Friday, March 09, 2007


Kofte! Another fun-to-say food word to add to my repertoire (along with such favorites as “kebab,” “cassoulet,” “pistou,” and “fritter”). I had never heard of these Turkish meatballs before Cooking Light thoughtfully introduced me to them, and I’m not saying these are necessarily the most authentic version, but who cares? This recipe is incredibly quick and easy (“superfast,” in Cooking Light-speak), wholesome, and quite flavorful but still straightforward—think interestingly spiced meatloaf in a pita. I’m a little wary of fresh mint—it’s just so strong—and held back a bit from the full ¼ cup when I made these on Wednesday night, but the mint turned out to be the big bright note that makes the flavor so interesting (though the undertones of cinnamon and allspice did good work, too). Next time, I’ll add all the mint without fear.

The main change I made was to grill the meat on my George Foreman rather than broiling it. The practical reason for this was that our broiler doesn’t work anymore. But also, the introductory notes to the recipe mentioned that kofte are “often grilled,” so grilling sounded almost called-for to me. I also added some diced cucumber to the plain yogurt sauce, because cucumbers and yogurt go together like ramma lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong, in the immortal words of Grease.

On the side, I made smash-fried potatoes, in a blind attempt to replicate the toothsome-looking ones I’d seen in a Martha Stewart magazine a few months back, the recipe for which Martha has somehow neglected to post to her site, as far as I can tell. Trying to reconstruct the process from memory, I boiled small yellow potatoes whole, drained them, gently smashed each one into a disk, and then pan-fried the disks (like fritters!) in a little olive oil with minced garlic and dried oregano. I think they would have turned out perfectly, except I didn’t let the potatoes boil quite long enough, so they splintered apart when I smashed them instead of staying in neat little cakes. What resulted was more like hash browns than I would have liked, but they were still delicious hash browns. I fully intend to persevere in my quest for the ideal smash-fried potato, but not with the kofte. Until I got midway through the recipe, I hadn’t realized that one serving involved two kofte, which, though not a heavy meal (it’s Cooking Light, remember), is substantial enough. In the future, I think a green salad on the side will be fine.

½ cup chopped white onion
⅓ cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
¼ cup chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground red pepper
⅛ teaspoon ground allspice
1 pound lean ground beef
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 plum tomatoes, sliced into 8 (¼-inch-thick) slices
4 (6-inch) pita pocket breads, cut in half
¼–½ cup plain yogurt
Optional: 1 small cucumber, diced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat broiler or prepare a grill.

2. Combine first 12 ingredients (through egg white) in a large bowl; mix with fingers until combined. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions; shape each portion into a 2-inch patty.

3. Place patties on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray and broil 4 minutes on each side, or grill patties to desired degree of doneness.

4. If desired, mix diced cucumber into yogurt in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place 1 tomato slice and 1 patty in each pita half; top with yogurt sauce.

Serves: 4 (2 filled pita halves per person)
Time: 30 minutes

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