Start to finish: 20 minutes, plus cooling / Servings: 6
There are many variations (and spellings) of kofta across the Middle East and North Africa, but essentially they’re seasoned patties, often made from ground lamb or a blend of beef and lamb.
It’s the rest of the world’s answer to the Italian meatball. We particularly liked Turkish kofta, which sometimes are squashed flat and can be grilled, fried or even cooked on a skewer. We went with an all-beef version using 90 percent lean beef, though this recipe also works with a blend of lamb and beef. We pan-fried our patties, which gave us a deliciously crispy crust. To stop our meat mixture from getting tough in the middle we borrowed the French technique known as panade.
It involves mixing a bread and dairy paste into the ground meat to bind it together and keep it moist during cooking. Since we already were serving pita bread with the patties, we used crumbled pita for our panade. We served the cooked patties in pita pockets with sliced tomato, cucumber, red onion and parsley. They also would be good over rice pilaf and served with a simple salad.
Don’t use stale bread for the meatballs. The fresh pita added a lighter texture and fresh flavor. Likewise, use plain whole-milk yogurt, not Greek-style, to get the right consistency in both the meatballs and the sauce.
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium shallot, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, grated
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon dried oregano
One 8-inch pita bread, torn into small pieces (about 3 ounces)
¼ cup plain whole-milk yogurt
1 cup packed fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1½ pounds 90-percent lean ground beef
1½ teaspoons kosher salt 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
Lime-yogurt sauce, to serve (see sidebar)
1. In a small bowl, stir together 2 tablespoons of the oil, the shallot, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and oregano. Microwave until fragrant, about 30 seconds, then set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the pita bread, yogurt and ¼ cup water. Use your hands to mash the mixture to a smooth paste. Add the reserved oil mixture, the mint, beef, salt and pepper. Use your hands to thoroughly mix. Divide the meat into 12 portions, then use your hands to roll each into a smooth ball. Refrigerate for 15 minutes.
3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium-high until just beginning to smoke. Add the meatballs and use a metal spatula to press them into ½-inch-thick patties. Cook over medium, adjusting the heat as necessary, until the meatballs register 140°F at the center and are cooked through and well browned on both sides, 5 to 7 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter, tent with foil and let rest for 5 minutes.