Thursday Night Smackdown: "They look like little turds."

He has a way with words.  It’s one of the many reasons we’ve made it to four days after our seventh anniversary.  He also has a way with making ground meat into puppets while he’s working with it, which is only slightly less endearing than his impressive lexicon.


I’ve had Claudia Roden’s New Book of Middle Eastern Food for over a year but have only used it once, for an eggplanty thing* that Brian assures me was delicious; I don’t really go in for eggplanty things. I do go in for spicy, lamb-y Middle Easterny things, things involving tahini and radishes, so I went for the trifecta tonight, which also satisfies Brian’s apparent enjoyment of food that looks like turds: Kibbeh Makli Mahshieh, Tahina bel Laban Zabadi and Radish Salad. (Who knew the word for “radish” was the same in Arabic and English?)**

You’re foodies, so I’m sure you know what all that means.

*This was my third week of blogging, so you’ll have to excuse the fact that this post is really quite awful.

**It’s probably not, is it?

For the one or two of you who don’t – your lack of worldliness is nothing to be ashamed of, really – here are the rough translations:

  • Kibbeh Makli Mahshish: Meat logs made of an outer shell of blended lamb and bulgar stuffed with seasoned ground beef and pine nuts and deep fried, AKA the aforementioned “turds.”* May also be referred to as “meat dangles,” but not in mixed company.
  • Tahina be Laban Zabadi: Creamy yogurt and tahini dip that the book refers to as a “cream salad,” but which I call the lazy man’s hummus because you don’t have to kill yourself skinning chickpeas.**
  • Radish Salad: Radishes.

Not only is it delicious, but it allows you to engage in the always enjoyable and never at all disgusting process of pureeing meat to a paste in the food processor.  Picking out the tendon-y bits is my favorite. Have the kids help out!

*Dear People of the Middle East: I’m sorry to refer to one of your classic dishes as a “turd.”  But surely, you too must recognize their strong affinity to a deuce.  Best, Me.

**For those of you to whom it’s never occurred to skin a chickpea, make some hummus with skinned chickpeas and then call to thank me.

The only other time I put an animal-based protein into the food processor it called forth demons from the 7th circle of hell, so that I was willing to go through with this should give you an inkling as to how very good the kibbeh sounded. Lamb, check. Bulgar, check. Onions, check. Beef with cinnamon and allspice, check. Pine nuts, check. Deep-frying, check. Lamb paste…acceptable in this context.  It helped that I wasn’t expected to pipe the lamb paste frosting-style, although the kibbeh assembly had it’s own troubling, unexpectedly scatological element.

I pureed an onion then added the lamb. I had to hold down the FoPro with my full body weight, because it turns out that the FoPro, like myself, does not particularly like having to liquidize meats; also like me, it is willing to do so if it has to.  Some bulgar was blended in, which totally helped to make it look like a dough and not like something the dog vomited up after eating an entire log of bologna. Okay, not really. Luckily, I got to put it out of sight in the fridge while we moved on.

I dealt with the yogurt sauce and radishes while Brian cooked up the ground beef and engaged in the much creepier work of creating “torpedoes” out of the lamb paste and stuffing them with beef.

Both the yogurt and radishes involved virtually no work on my part; the most difficult part by far was cleaning out the FoPro’s bowl so I could reuse it for the yogurt, mainly because I didn’t really want to touch it with my bare hands.  The yogurt was joined by tahini, garlic and lemon and whizzed until smooth, the radishes simply got sliced and tossed with parsley, lemon juice and olive oil.

The kibbeh construction required considerably more dexterity and the willingness to stick one’s finger deep, deep, deep into a cold, slimy tube of meat paste.  And work the tube of meat paste around one’s finger like it’s a digital pottery wheel.  Apparently, in Egypt the longer and thinner you can get your meat tube the better, while the Lebanese go for a squatter, more egg-shaped kibbeh.*

I go for the one that (1) gets the meat-tube-formation process over the most quickly and (2) looks the least phallic.  Go Lebanon!

The beef mixture gets scooped inside and the edge pinched closed.  Brian instructs me to advise that should you choose to try this at home, the optimal meat tube procedure is to make it short and squat, fill and seal it and then roll it out to be longer and more torpedo-esque.

*That’s what she said!

The kibbeh got a hot oil bath for 5 or 6 minutes, until they were a deep brown; the bulgar sent up a lovely nutty flavor.  The frying did nothing to enhance the turd-like appearance, although if all shit could smell like this, I’d mind having giant dogs a lot less.

While Brian kept kibbeh-frying, I finished off the radishes; I hadn’t wanted to add the lemon juice too early and have the radishes bleed and end up sitting in a pile of pink liquid.  I also spent some time bemoaning my lack of foresight for not having purchased any pita bread, because it was one less vehicle for scooping up large amounts of yogurt-tahini “cream salad.”

