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|July 16 - July 22, 2009
• Quiche, Cake and quality
The Cup is full of more than just coffee
by Clay Fong
• The Dessert Diva
A local chef shares her sweet secrets
by Danette Randall
Middle Eastern flavors give spicy tang to adaptable summer party menus
by Lee Svitak Dean
As I discovered on a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, the flavors of the region are made for summer. Hot and hungry, I wandered through the city’s Grand Bazaar, where vendors vied for attention with promises of good deals on their carpets, silver and spices. In an out-of-the-way corner, a little cafe promised relief in the form of lamb kebabs and pita bread. I took the bait and, once refreshed, returned to the crowded bazaar.
For centuries, Turkey was the crossroads of the world as traders brought culinary traditions, as well as spices and other goods, from one country to the next. The result was an amalgam of memorable flavors. Like those early traders, I’ve incorporated traditional recipes from the expansive region — Middle East, North Africa, Mediterranean — for a summer menu that pays homage to those crossroads and their summer heat.
In your own back yard — or kitchen grill — you can prepare a refreshing meal with lamb kebabs seasoned with a spice blend popular in North Africa. Add the traditional cooling agent, raita (the Greek variation of the region’s yogurt sauce), a salad of bulgur wheat and parsley from the Middle East, Moroccan mint tea and icy granita from Italy — and you have a made-in-the-shade summer meal.
And the best news is, wherever the cook may call home, this menu is quick and easy to prepare and easily adapted for any size crowd or taste. Prefer chicken or beef to lamb? Then make the kebabs your way. The spice blend works with any meat.
As for the cook? With a menu this easy, any cook will have time — and energy — for guests.
Recipes from Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus, by Lee Svitak Dean (Minnesota Historical Society Press).
Note: Mint tea, served hot, is a traditional Middle Eastern drink. If you prefer iced tea, either prepare the mint tea in advance and refrigerate it, or serve the tea, cooled, over ice. In that case, use a little more green tea leaves in the preparation because the ice will dilute it.
6 1/2 c. almost boiling water
3 bags of green tea, or about 1 tablespoon green tea leaves
20 spearmint leaves
2 teaspoon sugar
Directions: Bring the water almost to a boil (green tea leaves need water a little less hot than black tea leaves so the tea doesn’t become bitter). Pour a little of the boiling water into the teapot to warm it; then discard the water.
Add the tea and the rest of the hot water. Let steep for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mint and sugar. Serve immediately, or cool and serve cold.
Lamb kebabs with harissa
Note: Harissa (hah-REE-suh) is a North African spice mixture (this makes about 1 cup harissa to toss with the lamb). If you would like to serve more harissa on the side, for food safety make a new batch or set some aside. If you use wood skewers, soak them in advance for about 20 minutes. From Come One, Come All.
2 tablespoons chile powder, such as ancho or chipotle (see box)
3/4 teaspoon minced garlic (about 2 garlic cloves)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
3 lb. boneless lamb shoulder or leg
1 red onion, cut in 1- to 1 1/2-in. chunks
12 to 18 skewers
Directions: To make the harissa: Combine chile powder, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin. Adjust seasonings as preferred. If desired, make additional harissa to serve on the side with the kebabs. (Don’t re-use the harissa that was mixed with the raw lamb because of food safety reasons.)
To make the lamb kebabs: Trim exterior fat from lamb and discard. Cut lamb into 1- to 1 1/2 -inch cubes and toss them in harissa shortly before cooking.
Preheat the grill or the broiler. Oil grate or broiler pan for easier turning of the meat. Alternate meat and onion chunks on skewers, leaving a small space between pieces of meat. Cook over high heat until meat is at preferred doneness, turning once after about 5 minutes, and cooking an additional 2 or 3 minutes for medium rare. Serve kebabs atop a bed of rice.
—MCT, Star Tribune
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