Friday, December 24, 2010

Lost it?

I think I have gone and lost it. Lost my kitchen mojo that is. Usually this time of year I am constantly in the kitchen, baking cookies and stews, braising meat and making stock. This year? All I seem to be doing in the kitchen is screwing things up. Burned caramel, melted cookies, disastrous deep frying's really been bringing me down. Things have been so hectic around here, it seems that when I finally get a chance to get my butt behind the stove, I am more rushed than usual and when that happens I have a tendency to let things get out of control (see the disintegrating falafel incident).

One thing that DIDN'T get screwed up royally was our Middle Eastern/Mediterranean Christmas feast. Well, the majority turned out wonderfully anyway. I need a new falafel recipe, as the one I used completely burst into a million little pieces once dropped into the deep fryer. Luckily, we still had plenty of hummus, pitas, and beef and chicken shawarma to fill our bellies that night.

I don't know how authentic these recipes are, but the spices in both the chicken and the beef meatballs, tasted just like the shawarma you would get from your local middle eastern take-out place. Shawarma is typically roasted on a spit over hot fire and sliced off in thin layers, similar to a kebab, but since I have neither a large spit, nor a large fire, I opted for my broiler and a charcoal grill. Topped with some very pungent tahini sauce and stuffed into a soft, thick pita, they hit the spot.

Chicken Shawarma
adapted from
makes about 4-6 sandwiches

1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken breast tenders
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
1/4 cup white distilled vinegar
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 teaspoon ground allspice
juice of 1 lemon

Combine all ingredients minus chicken in a large ziploc bag and mix until combined. Add chicken, coat evenly, and let marinate in the refrigerator overnight, or at least 8 hours.

Prepare grill. I grilled these on a charcoal grill over direct heat, moving the chicken to indirect heat when they were nice and seared. The chicken I used was pretty thin, so it took about 10-15 minutes total cooking time. Just be sure to bring the internal temperature up to 165. You can also cook these on a grill pan indoors if you have a good vent hood, as the marinade is going to create some serious smoke.

Serve warm or at room temperature in pitas with hummus or tahini sauce. If you are one of those crazy people who actually likes cucumbers, I hear some slices are particularly good on this sandwich.

Beef Shawarma Meatballs
adapted from Evil Shenanigans
makes about 20-24 meatballs

1 pound ground beef (I used 80/20, but you can go a little leaner if you want)
3 garlic cloves, minced finely
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 onion, diced finely
2 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt

Line a baking sheet with tin foil and spray lightly with non-stick cooking spray.

In a large bowl, mix all ingredients until well combined. Gather about two tablespoons, roll into a ball, place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining beef mixture. You should get about 20-24 meatballs. Let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat your broiler, bake for 15-20 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 155. Cover with foil and let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Tahini Sauce

1 cup tahini
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
3 cloves garlic, minced very finely
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Let stand at room temperature until serving.

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