This mistake will not be repeated.  Two out of two dogs agree that they love licking yogurt-tahini sauce off a spoon, and will willingly sit still with the spoon three inches from their slavering faces for permission to lick.

This kibbeh is fucking good.

That’s all there is to it.  It’s amazing, especially slathered in the yogurt sauce.  The lamb and bulgar made a crisp outer shell and had a gentle oniony bite.  The nuttiness of the fried bulgar was picked up by the pine nuts in the filling, and the spiced beef was a gorgeous complement and juxtaposition to the gamier lamb.  The yogurt was thick, creamy and bright with raw garlic and lemon.  With each bite of kibbeh we’d scoop up a big ol’ glob of yogurt sauce and its tangy fresh flavor was just what the kibbeh needed to keep from just being heavy meat logs.  The radishes were like a little palate cleanser in between.  Or rather, they should have been; I don’t know what kind of radishes Farmer John is growing this year, but these were shockingly mild and tasted almost like jicama.  Still, I’ll never turn down a radish.

Claudia Roden: This woman knows how to build a good meat log.

ONE YEAR AGO:  The big stomach wave makes the love

[tags]food, cooking, claudia roden, middle eastern[tags]

12 thoughts on “Thursday Night Smackdown: "They look like little turds."

  1. It does look good. I may be too lazy to make it in an ordinary day but it’s a nice meal for a special occasion. I’m mostly admiring the pictures – I just started a blog and want to put the occasional recipe up but so far no pretty pictures, just stream of conciousness recipe paragraph, lol. I check your blog for new recipes periodically and they always look really tempting.

  2. The first time we ever ground venison, we used my husband’s great-grandparents’ ancient hand-cranked meat grinder. It required us to clean out the white membrane stuff that got stuck in the grinding mechanism and caused a total blockage every two minutes. It was really fucking gross.

    It’s that kind of thing that inspires vegetarianism.

  3. I knew as soon as I saw the first picture that you made deep fried deliciousness. My father is Arab, and kibbeh is a treat, and pretty regular for holiday meals. It’s freakin delicious, and probably the closest thing to meat candy – so easy to sit there and eat five of them before you know it.

  4. It didn’t look like turds. The second I saw that photo I thought, “Did she make kibbe? Yay!” So therefore, it looks like kibbe. I miss my Syrian former coworker who used to bring me kibbe at lunch. He apparently doesn’t miss me. He friended me on facebook and instantly defriended me.

    I know about 20 words of Arabic thanks to some Kuwaiti former coworkers, but I never learned the word for radish, so I’ll just go along and assume that you’re right and the words is the same in Arabic and English.

  5. You’re hilarious. We went to some Lebanese friends’ house for lunch last week and they made this and I (rudely) commented that they looked like turds. They were like, yeah, we know. Apparently Lebanese kids have the corner on the “kibbeh=turds” pantheon of jokes.

    And if you watch the Golden Girls… everytime someone says “Lebanese” all I can think about is that time when Rose says “Oh, so those nice girls are Lebanese!” and Blanche says “Not LEBANESE, Rose, LESBIANS!”

  6. This looks delicious but kibbeh is not allowed in my house. I once recruited my fiance in making hundreds of them for a function, vegetarian ones (the outside bit was bulgar and mashed potato) and the fuckers would not hold together. The process involved some impolite words exchanged and damn near brought me to tears. We don’t make kibbeh anymore…

  7. Kibbeh is fantastic. I make a lazy, albeit delicious version, where I mix lamb and bulgar wheat, spread it in the bottom of a 9×13 pan, next layer is onions, pine nuts, garlic and cinnamon, top layer is beef with cinnamon. Not as much like turds, but gets the job done. I serve mine with cucumber-yogurt salad. Hmm, I think I know what I’m having for dinner tonight!

  8. lucrezia, look at greyrat’s way, a couple comments down. same great taste, so much easier!

    also, there are a thousand blogs with far superior photography – check out the blogroll.

    kristin, grinding, i think i could take. but the total puree is almost too much for me. it’s a good thing these things were so freaking good.

    emily, i stopped myself at 3, but it was not easy. we gave the leftovers to the neighbors, and now i’m a little sorry. (sorry, neighbors. but i really wish i had leftovers.)

    rachel, okay, they look like kibbeh. but kibbeh look like turds. therefore, they look like turds. it’s a classical logic formulation; you really can’t disprove it.

    meathook, there’s really no way to deny it, they look like turds and that is that.

    i DO watch the golden girls, and i totally remember that.

    sally, i almost made the potato one, but then my love of lamb won out. i beseech you, try again with meat! it went off without a hitch.

    i’m sorry that that sounded unintentionally dirty.

    alex, yeah, i really am. thanks for noticing!

    greyrat, that sounds so much easier, and so much more like what i’m doing very soon because this was SO GOOD.

  9. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Smackdown: I Cannot Be Taught

  10. Pingback: thursday night smackdown » Smackdown: Kibbeh Me Timbers

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