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Archive for the ‘onions’ Tag

Mujaddara, my first post from Aleppo

I’ve had an incredible start to my Fulbright in Syria. It’s been almost two weeks since I arrived — a perfect time for a quick update.

My flight landed in Aleppo on Saturday night, around midnight. After 28 hours of traveling, door to door, I arrived at my grandmother’s sister’s house in Aleppo. Like a true Halabiye (Aleppan) she had a delicious spread of mezze laid out as soon as I walked through the door: muhammara (محمّرة), olives, pickles, homemade mortadella, hummus (حمص), labne (لبنة), zeit w za’atar (زيت و زعتر); I slept like a baby that night.

meet my grandmother’s sister
my grandmother's sister

I spent my first few days doing administrative things: I got a cell phone, registered at the University of Aleppo, exchanged currency. I took a bus down to Damascus to meet with the other Fulbrighters as well as the Fulbright committee here in Syria. We were all invited to dinner at a restaurant called Marmara where we got to meet the Syrian Fulbright students who are getting ready to study abroad in the US.

University of Aleppo, College of Literature and Humanities
University of Aleppo

I think I’ve already gained five pounds since I’ve arrived. It’s hard not to. Everyday I come across new recipes that I want to blog about. I walk as much as I could and take the stairs whenever possible. My grandmother’s sister, bless her heart, pulled me aside the other day and asked whether I had a phobia of riding the elevator. I told her I take the stairs so that I can eat more of her delicious food. I’m sure she will hold me up to this for the next nine months that I’m here.

why I walk and take the stairs
la7me el 3ajeen

The picture above is from a lunch I recently had at a friend’s house. The star of the meal was the traditional meat pizzas called lahm bil ajin (لحمة بالعجي). I will have to dedicate a complete blog post to these pizzas. They’re incredibly delicious and are an important part of Aleppo’s cuisine. There are small bakeries in Aleppo where you can prepare your own meat mixture, and the bakery will make dough and form all the pizzas for you. My friend’s mom prepared her meat mixture in the morning and sent my friend and I later that afternoon to pick up the prepared pizzas from the bakery. I posted a few photos from the bakery to my flickr.

Last Friday my grandmother’s sister prepared mujaddara for lunch. Mujaddara is a simple, but traditional Middle Eastern dish of rice and lentils. Some families make it with bulgur wheat, and in Egypt they add noodles to the rice and lentils, and serve it with a spicy tomato-based sauce. Egyptians call this dish Kosheri (كشري).

The same day I had mujaddara at my grandmother’s sister’s house, I visited two friends, and both their families had also made mujaddara for lunch. For families that abstain from eating meat on Friday’s, mujaddara is a quick and healthy vegetarian meal for the family.

I had photographed mujaddara before I left the States, but never got around to posting the photos on my blog. These photos are from then.

mise en place
mise en place
cover lentils with water
cover lentils with water
the more onions, the better
onion slices
fried onions
fried onions

Usually people will not fry the onions in extra virgin olive oil because it has a low smoking point. I prefer the taste of olive oil, so I take extra time to cook the onions over low heat for a long time until they become crisp. If you’re in a rush you can use canola oil or any relatively flavorless oil that has a higher smoking point.

cooked lentils
cooked lentils
Mujaddara (مجدّرة)

Pickles are traditionally served with the mujaddara. Saha w hana — bon appetit!


yields approx 4-6 servings


  • 1 cup lentils
  • 1 cup rice (or bulgur wheat*)
  • 6-8 onions, sliced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • water
  • salt, to taste
  • pickles, optional

Putting them all together

  1. Add sliced onions and olive oil in a large skillet. Cook over medium-low heat for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. If you like them very crispy you can fry them in canola oil over high heat — this method takes considerably less time. Season onions with salt to taste.
  2. Wash lentils under cold water and remove any pebbles.
  3. Add lentils to a medium sized pot, and cover with water by 1 inch (approx 3 cm). Place lid on the pot and cook over medium heat for approximately 15 minutes, or until lentils are al dente. Important: do not add salt while the lentils are cooking. Adding salt at this stage will make the lentils grainy.
  4. After cooking the lentils, discard any leftover water (if there is any). Add 2 cups of water to the pot and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the rice (or bulgur wheat), season with salt, stir once, and cover the pot. Lower the heat to low, and cook for 15-20 minutes, the same way you always cook your rice.
  6. Continue cooking your onions until they are crispy to your liking (the crispiesr the better, in my opinion).
  7. Serve the mujaddara on a platter and top with the crispy onions. Serve with pickles.

