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No-skewer kebabs best of both worlds

by Christopher Kimball, Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street (AP) | March 8, 2023 at 1:55 a.m.
Spicy Ground Beef Kebabs With Tomato-Sumac Sauce (Milk Street via AP)

Making kebabs from ground beef presents an opportunity and a problem. They can be boldly flavored from within by mixing spices and herbs into the meat. But getting them to stay put on skewers is tricky.

So, what if we got rid of the skewers altogether? In this recipe from our book "Tuesday Nights Mediterranean," which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we instead cook patties of spiced ground beef under the broiler. One side browns deeply as they cook, giving just enough open-fire flavor without worry that the meat will tumble off.

For the flavorings, we took inspiration from kebab hindi, which, despite its name, is a Levantine, not Indian, dish. Red onion, fresh cilantro, pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice and paprika are mixed into the beef.

Traditionally, the meat is baked in a tomato sauce, but we opted to cook them without the sauce to get more flavorful browning. We then use the same baking sheet to broil tomatoes and onion to form a chunky, relish-like sauce.

The sauce is seasoned with tangy ground sumac, which is sold in well-stocked supermarkets, spice shops and Middle Eastern grocery stores. If it's not available, simply squeeze a little lemon juice into the sauce while stirring in water after broiling.

Remember to keep the foil lining from the baking sheet in place after transferring the patties to a serving platter. That helps make cleanup a breeze after broiling the tomato-onion mixture.

These kebabs are delicious served with rice or flatbread.

Spicy Ground Beef Kebabs With Tomato-Sumac Sauce

  • 1 large red onion
  • 1½ pounds 80% lean ground beef
  • ¼ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems PLUS ½ cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, divided use
  • ¼ cup pine nuts, chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1½ teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons hot paprika OR 3½ teaspoons sweet paprika PLUS ½ teaspoon ground red (cayenne) pepper
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac OR lemon juice

Heat broiler with a rack about 6 inches from the element. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.

Cut the onion in half. Finely chop one half. Thinly slice the remaining half. Set the sliced onion aside.

In a large bowl, combine the chopped onion, beef, cilantro stems, pine nuts, cinnamon, allspice, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt and 1½ teaspoons pepper. Using your hands, mix well, then divide into 12 portions and shape each into a patty 2½ to 3 inches in diameter; arrange in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

Broil the patties until well browned on top and the centers reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees, 7 to 9 minutes. Using a wide metal spatula, transfer to a serving platter and cover with foil to keep warm. Discard any residual liquid on the baking sheet; set the baking sheet, with foil lining, aside.

In a medium bowl, toss together the sliced onion, tomatoes, oil, sumac, and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper. Distribute in a single layer on the baking sheet and broil until the tomatoes burst and the onions char, 5 to 6 minutes.

Using the back of a fork, crush the tomatoes to form a chunky sauce. Add 2 tablespoons water to the baking sheet and stir gently to combine, then taste and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the sauce over the patties. Sprinkle with cilantro leaves and drizzle with additional oil.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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