, and in fact needing a pound and a half three-quarters of a pound for my increased recipe, my attitude was, well, special friends deserve special ingredients for a special occasion.  (I might very well collect even more hickory nuts from our shagbarks this year...see if I can lessen that cost....)  Use your impeccably clean hands to scrunch everything together until well mixed.  Then, start skewering:

One down, 11 more to go....
I found it easiest to grab handfuls of meat, lay it all a cohesive log on the sheet pan, and then press the skewer down into it.  Pinches here and there were necessary.  All in all, it took perhaps 20 minutes to do all of the skewers for this affair.  I recommend not rolling them like play-doh.  Once the skewers are formed, the next important step is dimpling (for aesthetics, if nothing else):

Use your fingertips to gently dimple the meat along the length of the skewers--this will provide a more appetizing look, as well as provide nice color hues from the grill
When you go to lift the skewers for grilling, do not lift the skewer itself.  Instead, use your spread out fingers to coerce the log from its stuck position.  You'll find that it will easily lift into your hands.  You need to be gentle, but not overly so.

Let you skewers rest in the fridge while you get your charcoal going.  I far prefer grilling over hardwood charcoal to broiling, but broil if you need to, in which case you can just leave the skewers off to the side on your counter.

Note: For the very first photo in this post, meatballs were formed and plated.  While we're all grownups here, the cooked kebabs were no doubt one of the least attractive plates I've ever seen.  Their taste, bar none, was one of the most delicious profiles I've ever had in my mouth (and I'm half a century young).  This recipe is so good, I came in from the grill and proceeded to stuff chunks into my guests mouths (we're a very casual, family-style kind of group).  Their eyes spoke all they needed to say for me to know I wasn't dreaming about the flavor.  When I say these were delicious, that's an understatement.

The only photo of the grilled results...from hubby's cellphone.  What a good hubby for remembering.
I'll let the super greens speak for themselves:

We blended tatsoi from Heron Pond Farm and Spicy Asian greens from Herb Farmacy with fresh mint and parsley, then dressed with peppery olive oil and lemon juice, teeny grind of Himalayan salt
The red onions were quickly pickled in fresh lemon juice and a pinch of sea salt, then plated for the table:

I'll post on making tortillas soon.  Here's a shot, though, of one of two piles made for this event, warm from the oven:

Here's how it all looked on the night of (cutting on the bias helped with eye appeal):
A light sprinkle of sumac seasoning and a drizzle of olive oil finished this wrap.  Recipe adapted from 'Jamie at home'.  The little green flecks in the meat are pistachio.

Ingredients for 4pp:

  • 1 lb best-quality ground lamb
  • 4 14" skewers (12" min.) 
  • 2 Tbsp, heaped, fresh thyme, laves picked and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grnd chili
  • 1 Tbsp grnd cumin
  • 4 Tbsp grnd sumac (or finely grated zest of 1 lemon)
  • sea salt and freshly grnd black pepper
  • a good handful of shelled pistachios, processed to sand consistency
  • a few handfuls of mixed buttery and spicy salad greens; go local!
  • sm bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked, lg leaves torn
  • 1 med red onion, sliced thin (use a mandolin if you have one)
  • 1 lemon
  • handful of parsley sprigs, leaves picked
  • 4 lg flatbread or tortilla wraps
  • plain yogurt, ~1 heaped Tbsp for each plate
If grilling, prepare grill.  Mix sumac, chili, cumin and thyme together in bowl, reserving 1 Tbsp for seasoning skewers post-grilling and for finishing wraps.

Mix together the ground lamb, spice mix and pistachios, and 1 tsp salt.  Form skewers on sheet pan.  Press little indents into meat ("dimples").

Shave the red onion and season in a bowl with a slight pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lemon.

Pick the leaves off the parsley stems, set aside in a damp paper towel if done ahead.

Mix mint into greens and dress with a decent pour of extra virgin olive oil and a fair squeeze of lemon juice.  Season lightly, toss, set aside.  Do this no earlier than 20-mins before plating.

Grill lamb skewers over natural coals until nicely golden.  This doesn't take long--depending on your log thickness, you might find three 2-min. rotations perfect. Season with just a touch more spice mix.

Heat tortillas very quickly over charcoals, flipping to do both sides, while skewers rest.

Pull meat off skewers, let each guest break their own into chunks or slice on a bias.

Have each friend plate a tortilla and top with a generous handful of dressed greens, then chunks of kofta, some red onion and then a drizzle of yogurt.  Be a gracious host or hostess and make sure they get added droplets of olive oil--or be like me and add whole swirls. Also sprinkle a bit of that reserved spice mix over each wrap before y'all roll up and dig in.  Wicked yummy.


  1. Everything turned out so beautifully, what a lovely way to celebrate the Equinox!

  2. Tasty kebabs for a Saturday evening