Note: If you are in a rush, you can fry the onions at a higher temperature using canola oil. Thanks Samir for the tip to discard any leftover the lentil water before adding the rice.

Update (02/09/2013): Ever since I returned from Aleppo, I’ve been making my mujaddara with coarse bulgur wheat. I enjoy the flavor and texture more than the mujaddara with rice. You can find coarse bulgur wheat (often called Bulgur Wheat #3) at some Whole Foods or certainly in any Mediterranean market.


Disclaimer: The opinions I express in this blog are my own and do not reflect those of the Fulbright program.

Middle Eastern Dumplings

Two weeks ago my immune system decided, all on its own (bless its heart), to wage war against pollen. Me against a militia of relentless yellow, practically invisible, warriors on a mission to spread and procreate. It was like a cheesy action movie. The kind where the one good guy goes up against hundreds of bad guys and kicks all their butts, blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back; except my butt was handed to me. I was a miserable mess — puffy eyes, congested, endless sneezing, light headed, the works.

While I was out with allergies, this post took a back seat. It shouldn’t have, because this dish is pretty fantastic, healthy and delicious. It’s a post dedicated to Middle Eastern dumplings called Kbeibat (pronounced: k’beh-baat — كبيبات). This was the first time I made them without my grandmother, but she was there the entire time, over the phone, walking me through every step.

mise en place
mise en place

The dough for the dumplings is fairly basic: bulgur wheat, semolina and water. My first attempt at making the dough, however, was a complete disaster. Not only did my camera run out of batteries mid-shoot, but the dough was a nightmare as far as doughs go: a big sticky mess. According to my grandmother, I over-soaked the bulgur and added more water when I clearly didn’t need to. What was I thinking? I blame the allergies.

the dough starts with bulgur wheat
bulgur wheat

As long as you don’t over-soak your bulger, you’ll be fine. You want the water to cover the bulger wheat by about an inch. After about 15-20 minutes, discard any remaining water from the bulgur and mix with the semolina flour to make the dough. Usually, there will be little, if no water left to drain. My mistake was I kept adding more and more water, which is what ended up saturating the bulgur wheat in the first place.

meat filling
filling for dumplings

If you remember when I blogged about kefta kabobs, the filling for these dumplings is the same: ground beef, onions, parsley, ground allspice and salt. Since we’re not adding any extra fat and we’re boiling these dumplings, you’ll want to make sure to buy a fairly fatty selection of ground beef. 85% works great for this dish.

dumpling workflow
dumpling workflow

Things to do while forming dumplings: watch a movie, listen to a podcast/audiobook, or invite friends who enjoy cooking and have them help. It makes the entire process go by a lot quicker.

step by step
step by step

Tip: Use ice-cold water to help keep the dough from sticking to your hands.

cook in simmering water
cook in simmering water

Dumplings cook in 4-6 minutes. Enjoy!

Kbeibat (كبيبات)


yields approx 36 dumplings


  • 1 cup bulgur wheat, #1 grind (fine)
  • 1 cup fine semolina flour
  • water, for dough
  • 1 lb ground beef, 85%
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp allspice, ground
  • salt, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Quickly rinse and strain bulgur wheat using cold water. It’s ok if some water remains.
  2. Soak the bulgur wheat in cold water to cover the surface by a finger or two, no more.
  3. Let bulgur wheat sit for at least 15-20 minutes.
  4. In the meantime, prepare the meat mixture by mixing together the grated onion, parsley, allspice and salt* with the ground beef.
  5. Mix the bulgur wheat, semolina, and a little salt (1/2 tsp kosher salt) to form the dough. Knead until it comes together. If wet, add a little more semolina. If dry, add a little more water.
  6. Cover dough until ready to use.
  7. Fill a bowl with ice water to keep your hands wet while shaping the dumplings*.
  8. Roll a 1-inch wide ball of dough between your hands. Open a hole using your pointer in one hand, while rotating and holding the shape of the ball with your other hand. Once the hole is wide and the dough casing is thin, stuff it with a spoonful of meat mixture and seal by pressing the edge of the hole together. Alternatively, you can follow the easier disk method outlined in the diagram on the blog post.
  9. Arrange the dumplings on a large sheet pan lined with parchment paper (or lightly coated with oil) to prevent them from sticking.
  10. Bring a medium sized pot of water to a simmer and season with salt (as you would when you’re making pasta).
  11. Simmer the dumplings for 6-8 minutes in batches.

