There are so many moments where I’ve sat back and pondered, “Do other people think like I do?” Then, I am compelled to acquiesce to the reality that, no, most people’s brains don’t even remotely operate like mine. Like the time I thought of kibbeh for an astoundingly long time.
It’s kind of a lonely place to be in those times.
Case in point, last Thursday. Time was midnight and some change. I’m lying down in bed next to the soldier who’s being force-fed air by his CPAP machine.
“Aw…listen to that. He’s breathing calmly and peacefully, letting me know he’s alive- and asleep. I’m content- and awake.
I going to become a single parent. The Twinkies are going to start acting out because they miss their Papá. Hell, I’m going start acting out because I miss their Papá. I have to change air filters, tires, lightbulbs. I have to mow lawns, clean out garbage bins, pay taxes. My life will be set into a crazy game of Chance: will the car run out of gas before I hit the next station? How long can we go without one of us catching the flu? Double the payout if it’s me who catches it!
That dang deployment is looming.
The Middle East. It’s gotta be SO hot there. It’s hot under this duvet.
I still smell like garlic from dinner. I love Puerto Rican food. Do they make Puerto Rican food there? I don’t think they do. What do they make there? I mean, they have to have some pretty amazing food. I remember the Afghani restaurant we went to in Virginia. That food was dope! I should make some Middle Eastern food. I could totally do it.
I remember those little lamb footballs that I had at that Eid al-Fitr Celebration. Those families broke the Ramadan fast in style. I can do those. Kibbeh, they were called. Yep. I’m totally doing it.”
…and, that’s what I think of at twelve-thirty in the morning, while my husband sleeps next to me sounding like Darth Vader. I think of kibbeh. When Friday rolled around- and I rolled over in bed with a “I think too much,” hangover, I grabbed my phone and started looking up anything I could find about kibbeh– the national dish of many Middle Eastern countries.
In Arabic, kibbeh, means…wait for it…ball. And that’s basically what it is. A meat ball. An amped up meatball, but a meatball nonetheless. It dawned on me that I had actually experienced kibbeh before as a child, only it was the Latin American version: quipe. Obviously, the world is smaller than we think. Thankfully, the world is smaller than we think.
My first mission was to locate and acquire bulgur wheat. Bulgur is just wheat that’s been cracked, but it is not an easy commodity here in the heart of Texas. I’m currently protesting a particular online megastore, so I needed to acquire it locally. My favorite food haunts didn’t have it so I
conned convinced the soldier and the Twinks that a forty-five minute drive to Austin would be the, “FUNNEST THING EV-ER!” They fell for it hook, line and sinker. Suckas!
I didn’t lie though…well, not intentionally- and not consciously…but that will come later. Austin really was the closest city that has a Whole Foods. Austin actually has three Whole Foods. I mean, because Austin obviously needs three Whole Foods whereas my little town needs zero. So, it has none. Because we don’t need to eat healthy and buy non-GMO, organic, cotton yoga pants while we do so. No Whole Foods for us.
Back to my bulgur. I know “Granola Town” would have bulgur. May even have a selection to choose from! I find and purchase my bulgur and drive back to my Whole Foods-less town. But now, I remember, I need fenugreek. Even I ain’t driving back down to Austin, so I decide to go to the local military commissary (the one place I highly doubt will have it) and what do they NOT have? Fenugreek. But, what DO they have? Bulgur. My husband looks at me with the eyes of a sniper. He’d probably bust a cap in me for making him drive down to Austin for bulgur, but he can’t because that’s frowned upon in our society.
Errors in food market judgments aside- my kibbeh won’t make itself.
What makes kibbeh so freakin’ cool is that it’s a meat stuffed meatball. For real! There’s a meat filling- usually lamb, pine nuts and some spices- wrapped around a paste of meat and bulgur. It’s genius! I’m no food anthropologist, but I’m willing to bet that this harkens back to the bedouin days of old when you had to use up meat in the most efficient way. Kibbeh is also made even more awesome by being fried. You can also bake yours if you’re watching your diet. I’ll leave it to you to decide the route I take. I’ll just leave it at: I’m not afraid of no cholesterol. It’s then served with a tangy yogurt and mint sauce.
When grinding the kibbeh paste in the food processor, it’s important to keep the meat ice cold to prevent it from heating up and cooking from the friction that the blade will cause. Hence, the addition of ice in the recipe. If you’re not a fan of lamb, just use beef. No biggie. The pine nuts may be omitted as well, but it really does give the kibbeh a wonderful punch of texture. Just, whatever you do, DON’T walk away while you’re toasting them. They smell so foul when burnt. Yes, I’ve experience in this area. What can I say? The Real Housewives of Something-or-Other was on.
I suppose that my random bouts of insensible thinking are actually for the common good of man. What about you? What clever, ingenious recipe/thing have you come up with in the wee hours of the morning? Share with me, I’d like to know!
- 2/3 cup bulgur
- 1 cup boiling water
- 2 lbs ground lamb divided
- 1 cup mint chopped, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion about 1 cup, minced, divided
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp Middle Eastern Spice Blend divided
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 cup crushed ice
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
Tangy Yogurt Dip
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 clove garlic crushed into a paste
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp mint leaves chopped
- salt to taste
- canola oil for frying
Rehydrate the bulgur in a medium size mixing bowl by pouring the boiling water over the bulgur and allowing it to soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the kibbeh paste.
In a food processor, fitted with your metal blade attachment, pulse together 1 1/2 lbs of the ground lamb, 3/4 cup of mint, 3/4 cup of the minced onion, the garlic, 1 tbsp of the MESB, 1 tsp of salt and 1/2 cup of crushed ice, until very smooth. You want the kibbeh paste to have the consistency of mashed potatoes.
Remove the blade and place the processor bowl into the fridge to keep cool while you make the filling.
In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil over med-high.
Add the remaining lamb, the onions, and sprinkle the remaining MESB and the salt over the meat to season. Sauté until the lamb is cooked through.
Drain the meat in a colander set into of your sink.
Place the meat back into the pan and add the remaining mint and the pine nuts and heat for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool while you make the yogurt sauce.
In a small mixing bowl, preferably one that is non-metallic, mix together all the ingredients until smooth. Allow to sit in the fridge while you assemble and fry the kibbeh.
Grab a container that's deep enough for you to submerge your hands in comfortably. Fill it with cool water. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or wax paper.
Remove the pureed kibbeh mix from the fridge and place it and the cooked kibbeh filling next to the dipping bowl and the sheet pan.
With wet hands, grab a about a 1/3 cup of raw kibbeh and form it into a football shape.
Create a well in the center and place a spoonful (about 1 1/2 tbsp) of the cooked filling into the center. Shape the raw kibbeh around the filling to seal it completely. Try your best to keep that football shape! Set on your lined sheet pan.
Continue forming, filling and shaping until you've used up all of the raw kibbeh.
Heat 2 cups of canola oil in a frying pan over med-high heat.
Fry kibbeh in batches of five, frying 4-5 minutes on each side or until a dark golden brown and cooked through.
Remove from the oil and drain over paper towels. Keep warm while you fry the remaining kibbehs.
Serve with the tangy yogurt dip.