Tuesday, November 6, 2007


One of the main meat dishes in Turkey, köfte were probably a forerunner to Western cultures’ hamburgers and meatballs. Made with equal parts lamb and beef (or sometimes just one of the two), they can be shaped into ping-pong ball size for meatballs, or mashed down to form mini-burgers. They are also sometimes shaped into logs about the size of a hotdog then skewered and cooked. Grilled, broiled, baked or sautéed, köftes are savory and delicious.

300 grams (¾ pound) ground lamb
300 grams (¾ pound) ground beef
3 tablespoons finely minced shallot
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
¼ cup chopped parsley
1 packet Saltine crackers, pulverized (or ¼ cup cracker or bread crumbs)
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper

1) Mix everything together with your hands, until well combined. You can cook right away or stash in the refrigerator, covered for up to 24 hours (a couple of hours in the fridge will allow the flavors to meld and deepen).

2) When you are ready to cook: Shape the meat into ping-pong ball size rounds. Cook as is, or mash down gently to make small burgers. They can also be shaped into a log and threaded on to a skewer. Grill, bake, broil or sauté. The easiest is to sauté: Set a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat. Allow it to get hot. Do not add any oil if the meat you used is fatty-- if you use lean, add a bit of veg oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Place the burgers or meatballs into the pan, cover (with lid cracked) and cook until brown on one side (about 5 minutes), then flip, cover and cook on the other side for 4-5 minutes more. Keep warm in a very low oven while you cook the rest.

Makes about 35 small meatballs or burgers. Serve with tahini-köfte sauce, crisp lettuce, ripe tomatoes and warm pitas.

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