I was a reallly, really hard letter to pick for, because let's be real-- Italy. Israel. Ireland. Some of the best cuisines in the world are from countries starting with I.
But eventually, I had to go with Israel, because this Such a Lot of World to Eat project got started with an article in Saveur magazine about Michael Solomonov, an Israeli chef who's currently heading up Zahav, a restaurant in Philadelphia that is supposed to be fabulous. Someday, I hope to visit both Philadelphia and Tel Aviv, but for now I just have to pita here at home.
Israeli food tends to focus on fresh, seasonal produce prepared well, which makes for perfect spring and summer eating. It also means that it's generally healthy, which you can tell just by looking at the toppings and garnishes-- baba ganoush with roasted eggplant, Israeli salad with fresh cucumber, tomato, and bell pepper, and matbucha, which is essentially a cooked salsa with the nicest hint to spice and a lovely roasted tomato flavor. I've linked to several recipes in the ingredients that I used to create the pitas, comparing and finding the most standard, traditional, and flavorful recipes I could find. I came across a really lovely blog by Tori Avey, full of traditional and fresh Israeli recipes, and I have a feeling I'll be going back for more really good food!
When you have all of that flavorful goodness tucked into a pita with some grilled lamb, you have the makings of a really stellar meal. Kufta means pounded, so these kebabs (kabobs?) are made from ground lamb (or beef, if you must) and formed into oblong patties before being skewered and grilled. Forget hamburgers this summer, all you need for barbecued happiness is some grilling skewers, pitas, and all the fresh veggies.
As for the pitas, well, you can make your own at home (it's pretty straightforward and simple), or you can buy them-- it's all good! We don't judge here, but I will say that there's pretty much nothing like a fresh, hot pita, whether filling it or just filling your face with it. Your choice.
Shalom! (I think that's how they say bon appetit in Israel. But don't quote me on that)
Kufta Lamb Kebab Pitas
- 1.5 pound of ground lamb or beef
- 1.5 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped very fine
- 1/2 cup of white onion, minced very fine
- 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
- 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
- 1/2 tsp. black pepper
- 4 pitas, cut in half
- Baba ganoush, hummus, or tahini
- Israeli salad
In a mixing bowl, combine the lamb, salt, parsley, onion, cumin, garlic, and pepper by hand. Divide it into about 12 even portions and shape them into oblong patties and place on grilling skewers, three on each skewer. Spray your grill with oil and place the meat on it, carefully turning every 2-3 minutes, and cooking until the insides reach 160 F.
Once the meat is ready, pull it off the skewers and set it aside. Cut the pitas in half, and spread the insides with baba ganoush or hummus and line with lettuce leaves. Layer in matbucha, Israeli salad, and meat, topping with more salad. Serve immediately