Notes: You can check the raw meat for seasoning by cooking a tiny piece on a skillet. It’s easier to work with and shape the dumplings when your hands are wet. It will help keep the dough from sticking to your fingers.


صحة و هنا — Bon Appétit
bon appetit

Boeuf Bourguignon: an homage to Julia Child

Do you remember the game where you get to name one person, dead or alive, to hang out with for a day? If I were to play that game right now, I would chose Julia Child, and the first thing I would tell her is thank you. Then I would hug her, if that’s allowed.

Since that’s only a game, however, I thought I’d express my gratitude to the great Julia Child in a blog post hoping that in some cosmic and mysterious way she’ll be reading from wherever she is; probably in a version of culinary paradise where she has more duck fat and copper pots than any mortal would know what to do with.

The idea for wanting to thank Julia started last week when I decided to make her recipe for Boeuf Bourguignon. It made sense. The sky had been gray for over a week, and continues to stay that way, which makes me wonder if we’ll ever reach spring, but that’s beside the point. The weather was simply an instigator in this chain of events, maybe even orchestrated by Julia herself (that would be funny). In French mathematics, you see, Boeuf Bourginioun equals classic comfort food — the wool socks of French cuisine. It’s a tough cut of meat braised in a full-bodied red wine for hours until it begins to fall apart and your entire house takes on the scent of a cozy French bistro on a rainy Friday evening.

For the record, this is the first time I’ve made anything of Julia’s. To me, this was a revelation. Her recipe was divided neatly into different sections so as to make the entire process of cooking French food appear less daunting. This is one of the things Julia was known for: she made French food accessible, if not easy. I had heard this, but was never fully convinced anyone could make something like Boeuf Bourguignon seem simple. French food, I thought, had to be complicated. I also noticed that, stylistically, Julia wrote her recipes in narrative form, and included the ingredients along the sidebar, in order of appearance. Almost as if she were directing a movie and was crediting her cast members — the mushrooms, beef, parsley — for their outstanding performance.

I remember re-reading sections of the recipe thinking that I had missed something. While the recipe did have plenty of steps, they were all fairly basic. Sear the meat; brown the vegetables. These were all things I had done before. After I read the recipe a couple more times to make sure I wasn’t going to be ambushed by a militia of French cooking terms half-way through, I started to prepare the ingredients for my mise en place shot.

mise en place

If there’s one thing I have learned from cooking, and I’m pretty sure Julia would agree, it would be the importance of mise en place, or having everything in place. I include these photos on my blog for different reasons; one of them is so that I can maintain a certain degree of order in my kitchen. It took me a while to get into this habit, but it has helped me tremendously. A less pragmatic reason for why I do mise en place is because, like Julia, I like to highlight the ingredients that I use. It’s my quirky way of crediting the ingredients that make up the dishes on my blog.

give your beef room to sear

Julia is very clear about this step: there has to be enough room for the pieces of meat to sear in the bacon fat in order to get a nice crust — otherwise the meat would steam and the dish would be ruined. This was very important, so I did it in three batches.

now it’s turn for the veggies

The onions and carrots got the same treatment: a good five to seven minutes in bacon fat. In France, bacon fat, or more accurately, pork fat called lardon, is synonymous with flavor. If you have access to lardon from a local butcher, I would go with that, otherwise, bacon seemed to do a pretty good job if you don’t mind the subtle smokey undertone that it adds to the dish. I didn’t mind one bit. Once the onions and carrots develop a golden brown color you’ll want to pour out the bacon fat.

saute the onions and mushrooms sepeartely

To make things go quicker, I sauteed pearl onions and crimini mushrooms in a separate pan. These ingredients also need room to sear so they develop a golden brown color.

cover everything in red wine

Once the meat is seared and the vegetables have been browned, you’ll want to add everything back to the original dutch oven, and submerge its contents in red-wine. The French are masters at this; make sure, however, to save at least one glass for yourself.

