Virtually the national dish of Syria and Lebanon—and very popular in Middle Eastern restaurants in the United States—kibbeh is the combination of pounded meat (usually lamb) and bulgar. It is used in a multitude of ways, forming the base of many different dishes. The following variation uses the kibbeh paste raw; it is a kind of Middle Eastern lamb tartare. When you drizzle good olive oil over it and scoop it up with warm pita, it becomes a magnificent appetizer.
makes 8 first-course servings
1/2 cup fine bulgar (see Note)
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1 large onion, grated
1/2 pound boneless lamb, preferably from the leg, very lean
2 scallions, very finely sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Pita bread for scooping
1. Put bulgar into a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold water. Drain thoroughly and sprinkle with salt. Stir. Place strainer over a bowl. Place in refrigerator for 1/2 hour.
2. Add pepper, cinnamon, and allspice to the grated onion and mix together in a bowl.
3. Chop the lamb by hand as finely as you can, making sure to remove any visible fat or sinew.
4. Put chopped lamb into the work bowl of a food processor and pulse on and off for 10 seconds, or until the lamb is finely ground. Add bulgar to the work bowl. Add the onion-spice mixture. Pulse on and off until all the ingredients have blended together completely.
5. Turn out onto a platter and flatten to about 1/2-inch thickness, spreading mixture with your fingers. Spread chopped scallions around the outside edges of the kibbeh. Sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with olive oil. Serve immediately, or keep refrigerated until serving. Serve with pita bread.
Note: Bulgar is specially processed wheat that is ground fine, medium, or coarse. Sometimes it is packaged and labeled no. 1 (fine), no. 2 (medium) or no. 3 (coarse). You want fine bulgar for this recipe, so look for no. 1.