Tuesday, April 7, 2015
In the Middle East, meat is sacred food, feasting food, celebratory food. And while every day dishes are often vegetarian or feature vegetables, when it is time to celebrate, it is time to slaughter the fattened lamb.
So get ready: we're serving meat today. And by that I mean that meat stuffed with more meat.
On the outside, a glorious, buttery, crispy crust, laced with the savoriness of rich meat. Inside, sweetly spiced ground meats, tender onion. A few stray buttery pine nuts tumble out. This platter, cut deftly in the traditional diamond pattern, is enough to make any meat-lover swoon. It isn't a party until a platter of kibbeh shows up at the door.
I imagine that without refrigeration, and in the hot, arid climate of Palestine, my grandparents and great-grandparents ate their meat quickly. When it was time to slaughter the fattened calf, lamb or goat, everyone was invited to the feast, the dishes were served quickly, and any leftovers were eaten at the very next meal.
Kibbeh, (also kibbe, kubbeh, kubbi), is the steak tartare of the Arab world. Immediately after the animal was slaughtered, my ancestors prepared this dish with choice cuts of fresh, extra-lean meat. The meat was minced finely, and beaten with burghol and spices, drizzled with fruity green olive oil and dressed with herbs, and served as a luxuriant raw appetizer. If this seems strange, remember that most every traditional culture has a raw animal protein delicacy, from steak tartare to sushi, carpaccio to ceviche.
Today, while raw kibbeh (or kibbeh nayyeh) remains the darling of the Arab world (and I'm sorry, but for a good giggle, you just have to watch this ode to kibbeh nayyeh) it is most often cooked, formed into patties or a torpedo-shaped ball, stuffed with the meat filling, and then deep fried. Fried kibbeh's less fussy sister is kibbeh bi saniyeh, or baked kibbeh. It is just as tasty, but faster to pull together and perfect for feeding a crowd. Today, I'll show you how to make this baked version.