Boeuf Bourguignon

Although the recipe says to braise the beef for three to four hours in a low oven, I actually set my oven cook-time to four hours and went to sleep. I woke up seven hours later, fully rested, to the most heavenly smell. I’m sure Julia would’ve been proud.

In the words of the great chef herself, bon appétit!

Boeuf Bourguignon

yields approx. 6 servings

Recipe adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child


  • 6 oz bacon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 lbs chuck, cut into 2-inch cubes
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 4 cups red wine, full-bodied young wine
  • 1-2 cups beef stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 head of garlic
  • 1/2 tsp thyme, dried
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 18-24 small white onions
  • 1 lb mushrooms, quartered
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 3 sprigs of flat leaf parsley

Putting them all together

  1. Cut the bacon into thin sticks (1/4 inch thick and 1 1/2 inches long) and simmer in water for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  3. Sauté the bacon in olive oil for a couple of minutes or until lightly browned. Set aside.
  4. Reheat the bacon fat until it is almost smoking. In the meantime, pat your cubes of beef dry so you can get a good sear.
  5. Making sure not to overcrowd the pan, sear the beef cubes on all sides, in separate batches if necessary.
  6. Brown the sliced onions and carrots in the same bacon fat and then discard the bacon fat.
  7. Peel the skins off the pearl onions. They peel relatively easily if you submerge them in boiling water for 30 seconds and then shock them in ice water. Be sure to pat the onions dry.
  8. Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a large saute pan and cook the pearl onions until golden brown, then set them aside.
  9. Add the remaining 2 tbsp of butter to the saute pan and sear the quartered mushrooms, making sure not to overcrowd the pan.
  10. Make a bouquet garni (bouquet of herbs) by tying together the sprigs of parsley and thyme together with butchers twine. This will help you fish them out in the end.
  11. Slice the head of garlic cross-wise so as to reveal the midsection of all the cloves.
  12. Return the beef, bacon, sliced onions and carrots to the pot. Sprinkle in the flour and lightly toss to distribute the flour.
  13. Set the uncovered dutch oven in the middle position of the pre-heated oven for 4 minutes. Toss the meat and return to the oven for 4 more minutes.
  14. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F.
  15. Add the pearl onions and mushrooms, bouquet garni, sliced head of garlic, tomato paste, thyme, salt and pepper to the pot. Pour in the red wine and add enough beef stock so that all the contents in the pot are barely covered — this will prevent the meat from drying in the oven.
  16. Cover the dutch oven with a lid and return it to the oven (at the reduced temperature) to braise for 2 1/2 to 3 hours.
  17. The meat is done when you can pull it apart with a fork with very little effort.


Shakrieh, the stew that led me to Abu Fares

I can’t believe I let January slip through my fingers. It went by incredibly fast and ended without notice. You should’ve seen my face when I found out it was already February; my heart sank. Only because I’ve been meaning to tell you about this fantastic recipe since I returned from Syria back in December; it’s a Middle Eastern stew of sorts called Shakrieh.

While I was in Syria, I got to meet Abu Fares. Those who know Abu Fares, or have read his blog, will know why this encounter deserves its own post; this man is a talented writer, inspiring humanist, and simply put, a great person. He really is. Not to mention it is his Shakrieh recipe, which I’ve made four times in the past couple of months, that is outstanding.

Abu Fares lives in Tartous, a medium-sized city, quaintly situated along the Mediterranean coast of Syria; roughly a three hour train ride from Aleppo. We agreed to meet for lunch one afternoon while I was abroad. My grandmother and her brother decided to tag along, partly because they love to travel, but primarily because they’re over protective of me, and I love them for that. Plus, I knew my sito would pack delicious treats for the trip in one of her over-sized purses; in her opinion, you can never have too many aaroos (pita wraps with labne and other condiments). I agree.

We decided to take a small detour and spend the morning site seeing in Latakia, a scenic beach town less than an hour from Tartous. As I stepped off the train, I immediately took a deep breath, allowing the light briny breeze to fill my lungs. I did this a few more times. It was invigorating. The morning crowds started to fill the streets; mostly women with their children going out to get produce. I noticed a few locals crowded outside this modest shop that sold freshly squeezed orange juice. I got us three glasses as my grandmother pulled a few aaroos from her purse.

now I want an OJ press with a wheel

The weather in Latakia was too cold for swimming, and maybe that’s why the city wasn’t packed with people; the soft sunlight, however, was perfect for taking shots of the shore that morning. We spent the rest of our time leisurely strolling the city: we walked along the boardwalk, visited some historic sites, had coffee at a cozy café, and by noon we were back on our way to Tartous.

