Monday, May 4, 2009
We have this lovely restaurant in town called Vivaldi's. The name is a little misleading because I had thought it was an Italian place. It is, but it's also a Lebanese place. I know, I'd never heard of a combination like that before either! And I've actually never eaten any of the Italian food at Vivaldi's, for me, it's my Lebanese place. Mmmm, my mouth waters just thinking about it. The last time we were there (and by we I me just J & I - no kids, no playplace), I had Kafta. I love the flavours of Lebanese cuisine. So delicious. And I started to wonder if I could replicate this at home. So I did some looking. I found a recipe for the basic meat mixture at LebGuide, which is a guide to all things Lebanese. I figured that would be my best bet, who better than to get a Lebanese recipe from than the Lebanese themselves. Now, I don't have the skewers over charchoal authenticity of it, I did the as meatballs roasted in the oven version. I also had no idea (except my memory) of how to replicate the sauce that Vivaldi's serves. J was quite impressed with the end result, he said I got it pretty darn close.
Here's the recipe:
2 1/2 lbs finely ground lamb or beef (I used extra lean ground beef)
2 cups tighly packed washed and picked parsley (incredibly there was no fresh parsley at the market this week, so I substituted 1/2 cup of dry)
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves or 1 TBS dry mint leaves (I used fresh)
1 large onion, cut up for food processor
1 tsp Bhar Helou or 1/4 each ground cinammon, cloves, nutmeg (I used the cinamon, cloves and nutmeg version)
1 tsp salt, more to taste
1/2 tsp ground black pepper, or to taste
In a food processor, chop onion extremely fine. Add parsely and mint and until you have a fine - not liquified - homogeneous mixture. Put the meat in a large mixing bowl, add all ingredients and spices to meat, combine and mix thoroughly with your hands.
I heated the oven to 400* degrees and formed the meat mixture into large meatballs. I put a little olive oil on my clay baker and then baked the meatballs (uncovered) in it for a good half hour. (Check the meatballs to make sure that the meat is cooked through.)
Now for the sauce:
1 bulb of garlic
2 tsp olive oil
1 large onion (chopped)
1 red pepper (chopped)
1 green pepper (chopped)
1 can whole tomatoes
1 can tomato sauce
1 tbsp beef beef stock mix
1 tsp cinnimon
1 tsp parsley flakes
fresh ground pepper to taste
Roast the garlic. I do this by taking the garlic apart into cloves and removing the skins. I put the cloves onto a sheet of aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil. Wrap up the garlic into a little foil package. Bake at 350* for 45 minutes. When the garlic is done, puree it with a hand blender and set aside to use later.
Use a larger cooking pot. Heat the other tsp of olive oil on medium heat. Add the chopped onion, red & green peppers, and mix into the oil. Allow the vegetables to cook covered (but stirring them up every few minutes as to not burn or over cook). (I'm going to use one of my favorite cooking descriptions here) Allow the vegetables to sweat. (Don't you just love that description? I've been waiting to use it - it basically means they need to cook until soft and allow the natural liquid to come out of them). Take each tomato from the can and individually squeeze it in - set the remaining tomato juice aside, we're going to use it for something else. Add the can of tomato sauce. Mix in the seasonings (cinnimon, parsley, beef stock, pepper) and the roasted garlic puree. Bring to a little boil, stirring often. Then, reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer.
*As with a lot of tomato sauces, the longer the simmer the better. I have a friend in Italy whose mother starts their tomato sauces in the morning and lets them simmer all day long.
The rice part:
You should have about a cup of tomato juice reserved from the can of tomatoes. Cook 1 cup of basamati rice with the tomato juice and a cup of water. (Measure to make sure, the ratio for cooking rice is 1 cup of rice to 2 cups of liquid).
Serve the Kafta on top of the rice and pour the sauce over that. Delicious!
I definately want to make the Kafta again and experiment with it a bit. I would like to try it on the BBQ this summer, maybe as a kebab with some veggies.
I think this meal would have been even better if it had a side accompniament. Some hummus and pita or a tabouleh salad would have been the perfect contrasts.
My oldest son, Elijah, is fascinated that I take pictures of our food and put them on my website, he wanted to present the kafta to you all, so here is the shot of his hand. You also have to imagine a four year voice of dramatic authority accompanying it with, "Your dinner is served"