May 112008

Kibbeh/קובה מטוגנת/كبة مقلية/Kibeh/Kibbe/Kubbeh

Le Cordon Jew (GET IT???!!!!1!!) is my new cooking series. I’ve been cooking regularly since I was about ten or eleven, and along with music and not leaving the house, it’s one of my favorite hobbies. When I lived in Israel, I had neither the money nor the equipment in my one-burner, no-oven apartment to do much of it, so when I descended into Exile, I threw myself back into the world of sauté and shallots with the kind of intensity and dedication I usually reserve only for scorn. My culinary passion, fostered by all that time in Zion, is Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, but I get a kick out of cooking just about everything. Le Cordon Jew, as its name implies, will focus on my epicurean fascination with all the facets of Jewish cuisine, from the old-fashioned Yiddishe Iron Curtain poverty food I grew up eating to the heady culinary fusion I encountered in Israel, where hummus, shakshuka and mesir wat shared city blocks. I plan to break down proven recipes step-by-step and augment them with plenty of images for you visual learners. And we’re starting out with kibbeh.

Kibbeh are ubiquitous in the Middle East, appearing in dozens of different forms, the most popular of which is the deep-fried torpedo. The Lebanese consider this version, sometimes called kibbeh nabulsiyeh (Nablus kibbeh), their national dish. The Syrians do too, but given that they also consider Lebanon their national property, that’s not entirely surprising.

Making kibbeh is not for beginners. It’s one of those dishes, like couscous or risotto, that serves as a test of skill within a particular cuisine (in this case, that of the Levantine Arabs), requiring several uninterrupted hours of delicate, tedious work. It’s worth it, of course, especially since you can freeze kibbeh essentially indefinitely – but it ain’t everyday food.

My recipe is derived from the one in the Sephardi cookbook A Fistful of Lentils. I’ve made some modifications and omissions based on my own experimentation, and judging by reactions, I’ve hit on a fairly successful formula. So read on…
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