Sis Kofte: Defeating menu fatigue with cultural exploration

Sis Kofte: Defeating menu fatigue with cultural exploration

It’s a long Wednesday in the middle of a week crammed full of after-school activities and extra projects at the office. Dinner has to be quick and easy and—judging by the contents of the refrigerator—it has to be ground beef. A quick review of recent dining history reveals that all of the standard go-to dishes involving ground beef have been eaten on a very short rotation. It’s time for something different, but equally as easy to prepare as any taco, spaghetti or burger recipe, and it’s gotta be just as accessible as those staple dishes have become. Enter the scramble for a new recipe.

Finding new recipes can be surprisingly difficult to find and commit to, especially when you’re looking for an entirely new dish that is familiar enough to win over your family. I find the best place to start the search is within the flavors of another culture. Pick a region or country that is interesting and scour for information pertaining to cuisine. Check for cookbooks at the library or search the internet for travel blogs describing cooking techniques and providing recipes for certain dishes that will meet your criteria. It’s entertaining  to study the cuisines of other cultures, and it can be interesting to see how similar many cultures really are when it comes to  food and drink. Try making it a point this weekend to grab a cookbook from the library about Tunisian Tajine cooking or the open flame cooking of the Patagonia.

But right now it may be late on a Wednesday, so I’m gonna share one of my favorite ground beef recipes from Turkish cuisine so that you can just get started with dinner. The dish is called sis kofte, or shish kofta, and is very similar to shish kebob. The biggest difference is the usage of minced meat in kofte, whereas kabob is made of cubed meat. Kofte is a mixture of ground beef or lamb combined with chopped herbs and spices that can be skewered and grilled or rolled into balls and pan fried. It is best served on flatbread or pita with some sauteed or pickled onions, feta cheese, and hummus. It’s a very tasty and unique variation of a meatball or meat loaf, and it’s even easier to prepare than either of those dishes. It’s so easy, in fact, it can be prepared at camp and enjoyed in the great outdoors.

Sis Kofte

2 pounds ground beef (lamb, or veal or pork can be used in any combination)

1/2 yellow onion, grated

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley or cilantro

1/2 cup chopped fresh mint

3 tablespoons Hungarian paprika (any paprika will work, even smoked)

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh cracked pepper

8-10 sheets of lavash or flat bread, warmed

1 cup of hummus, any flavor

1 cup of feta cheese, crumbled

torn mint and parsley for garnish

  1. Mix together the beef, herbs, spices, onion, and garlic in a large bowl.
  2. If using wooden skewers, it’s best to soak them skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Metal skewers are very cheap and will be useful for many other applications, so I recommend the purchase.
  3. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill for cooking at high heat with clean and well oiled grates. Split the meat mixture evenly for each skewer, at least 4 and up to 8 skewers. Roll the meat into a cylindrical shape and push the sharp point of the skewer into the meat.
  4. Grill the skewered meat, turning frequently, until the meat is about 135 degrees internally, about 15 minutes. Pull off of the grill and let it rest for ten minutes before removing from the skewer and serving on the warmed flatbread with onion, feta, hummus, and herbs.
  5. Alternatively, roll the meat mixture into large oval shapes and cook in a skillet set to medium heat until the kofte reaches an internal temperature of 135. Allow to rest for about ten minutes and serve with the same flatbread, onion, feta, hummus, and herbs.
  6. Enjoy with family and friends and continue to explore the culture and cuisine of others.
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