Latakia (اللاذقية)

During the slightly rowdy and bumpy hour-long bus ride from Latakia to Tartous, I rested my head on my sito‘s shoulder and closed my eyes. It’s a gift that I can nap almost anywhere. I eventually woke up to the driver announcing the different stops. We had finally made it to Tartous.

The Three Bloggers: Fares, Abu Fares and Me

Abu Fares and I greeted each other like old friends and I introduced him to my grandmother and her brother. We spent the next hour or so exploring Tartous. Abu Fares knows this city better than anyone, and many of the locals knew him, too. After the tour we went for some coffee at Abu Fares’ home where we got to meet his family.

Abu Fares has a son named Fares, hence his nickname Abu Fares — literally Fares’ Father in Arabic. Fares, like his dad, has his own blog called Superkid Chronicles where he writes about astrology and the different planets; his favorite show, SpongeBob Square Pants; and probably my favorite, the ultimate hot dog pizza.

Later that day Abu Fares took us to lunch at this charming restaurant up in the mountains, on the outskirts of Tartous. The meal consisted of lots of different mezze, and probably the tastiest freshly-caught fried red mullet (سمك سلطان إبراهيم) I’ve ever had. I posted more photos from my excursion to Latakia and Tartous on my flickr page.

Lunch with Abu Fares in Tartous

What I really need to do is tell you about is this amazing Shakrieh recipe.

mise en place

Shakrieh is a traditional dish from Damascus. In fact, very few people knew about it in Aleppo, where my family is from; some knew about it by a different name, which I can’t think of at the moment, while others hadn’t heard of it at all. This dish is pretty fantastic though. If you love slowly cooked meals that make you smile and feel warm inside, you need to try this dish. It’s essentially braised lamb (or beef) that is cooked in a creamy yogurt sauce. Traditionally it’s served with rice or bulger wheat (cracked wheat).

spices: allspice, cloves and cinnamon

Abu Fares’ recipe doesn’t call for these spices, only cinnamon. After a bit of experimenting, I found that the lamb here in the States has a stronger, more pungent, aroma than in Syria. If you’re sensitive to that gamy flavor that lamb is known for, I would suggest adding some of these spices, or even par boiling the lamb before braising it. The other alternative is to use a cut of beef that is suitable for braising, such as beef shanks, instead of the lamb.

Shakrieh (شاكرية باللبن)

Shakrieh is symbolic because of it’s pearly, white color; representative of purity, new beginnings and happiness. Abu Fares explains that it has been a tradition in his family to eat this dish on the first day of Ramadan. Going along with the symbolism, I prepared shakrieh for my friends and family for lunch on New Years. Saha wa hana (صحة و هنا) — Bon Appétit.


approx 4-6 servings


  • 1 kg lamb shanks (Mozat)
  • 3 large onions, sliced
  • 6 to 8 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  • 2-3 cloves, whole
  • 4-5 allspice, whole
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • water
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Putting them all together

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil, roughly 1/2 to 3/4 of the way full.
  2. Sweat the sliced onions in a large saute pan with the olive oil (be sure not to brown them) . Then, season the lamb shanks with salt and pepper and add to the onions along with the spices (cinnamon, cloves and allspice) and cook for about 5 minutes.
  3. Once the water comes to a boil, add the onions, lamb and spices to the water and lower the heat to medium-low.
  4. Braise for a 3-4 hours, until lamb is fork tender. Strain and the broth.
  5. In a blender, or with a whisk, mix together the yogurt, cornstarch and raw egg and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Make sure to stir constantly and in one direction* in order to keep the yogurt from separating.
  6. Once the yogurt begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and add the braised lamb chunks, tender onions, plus one cup* of the lamb broth to the yogurt.
  7. Cook uncovered for 10-15 minutes and serve alongside rice or bulger wheat.

Notes: Recipe adapted from Abu Fares’ blog. Stirring the yogurt in one direction helps keep it from curdling–I don’t know the science behind it, but if you do, please leave a comment; I would love to know. Also, you may need to add more or less lamb broth depending on how thick your yogurt sauce got from the cornstarch.


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