Last week I cooked through a collection of Lebanese recipes from Saveur in a sort of culinary virtual trip to Lebanon. For some reason the road to Lebanon was paved with more than a few bumps. My cooking buddy took a nap instead. I cut the tomatoes wrong for the tabbouleh and included a raw turnip. Yuck. What was I thinking? I spent so much time chopping the parsley for the tabbouleh that after a few lonely and exhausting hours of cooking (which was planned as a social event) I never even got to the lamb. The two and a half pounds of ground lamb became a fifty dollar expense (long story). The first lamb dish I didn't get to start until seven and my family ate at nine. I got distracted and more than doubled the amount of grated onion in the lamb patties, and consequently my entire family wept over dinner.
The spiced lamb patties were probably the best. I couldn't be sure these were a hit the first night since it got so late and there was the whole raw onion fiasco, but the truth was in the leftovers. They just got better and better. The flavor is very rich, so it's nice served with something tart. I tried it with pita and baba ghannouj one night, and then with basmati rice and labne the next day. Delicious.
Reading through recipes makes them sound so complicated and laborious, but these are very simple. You mix the patties (meatballs in disguise), brown them, simmer them in tomato sauce, and finish them off in the oven. Eat them right away or reheat them all week for lunches.
2 lb. ground lamb
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/3 cup flour
2 teaspoons Lebanese seven-spice powder
6 cloves garlic (2 minced, 4 thinly sliced)
1 -1/2 large white onions (1/2 grated, 1 sliced 1/2" thick)- this is where I screwed up and put it ALL in the lamb mixture
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Extra virgin olive oil for frying
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 big tomatoes, one halved and grated and the other in 1/4" slices
1 stick cinnamon
1. In a big bowl, mix together the lamb, parsley, flour, 1 teaspoon seven-spice powder, two minced garlic cloves, half a grated onion, the egg, and the salt and pepper. When it is well mixed together, shape it into meatballs or fingers. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan that can go into the oven and brown the patties in batches in olive oil. Remove them and set them aside.
2. Heat a few more tablespoons of olive oil again. Fry the sliced garlic and sliced onion until golden brown, then add the tomato paste and the last teaspoon of seven-spice powder. After it's fried for a few minutes, add the grated tomato, the cinnamon stick, and salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes until it thickens, and then slide in the lamb patties. Top the whole dish with the tomato slices.
3. Slide it all into a 400 degree oven for about half an hour until the tomato slices look a little dried out.
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