• Leigh

Monday Night Meatballs: Middle Eastern Style


We periodically go to a Lebanese restaurant that has an incredibly good casserole featuring meatballs--kofta--baked with potatoes and tahini sauce. The dish is bit more complex than I wanted to attempt for a weeknight dinner, so, instead, I decided to come up with an easier, faster main dish that incorporated the flavors of the original casserole. I kept the ground beef in the original dish but not the potatoes. Bulgur, which often appears in kofta in parts of the Middle East and Europe, seemed like a better alternative. Plenty of onion, garlic, and spices provide flavor to the kofta, which I bake rather than fry. Nonetheless, the real star of the recipe is the tahini sauce. The sauce is earthy, slightly nutty, and spiked with lemon juice and garlic. I also use yogurt in my tahini sauce, which gives the sauce more tang and creaminess. Serve the kofta with rice or atop naan or pita for a Monday night meatball meal that's far from ordinary.

Middle Eastern Style Meatballs: Kofta with Tahini Sauce -- Serves 4+

1 1/2 cups of bulgur (I use fine)

1 3/4 cups of boiling water

1 chopped onion

2-3 teaspoons of minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon each of allspice, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, paprika, nutmeg,

and pepper

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 cup of chopped parsley

1 pound of lean ground beef (93 or 95 percent lean)

Extra fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Sauce

2 cups of plain, fat-free yogurt

1 cup of tahini

1 cup of water

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

1/2 cup of lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon of salt

In a large bowl, combine the bulgur, onion, and boiling water and them sit for about 20 minutes, or until most of the water has been absorbed into the bulgur (you can hurry this a bit by microwaving the bulgur mixture for a minute or two). Add the minced garlic, spices, salt, parsley, and ground beef and mix everything until thoroughly combined and the spices and bulgur are well distributed and incorporated with the beef. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a sheet pan with non-stick cooking spray or line the pan with aluminum foil and coat the foil with cooking spray, for easier cleanup. With damp hands, form meatball shapes that are about 2-inches in diameter. Put the meatballs on the prepared pan and flatten them out a little--more like little patties or footballs. The flattening also helps keep the meatballs from rolling, which is a good thing at dinner time. You should be able to form about 15 kofta. Bake the kofta for about 30 minutes or until slightly browned and cooked through. While the kofta are baking, whisk all the sauce ingredients together well. When the kofta are done, pour the sauce over the kofta and bake them for about 15 minutes more or until the sauce is bubbling. Sprinkle some parsley over kofta and serve the kofta and sauce over rice or bread, if you'd like.

#kofta #groundbeef #tahinisauce #yogurt

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