While panning feverishly through the contents of the latest Bon Appétit magazine, I readily chose what I think is the standout of the entire issue. Though generally everything about Bon Appétit‘s magazine appeals to me (from the formatting to the design to the recipe profiles), I am an absolute sucker for Middle-Eastern fare of any kind. This month, the focus shifts to grilling culture in Lebanon. Mint and cumin-spiced lamb chops, sweet and tangy hummus, pink-pickled turnips, chicken brochettes, Lebanese tomato salsa, tomato & cabbage tabbouleh, as well as spiced lamb burgers fall under this Lebanese grilling umbrella. While I did end up making the hummus, I was drawn most to the lamb burgers, tabbouleh, and tomato salsa. Generally speaking, if I come across a lamb recipe of any kind, you can bet that I’ll make it. The tabbouleh appealed to me because I am inexperienced in the cooking and consumption realms as it pertains to this dish. The Lebanese salsa looked like a fresh, slightly varied take on a summertime staple, so I thought it would pair nicely with the aforementioned recipes.
I found early on as I prepped this meal that there was quite a bit of overlap with the ingredients found in each dish. Various herbs, spices, olive oil, salt and pepper seasoning all serve as the cornerstone for all three, while each is vastly different in nature. The list of ingredients in each is underwhelming, as most kitchens have the spices and oils necessary for creation. As is commonplace with any recipe, the majority of your time will be spent on preparation: chopping, dicing, mincing.
I started with the simplest: Lebanese tomato salsa. The ingredients are straightforward enough: olive oil, tomatoes, garlic cloves, salt, cayenne pepper, and chopped fresh mint. The addition of the cayenne pepper really gives this salsa a unique twist. It’s as easy as it looks and sounds to make, and equally as delicious.
Next, I soaked the bulgur wheat in boiling water (another first, cooking with bulgur), while I chopped the vegetables: onion, cabbage, and tomato. Three simple vegetables give this tabbouleh all that it needs to shine. A moderate helping of coarsely chopped fresh mint leaves, olive oil, lemon juice, Aleppo pepper and salt round out this refreshing side dish. This recipe sounds basic at first glance, but the melding of flavors plays to the strengths of the tabbouleh. The tartness of the lemon juice coupled with the chopped sweet onion is only one example of food chemistry at work.
The spiced lamb burger was equally as easy to prepare:
Ground lamb + onion + parsley + coriander + cumin + cinnamon + salt + black pepper.
Mix the ingredients found above, let marinate for an hour, stuff a medium pita, oil the grill, and cook for 5 minutes a side. Instant gratification. It seems a bit counterintuitive to throw raw meat into a pita, close tightly, and grill, but it works effortlessly. I suggest cooking for 6-7 minutes, instead of the 5 minutes that the recipe suggests. Cooking times are always dependent on certain variables like grill type, so use your own discretion. I added feta and mint to the lamb burger, but have it your way.
Lebanese Tomato Salsa
Recipes from the August 2014 issue of Bon Appétit
Yields 2 cups
3 tbsp. olive oil
8 medium tomatoes, seeded, cut into 1/2″ pieces
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. dried mint or 2 tbsp. chopped fresh mint
Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add tomatoes and garlic; season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until tomatoes release their juices, about 4 minutes.
Add cayenne and mint, if using, and cook, stirring often, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes; season with salt. Let cool.Tomato and Cabbage Tabbouleh
Makes 2 cups
1 cup bulgur
1/2 medium head green cabbage, cut into 1″-thick wedges, then very thinly sliced crosswise (4 cups)
1 small sweet onion, finely chopped
4 cups assorted small tomatoes, halved, quartered if large
3 cups coarsely chopped fresh mint
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Place bulgur in a large bowl and ad 1 1/2 cups boiling water. Let soak until softened and water is absorbed, 40-45 minutes. Toss bulgur, cabbage, onion, tomatoes, mint, oil, lemon juice, and Aleppo pepper in a large bowl to combine; season with salt.Spiced Lamb Burger
2 1/2 lb. ground lamb, preferably shoulder
1 medium onion, very finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. ground coriander
3/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for grilling
8 thick medium pita breads with pockets
Using a fork, mix lamb, onion, parsley, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and 1/4 cup oil in a large bowl. Cover and chill at least one hour.
Prepare grill for medium heat and oil grate. Working one at a time, open each pita pocket by cutting along seam, halfway around perimeter. Spoon filling into pitas; spreading to edges. Close, pressing on filling to seal.
Grill pitas until filling is cooked through and bread is crisp, about 5 minutes per side.