Kafta Kabobs with Baba Ganoush & Pita Bread
Words by Kayla & Justin Butts Photos by Rachel Benavides
The barbecue of any given country reflects the natural resources of the land. Yet, bringing the Middle East to your grill has never been so easy.
In America, our style of barbecue was born in the immense forests of olden days. Our forefathers had access to limitless amounts of firewood, so they were able to slowly roast huge sides of beef or pork on fires that burned for days. We inherited our love of briskets and other large cuts of meat from the long-burning fires of our ancestors.
However, trees have always been scarce in the deserts of Arabia. Barbecue in the Middle East evolved over the treeless centuries into small cuts of meat that could be grilled quickly over a modest fire. This fast-grilling tradition produced the kafta kabob.
A kafta kabob is a skewer of ground meat seasoned with herbs and spices and grilled over a fire. They bring a unique and exotic flavor to the table. And because they cook so quickly, they are easy to grill to perfection.
Traditional Middle Eastern kafta is made from mutton. For this recipe, we used our own grass-fed ground beef and seasoned the kafta with garlic, onions, parsley, and mint from the garden. Cumin and cinnamon give kafta kabobs their signature Middle Eastern flavor.
Baba ganoush is a dip made from eggplant, tahini (sesame seed paste), garlic, lemon juice, and olive oil. Grilling the eggplant gives your baba ganoush its smoky flavor while removing the phenolic compounds that can make eggplant bitter. It can be can be served on top of the kabobs or as a dip for vege-
tables or pita bread.
Pita bread can be grilled along with the kafta and eggplant or finish it on a cast iron skillet. Homemade pita is the perfect complement to your kafta kabob and brings an authentic flair to this dish.
These recipes are perfect for a simple and healthy weeknight meal for the family. Because these dishes are flavorful and out of the ordinary, they will make a wonderful addition to any weekend grilling party.
Yields: 4-6 servings
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
1 lb. grass-fed ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced
½ onion, minced
3 T. fresh parsley, chopped
3 T. fresh mint, chopped
½ t. cumin
¼ t. cinnamon
1 t. kosher salt
½ t. cayenne pepper
Preheat gas or charcoal grill according to your normal procedure. Submerge 8 wooden skewers in water for at least 10 minutes.
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Divide the beef mixture into eight portions and form the meat mixture around each skewer.
Place each skewer on direct heat for 2 minutes per side, with the lid to the grill open. Then move to indirect heat with grill lid closed for 10-12 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 160°F.
Yields: 8 servings
Prep time: 7 minutes
Inactive prep time: 1 hr
Cook time:10 minutes
1 packet, or 2¼ t. fast-acting dry yeast
1 ½ t. sugar
1 1/3 c. water
4 c. bread flour
1 T. salt
¼ c. olive oil
Mix yeast, sugar, and water in a large mixing bowl. Let mixture sit for 5 minutes, until bubbles begin to form. Add remaining ingredients and knead for 5 minutes until a smooth, elastic dough is formed. Let rise for one hour.
Place a cast iron skillet on medium high heat. Divide dough into 8 equal pieces and form into balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out dough until each pita is 1/8” thick. Cook the formed pitas on preheated skillet for 2 minutes on each side. Serve warm with kafta kabobs and baba ganoush.
Yields: 6 servings
Prep time: 7 minutes
Cook time:20 minutes
Inactive prep time:10 minutes
1 large eggplant, thickly sliced
¼ c. tahini
2 cloves garlic
2 t. fresh parsley
1 T. good-quality extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra to drizzle on the eggplant
¼ t. salt
juice of one lemon
pinch of cumin
Preheat grill. Drizzle sliced eggplant with olive oil. Grill on direct heat for 2 minutes on each side, then move to indirect heat with the grill lid closed for an additional 10-15 minutes (or until flesh is tender). Remove from grill.
Once the eggplant has cooled, remove the peel. Place the eggplant pulp and remaining ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, about 45 seconds. Serve with pita bread.