Unlike many of my friends, my parents did not serve my siblings and I what you would call culturally traditional food. My ancestors came from various parts of Eastern Europe but the last family member to come from that side of the world was my paternal great-grandmother in 1910. So therefore, I am as American as it gets. There is no doubt that my belly is loaded up with ashkenazi-inspired dishes on the Jewish holidays; my mom had a killer noodle kugel recipe that came from her mother (could’ve been her grandmother’s – not sure) and my dad has always been a perfectionist when it comes to Brisket.

Besides the holidays, my mom loved making Italian-style dishes like this chicken piccata and my dad always had his way with the BBQ. A huge reason I am so willing to try different foods from pretty much any culture (minus anything related to liver, testicles and insects) is because of the manner in which I was brought up. This has led me to the creation of The Exotic Kosher, a blog that represents my undying love for good food and thirst to experience new cultures.

I think that food and culture go hand-in-hand. You travel to a new place – let’s take Greece for example. You search up and down the roads of Athens to find the best Gyro and stalk Trip Advisor until you find the restaurant with the best Moussaka in Ios. Why? Because its part of the culture! The most authentic traveling experience (in my opinion, at least) is when you sit down at a family restaurant and ask the owner what the locals get. Obviously for kosher reasons, you may need to ask for a vegetarian option, but you get where I’m going with this, yeah? Even when I invite friends for a pot-luck style meal, I find that people tend to bring things that represent them in some way. For those who have watched their parents or grandparents make a dish a million times, it becomes a part of their identity. My point of this shpeal is the following: food=life.

The other day I was craving some Middle-eastern style food, I wasn’t sure what I would make but at the moment, I was leaning towards meatballs or something of the like. So I went searching on Pinterest (as I do quite often) and found an interesting article with a recipe for Beef Kofte. The word Kofte means “pounded meat” in Farsi. Very different from a recipe I posted a while ago forItalian-style meatballs. It’s centuries old and there a million and one versions in different parts of Iran and it even traveled as far as India. This dish incorporates mint, dill, cinnamon and turmeric. The strangest thing for me was to add uncooked rice to the meatball mix. Yes, I just said uncooked rice. But I really loved this combination of ingredients so I had to try it out and sure thing – it came out delicious!

Kofte – Persian Meatballs

YIELDS: 18-20 Meatballs     –     PREP TIME: 15 minutes      –     COOK TIME: 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup basmati rice, soaked in cold water for 1 hour

  • 3-4 cloves garlic

  • 1 cup loosely packed fresh mint (or 3 tablespoons dried mint)

  • 1 large onion

  • 1/2 kilo (1 lb) ground beef

  • 1 egg

  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • Vegetable oil (for browning the meatballs)

  • 1/2 cup (400 grams) tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh dill (or 2 teaspoons dried dill)

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

  • 3 cups hot water

  • Sea salt and ground pepper

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Instructions

  1. To make the meatballs, rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear, then use a strainer to remove excess water.

  2. In a food processor, combine the rice with the garlic, mint, and 1/2 of the onion, and pulse until coarsely ground. Transfer to a large bowl and add the meat, egg, salt, and pepper. Mix well. The mixture should be pliable and easy to shape. You can cover the mixture and refrigerate for up for a few hours, but its not necessary.

  3. Form the meat into balls. Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add enough oil to coat the bottom. In batches, cook the meatballs for around 6 minutes, or until browned on all sides, then transfer to a plate.

  4. To make the sauce, add the other half of the diced onion to the same skillet. Cook the onion over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Stir in the tomato paste, dill, cinnamon, turmeric, and water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Season to taste with salt and pepper and carefully place the meatballs in the sauce. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes, until the meatballs are cooked through.

  5. Remove from the skillet and stir in the lemon juice.

  6. Serve warm with rice or couscous.

Notes

*This recipe was adapted from a recipe posted on Food52 Blog

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