Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kofta Burgers

This past weekend marked the unofficial start to summer in Canada with our Victoria Day long weekend.  The time has finally come for cottaging, gardening, boating and BBQs!  These burgers are outstanding and would be a hit at any summertime event.  Taking cues from my recent trip, I took one of my favorite Israeli meals, the kebab, and changed it up a bit to fit right in at a North American cottage or backyard party.  In Israel, Kofta kebabs are usually made of ground lamb or beef, mixed with spices and then formed into logs around skewers.  The kebabs are grilled over open coals and served with rice, pita and an assortment of small salads, sauces and pickled things.  These all beef Kofta Burgers are loaded with the same fresh flavours and lots of spice, they are juicy and delicious.  Served with tahini sauce and fresh, bright tasting salads, all stuffed into a pita, they are superb!

Kofta Burgers
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  These burgers are delish!  I have included recipes for some great accompaniments, but you could simplify things by serving them with pita bread and classic burger toppings like lettuce, tomato, pickle and onion.  BUT...the tahini sauce is an absolute must!!


2 lbs ground beef (I use 1/2 lean and 1/2 medium ground beef)
1 large onion, roughly chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
l handful parsley, large stems removed
1 handful cilantro, large stems removed
4 tablespoons garam masala (a blend of spices, you can purchase it or make your own)

For Serving:
Tahini Sauce (recipe below)
Simple Spring Salad (recipe below)
Onion Pomegranate Salad (recipe below)
pita bread

In a food processor, pulse together the onion, garlic and herbs until finely chopped and combined.

In a large bowl combine the ground beef, onion/herb mixture, garam masala and a pinch of salt.  With your hands, mix everything together thoroughly.  Cover and chill the mixture for an hour or until ready to use.  Form the meat mixture into patties.  Indenting the middle of each patty with your thumb will help the burgers cook evenly and keep them from shrinking up into balls once they hit the grill.

Grill the patties to your liking.  We usually grill them over medium heat for about 7 minutes per side.  It depends on your grill, the thickness of the burgers and how well you like them cooked.

Serve the Kofta Burgers with pita bread, tahini sauce and salads. 

**The burger patties are great without the pita too, just serve with salad and tahini sauce for a paleo friendly meal.

Simple Spring Salad
Origin: Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  The lemony greens and crunch of the radishes and cucumbers are great stuffed into a pita with the Kofta Burgers.


6 cups crunchy baby greens, I used baby Red Leaf and Green Leaf lettuces (regular Romaine would be fine)
4-6 small Lebanese cucumbers, sliced into thin rounds (or use an English/seedless cucumber)
1 bunch radishes, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, juiced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large bowl combine the lettuce, cucumbers and radishes.

Just before serving, add lemon juice, olive oil, some salt and A LOT of freshly ground pepper.  Toss and serve.

Tahini Sauce
Origin: Classic Middle Eastern Recipe, Jaime, Impeccable Taste

Notes:  This sauce is a must with the Kofta Burgers.


1 cup pure tahini (ground sesame paste)
1 lemon, juiced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 small cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup warm water
a handful of fresh parsley, large stems removed (optional)

In the bowl of a food processor, combine tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt (start with 1/4 teaspoon and add more to taste).  Pulse to combine.  Add the warm water and process until smooth (you can add more warm water as necessary to achieve desired consistency).  Add parsley and pulse to chop/combine. 

This can be made without a food processor.  Mix everything by hand (chop your parsley first).  But note that it may take a while to achieve a smooth consistency as the tahini and lemon juice will seize up.  The warm water will help loosen the mixture.

Onion & Pomegranate Salad
 Origin: Adapted from The Food of Israel, Sherry Ansky & Nelli Sheffer

Notes:  This salad takes these Kofta Burgers over the top!  It acts like a relish or a salsa, adding flavour, sweetness and crunch.  To de-seed your pomegranate, in a bowl of water, submerge chunks of the pomegranate and release seeds into water.  The seeds will sink and the white, pithy stuff will float, and your hands will stay clean!

1 large red onion, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup pomegranate seeds
juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Place sliced onions in a strainer over a bowl and sprinkle them with about 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt.  Let stand for 1 hour, tossing occasionally.  The onions will release much of their bitterness as their juices drip into the bowl below.  Squeeze out any excess juice.  I usually give the onions a quick rinse to remove excess salt and then press them into the strainer to remove liquid.

In a medium bowl, combine the onions, herbs, pomegranate seeds, lemon juice and olive oil.  Toss gently, check for seasoning, adding salt if necessary.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tomato & Walnut Salad


Anybody still out there?  I'm back and ready to party...well, ready to do some cooking at least.  My absence started sadly, with the passing of my beloved Nanny.  But ended happily with a crazy trip through Israel with my In-laws.  See...I've been busy.  I just returned from the middle east with an even deeper love of its cuisine.  Wonderful salads, kabobs of all varieties, olives, fresh fruit and dried, the freshest nuts and seeds...all naturally delicious, whole foods that fit in perfectly with our new diet.  While it was hard to resist the Falafel, Israel's national dish, there were plenty of other options to feast on.  I managed to drag my jet lagged butt to the kitchen yesterday to start recreating one of the many dishes I loved while I was away.  While travelling, I scribbled many notes, tried to decipher dishes and even asked waiters to ask chefs for clues to help prepare the most outstanding meals.  This salad was part of a typical Israeli breakfast we enjoyed on a Kibbutz in the north.  I've been mulling over the possible ingredients and I think I broke the code.  It is as good as I remember.  So simple, flavouful and healthful. 

Tomato & Walnut Salad
Origin: Inspired by Kibbutz Kfar Blum

Notes:  Simple dishes like this shine when the best ingredients are used.  Use juicy, flavourful tomatoes, fresh basil and really good olive oil for best results.  Though I discovered this salad at breakfast, it would also be great along side a burger.


1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup basil, loosely packed, torn or roughly chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 small clove garlic, minced (just a touch)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Toast the walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 7-10 minutes (or on the stove, in a frying pan, watching carefully, over medium heat until fragrant and toasted).  Cool the nuts and then chop very coarsely.

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and toss to combine.  Adjust seasoning if necessary, a little more salt or lemon juice for more zing, or a little more olive oil if it's too strong.  Serve immediately.