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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Week of Peace Pt 2 (Recipe: Kofta Meatballs in Libyan Sauce)

It's funny to me, how foreign another culture can feel simply because of the food that it's people enjoy. By the same token, when you sit down and enjoy a meal with another person, it doesn't matter if you come from wildly different backgrounds: you've shared something together, something that you both enjoyed.

Food is funny that way. It can bring people together and it can keep them apart. It's all about the context, and the willingness of two people, or a group of people, to gather around one table and share one another's influences and culture. Americans used to be known for a lack of culinary adventurousness, but we've been getting steadily better. We're much more likely now to try new food from other countries, more likely than ever before.

Maybe a peaceful world seems, to some, a rather naive wish. But if we try for it, surely the world could be better. Nothing is perfect, but with countries at war with one another and within themselves, any improvement would be major improvement. As a cook, as someone who has benefited greatly from a good diet and from the process of cooking with and for others, I don't think it's such a bad idea to start the world-peace process with food. Even people with nothing at all in common can connect over food.

This recipe, Kofta Meatballs in Libyan Sauce, is a wonderful dish to enjoy with a whole group of people. Kofta is an almost universal food around the Mediterranean Middle East. It goes by several different names but the processes and ingredients are similar in all of them. The sauce is what makes it...and you could use all sorts of different sauces. Curry, Korma, Masala...but in keeping with the theme, I used a version of a traditional Libyan "gravy".  Based in tomatoes, garlic, and ginger, this sauce has a delightful mix of spices and goes wonderfully with the kofta.

Enjoy!


Kofta Meatballs in Libyan Sauce


For Kofta Meatballs:

1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (or chicken, lamb, or beef)
1 yellow onion, peeled and coarsely grated
1 cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (I used panko)
1 long green chili, seeded and minced
1 t garam masala
2 T chopped cilantro/coriander leaves
1/2 T grated fresh ginger
1 t salt

1. Heat over to 400 F and line a large cookie sheet with parchment.

2. Mix all ingredients with your hands until very well combined. Roll mixture into walnut-sized balls and place on the parchment-lined cookie sheet. Bake for about 20 minutes.

3. While they are baking make sauce. Simmer kofta for 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Libyan Sauce

3 cloves garlic, put through a press or minced
4 T olive oil
1 can diced tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1/2 T fresh ground ginger
1 t turmeric
1 1/2 t garam masala
1/2 t salt (more to taste)
2 cups vegetable stock
dash of cinnamon
dash of cayenne or harissa
juice of 1 lemon
3 T whole wheat flour
3/4 cup water

1. Heat olive oil on medium for a few minutes. Add garlic and cook until it is beginning to turn golden. Add tomatoes, ginger, and tomato sauce and cook until flavors meld, about 5 minutes.

2. Add remaining ingredients (except lemon) and simmer for about five more minutes. Add meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes or until meatballs are cooked through.

3. Whisk water and flour until a smooth slurry forms. Add to kofta and sauce and stir well. Add lemon juice, stir well, and serve over brown rice, couscous, or with pita.

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