This week I popped by Russo's to stock up on some supplies and into my cart fell a package of gorgeous pitas. They were about 12" in diameter, tissue paper thin and soft enough to wrap a baby in. I used one for lunch that day with a salad and rest of the package languished in my microwave bread box until I finally decided I was craving lamb kofte. I first made this dish back in 2008 with my 11+ class and it was my first introduction to sumac. Sumac is a gorgeous tart, lemony ground spice that comes from grinding the drupes of the Rhus genus of plants. Just promise me you won't collect any poison sumac from the side of the road and try to make your own. I get my sumac from the middle eastern markets in Watertown on Auburn St, but there are loads of sources online. Husband was watching me prepare this as he popped in and out of the kitchen at various stages and he would occasionally say his usual 'i don't think i fancy that', 'what's that, will i like it?' Once I pulled the toasted pita out of the oven and started breaking it up onto the platter his mood changed considerably. The smells won him over. The recipe is an adaptation of the one by Claudia Roden in her gorgeous book Arabesque.
This is not a difficult dish to prepare and many steps can be done ahead like the spicy tomato sauce and the kofte mixture. Take your yogurt out of the fridge an hour or so before so it isn't freezing cold when you put it on the dish. Don't buy those really thick pocketless pitas for this it will be too much bread. The thinner the pita the better it softens up under everything and becomes a tasty base for it all. Don't skip the foil on your sheet pan or you will be scrubbing a big mess for days. In the end the combo of the tart yogurt and lemony tart sumac with spicy tomato sauce seeps into the pita and it make a lovely, messy, delicious mess. Bring lots of napkins, you'll need em!
Yogurtlu Kofte Kebabi (lamb kebabs in a spicy tomato and yogurt sauce)
For the Spicy Tomato sauce:
1 can of 1 lb 16oz Fire Roasted Tomatoes, diced
1 jalapeño or serrano, remove seeds and ribs,mince fine
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small yellow onion, minced
a few glugs of olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
Aleppo pepper to taste
1-2 tsp sugar
Sauté the onion in some olive oil until soft, Add the jalapeño and garlic, stir once or twice and cook about 1 - 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, season with salt, pepper and sugar. Simmer over low heat until it begins to thicken, about 15 - 20 mins. Add the Aleppo pepper and taste for salt. This can now be shut off and reheated later or proceed with the recipe.
For the Yogurt Sauce (skip if paleo, make if primal)
2 cups thick Greek yoghurt like Fage at room temp, stirred well. (I will sometimes add a clove of garlic mashed well with salt in a mortar and pestle.
1-1/2 lbs ground lamb
1/4 - 1/3 cup minced fresh flat leaf parsley
salt and pepper (season generously)
1 small yellow onion, minced fine
In a bowl, mix the lamb with the salt, pepper, parsley and onion. Distribute the ingredients well. If you are curious about the seasonings, cook a small patty in a pan to taste for seasoning.
Again, you can cover this and leave it in the fridge until you are ready to cook. It gives the seasonings a chance to permeate the meat.
Finish and Assembly
2 pitas (skip this for paleo and primal)
1/2 - 1 tsp sumac
2 TBS pine nuts
2 TBS butter or olive oil
Heat oven to 450F
Reheat the tomato sauce if necessary, bring the yogurt sauce to room temp.
Line a sheet pan with heavy duty foil and smear with a small amount of oil to stop the kofte from sticking. Take the kofte mix and form long sausage shapes. Make them 2 or 3 or 4 inches long, but make sure they are all of even thickness. Arrange them spaced well on the sheet pan.
Toast the pita lightly in the oven on the rack. Remove and break the pita up onto a platter.
Place the kofte in the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Turn the kofte. Roast 3 - 5 minutes more. Turn the kofte again and set the oven onto broiler and cook kofte under the broiler for another 3 minutes or so until nicely brown. (this cooking time is based on a kofte about the thickness of a fat Italian sausage, your mileage may vary)
Meanwhile melt the butter or heat the oil in a small pan. Add the pine nuts and cook until butter stops foaming or until the oil and nuts smell fragrant.
Spoon the warmed spicy tomato sauce over the pitas on the platter. Sprinkle with some of the sumac. Spoon the yogurt sauce over the tomato sauce. Arrange the kofte on top of the platter and pour over the pine nuts and oil or butter. Sprinkle with more sumac and serve.