Mom blogs about kabab

When my mom came to visit me last weekend, she had only one thing in mind, that is, to hang out with her son. That made things pretty easy for me: I showed her around Annapolis, took her to the new Whole Foods in town, and when we got hungry, she mentioned she wanted to blog about something. Did she just say she wanted to blog? I couldn’t help but chuckle a bit, but she was serious. My mom is an avid a cook, like me – as is her mom, the matriarchal chef, so to speak, of the family.

As we walked through the produce section at Whole Foods, taking in doses of visual inspiration, my mom must have suggested at least five different things to blog about (now you see where I get my passion from). We needed to focus, so we started by shopping for the kababs: we picked up a bunch of parsley, some onions – but then my mom saw the “cutest tiny eggplants.” How could you say no to that? We added a few baby eggplants to the cart for mahshee (stuffed eggplant) and proceeded. Then my mom said we needed something green to go with our kababs, so that’s how fattoush (traditional Lebanese salad) made it on the list. I’ll post about those other recipes (hopefully) this week, but for now, lets start with the kababs.

mise en place

Kabab (كباب) or kebab, like hummus and baba ganoush, has found its nook in the growing, ethnic dining niche. The kababs I usually find at restaurants consist of some sort of meat, be it chicken or beef, skewered with onions, tomatoes, or other eye-catching vegetables. While these exist in the Middle East, my mom and I wanted to show a different type of kabab today.

These kababs take on a similar shape, but are made with ground beef and are flavored with chopped parsley, onions and allspice. All those flavors aside, my favorite part is the fiery-red layer of pita bread they’re traditionally served on. The bread is smeared with a tomato paste based sauce, spiked with hot red peppers, and laid as a base for the grilled pieces of meat.

that may or may not be a tear

The first step to making the kababs is probably most painful. It involves grating 2-3 medium onions for the meat mixture. I’m sure some people could get by with a mince, but I find that grating the onions releases more of the juices, which keeps the meat from drying out. You can also get by doing this step in your food processor, just make sure not to turn it into onion puree – you want small chunks.

ready to mix

It took my mom a while to get used to photographing each step. I had to stop her before she mixed the meat ingredients together so that I could snap a quick shot of all the different colors. She laughed at me for this, but I figured the food bloggers out there would understand.

forming the kababs

You’ll notice that with these kababs, the skewer is only used to pierce a hole through the center of the meat. This, I suspect, helps with even cooking as it allows heat to enter through the hole and cook the inside of the meat while the outside sears.

the amazing sauce

To make the sauce, you’ll want to drizzle a little bit of olive oil onto some regular tomato paste. Then, sprinkle a dash of any spicy red pepper – I used hot Hungarian paprika for this – and mix. You might want to season it with a tiny bit of salt, but make sure not to go overboard because the paste already has an intense flavor.

kabab (كباب مشوي)

If you have an outdoor grill, use it. Since I recently moved into my new place and don’t have any of that set up yet, I went with my cast iron grill pan for this. You could also use your broiler for this, but whatever you use, make sure that it’s really hot. This will help develop a nice sear on the meat.


yields 14-16 kabobs


  • 1 kg, ground beef (or lamb)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, minced
  • 2-3 onions, grated
  • 2 tsp allspice
  • 2-3 tbsp ice-cold water
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Hungarian paprika
  • pita bread
  • skewers, for shaping

Putting them all together

  1. Mix grated onions, minced parsley, allspice, salt and pepper into the meat. Break down the meat by massaging it with your fingers, but make sure not to compact it too much. If necessary, add some ice-cold water to make the mix come together.
  2. Once the meat comes together, use a skewer to form its shape (shape it around the skewer) and carefully remove it – making sure to preserve the hole that runs through the meat. Set the meat on a plate or baking dish to be grilled.
  3. Prepare the sauce by mixing together the tomato paste, olive oil and Hungarian paprika* in a bowl, and mix well.
  4. Smear the sauce on pita bread and place, face up, in a large plate.*
  5. Grill the kababs and pile them over the bread as they cook. If serving family style, add another piece of the pita bread with sauce on top to keep the kababs warm while eating.

notes: Traditionally they use regular spicy, ground red peppers, but since I only had hot Hungarian paprika, I used that. If using pita bread with pockets, I like to open them up and smear the sauce on both sides of the bread. The more sauce, the better, in my opinion.


