RECIPE: Spice things up with kofta kebabs

Credit: Virginia Willis

Credit: Virginia Willis

Kofta kebabs are a traditional Middle Eastern dish made of skewers of ground lamb or beef combined with fresh herbs, zesty onion, spicy garlic and aromatic spices. The kebabs are most often grilled and served with pita bread, salads and dips such as hummus and tzatziki.

Many cuisines in the region utilize different spice combinations for flavoring. Each blend differs from maker to maker and country to country. Examples of spice blends include ras el hanout, za’atar, shawarma, dukkah and baharat. Many spice blends are now produced by larger spice companies and are available in larger grocery stores, specialty markets and online. You can also make your own blends using the spices you have on hand. This recipe calls for baharat, which simply means “spices” in Arabic and can include cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper and more.

While shish kebabs are assembled using cubes of meat, kofta kebabs are made from minced meat. The word kofta (or kefta) has its origins from Persian, and it means “grounded” or “pounded.”

Swapping out ground turkey or chicken for the beef or lamb makes the dish leaner and lighter for the hot summer months. Made with 85% lean ground turkey, this mixture stays moist and pairs well with the robust spices.

While grilling is traditional, you can also pop kebabs in the oven for an easy weeknight supper.

Kofta Kebabs

For a busy weeknight meal, it’s easier to prepare these kebabs in the oven than firing up the grill. When you cook the skewers on an ovenproof cooling rack, the hot air circulates around the food, allowing for more even cooking. Foil on the bottom of the baking sheet makes for easy clean-up.

If you prefer to grill the kebabs, be certain to soak the wooden skewers in water to hinder them from burning while on the grill. (There’s no need to soak the skewers when cooking in the oven.) Grill the kebabs, flipping once or twice, until firm and the internal temperature registers 165 degrees on an instant-read thermometer, about 10 minutes.

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