I love that CAVA restaurants have been popping up in Virginia. They have reignited my love for those zesty, tangy meatballs known as kifteh.
One warm spring evening, I was inspired to whip up a large batch. I invited a fellow Palestinian over to enjoy them with me, pictured below. If you live in Richmond, you may have heard of her; journalist Yasmine Jumaa from VPM (our NPR station). She brought homemade tiramisu for dessert, and it was so heavenly, it desrves its own blog post.
While my mother's kifteh had flavor that popped, I traded in the meatloaf-textured baked version for flame-broiled, in all its caramelized and juicy glory. And the recipe is simple!
What you'll need:
- 3 lbs of ground beef (or if you're fancy, a beef/lamb mixture)
- 1 head of parsley
- 1 large onion (or 2 small ones)
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1 tsp. allspice
- salt and pepper to taste
Here's my husband and I, posing by grape leaves that I will soon be stuffing.
- Chop up the parsley and onions finely (or use a food processor)
- Toss all ingredients into a large mixing bowl
- Mix and fold by hand
- I usually add more nutmeg, allspice, salt and pepper at this point, by tasting a tiny dot of the meat to ensure it pops with flavor. Though our family has been testing it this way for hundreds of years, I understand raw meat may make people uncomfortable. It's not carpaccio! In his case, you can toss a tiny sample on a heated skillet for a quick taste test.
- Roll mixture into oblong meatballs - the width of a kabob and the length of your index finger
- Flame broil on the grill until the outside has a slight crunch and the onions are caramelized
- Test to ensure the insides are still juicy, not dry
- Remove from heat
Though these meatballs can accompany any meal, you can enjoy them in a traditional way too. Palestinians eat them with warm pita, hummus and a side of tabbouleh. Kifteh is also great atop a file of buttery rice. Then again, what isn't?