It’s also common to see these kababs served with fresh tomato on the side, drizzled with a little olive oil and sprinkled with salt. My mom and I saw this monstrous heirloom tomato and couldn’t resist. I should’ve put something next to it for comparison, but trust me, it was huge (and delicious).

huge heirloom tomato

17 thoughts on “Mom blogs about kabab

  1. Great recipe – I’m going to attempt it this weekend with my son!

    Would you be interested in featuring several of your ‘grilling’ recipes on Sizzle on the Grill? I would provide a profile and link to your web site. If you wanted to make it a regular thing – you could be identified as a guest chef.

    The purpose of Sizzle on the Grill is to encourage people to enjoy their outdoor cooking appliances more than just burning burgers, steaks and chicken on them once in a while. (I said that with a smile.)

    I have a personal mission to also encourage folks from around the country to open up to different styles of cooking, tastes and food ideas. Seems to me that when people share food and enjoy conversation it’s a good thing.

    Thanks for considering the idea.

    Barry ‘cb’

  2. Kabob is the mostly done chicken (we don’t eat any other meat) in my home, & i do it indoor on my cast iron grill. The best part here is your sauce! Love it – the spicy the color! & i love the pretty blue bracelet in your mom’s hand:-)

  3. These sound pretty good, though it reminds me of meatloaf on a stick, but better because I don’t like meatloaf. I want to make these!

  4. Hola! Yo tambien creci en venezuela de padres mediterraneos (Siciliana-Libanesa), ahora vivo en Canada y llegue aqui por casualidad! Pero que maravilla de suerte! Me ecanta tu blog y quiero sentarme con calma ha hojearlo bien!
    Delicious kabob, very authentic flavours, very satisfying meal!
    See you soon again 🙂

  5. babagannouj – Thanks for your comment. In Syria they simply call these Kababs. From what I understand, they’re called Kefta Kababs in Lebanon, but since my family is mostly Syrian I’ve gotten used to calling them Kababs. Thanks for pointing that out!

  6. I never thought about why the hole is inside the kabab – very clever! Your mom wanting to contribute to the blog makes me giggle – my mom can’t wait to cook with me together for the blog. It’s great – moms have all the good recipes! 😉

  7. Hi Tony, please correct me if I,m wrong the name of this sauce (salad) isn´t BIWAS ?

    today Im making different kabab, (mint kabab) ERAS BE NANAA,
    thank you

  8. Gregorio – you’re correct, biwas is usually eaten with kabab, but my mom and I were craving fattoush, so we made that instead. Eras b’nanaa is a favorite of mine. saha wa hana!

  9. Again, so many similarites…the grated onion and that sauce! We make it too and call it Paprika…great with meat and dipping fries into.

  10. sorry Mr.Tony i don’t see the salad accompanied your mom’s kebab as Fatoush coz it didn’t show any Sumac,fatoush bread or even red onion so we might call it fresh greens lol any way i really like your recipe and i work as a cook in Hong kong although am Originally egyptian .could you please give me a favour of posting an authentic recipe of shawerma Lamb if u have one?
    thax alot

  11. As a college student, this blog is a miracle. PICTURES of STEPS.

    thank youuuu. also I can finally spice my kufta the Arab way, not like “just black pepper and salt like the mirikan” as my mom would say.

  12. Hi Tony,

    Nice blog; loved that you get to cook with your MoM. I hope that when my son grows up he will appreciate his heritage and would want to cook with me (we are Lebanese Texasns ;-). As another commentator pointed out, in Lebanon, these are called Kafta Mishwe. They look delicious.

    Bon Appetit!


  13. I love a good simple kabob recipe, and this looks delicious & flavourful. What fun that your Mom wanted to ‘blog’! I like the idea of grating the onions. Go to try this soon. Do you think it would work well with chicken mince too?

  14. I was totally inspired to make these delicious kebabs by sarahsmomi’s fabulous photograph. I was cooking only for myself tonight, so I made only a single portion. Just SO delicious! I minced some garlic and sprinkled some dried thyme onto each piece of bacon before wrapping it around each mushroom. I so look forward to sharing these with family and friends. A great recipe, with heaps of possibilities. Next time I make them, I’m going to marinade the mushrooms for a few hours. Thank you, sarahsmomi’s DH, for selecting this recipe for the Zaar World Tour, to sarahsmomi for the great photograph, and to Kaarin for posting it! I’ll be making this recipe again – with fond memories of the Zaar World Tour!

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