When you visit the farmstands this fall, look beyond the allure of brightly hued pumpkins and squashes and check out vegetables from the humble Brassica family. They may not get front row billing in the farmstand hierarchy, but they are among the healthiest and most widely cultivated vegetables in the world.
Broccoli, collards, and kale all hail from their ranks, as do my October picks of cauliflower and red cabbage. The cauliflower is roasted to crunchy sweetness with a mild blend of spices and the cabbage dressed with lemon, garlic, and oil to make a simple Lebanese salad.
Both will accompany juicy lamb kofta grilled outside or seared in a cast iron pan on the stove. Members of the squash family, do not feel scorned. As Thanksgiving approaches, I will be sure to show you some love!
Kofta are traditional Turkish kebabs made by forming seasoned ground lamb around metal skewers. The mixture has to be fairly firm to hold up well, so I add moisture by grating the onion on the large holes of a box grater or processing in a small blender until it is very finely chopped, but not quite a paste. Test the mixture for seasoning by frying a teaspoon or so in hot oil. Adjust salt and other spices to your taste. Ground lamb is best, but kofta can be made with beef (choose a fatty cut like round), ground pork or a blend of meats. I have given instructions for cooking on skewers on an outdoor grill and in a cast iron pan without the skewers.
1½ tsp cumin
¾ tsp allspice
½ tsp. coriander
1 tsp. sweet paprika
1 tsp. smoked paprika
¾ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. Aleppo pepper or chili flakes
Mix together in a small bowl
2 lbs. ground grass fed lamb
2 cloves garlic peeled
1 small red onion
spice mix (above)
Small bunch parsley, finely minced (About 3 Tbsp.)
1½ tsp. fine sea salt
Fresh black pepper
Remove the meat from the fridge and place in a large bowl. Grate the garlic and onion into the meat mixture using a micro plane grater and add the spice mix, parsley, salt, and a few twists of black pepper. Mix with your hands until everything is blended thoroughly and the seasonings are distributed evenly throughout. Cover and chill the mixture until you are ready to form the koftas.
Lightly oil some metal kebab skewers. Divide the mixture into eight pieces, and roll each portion into a 5-inch log and press a skewer down into each piece. Press the sides together and seal so that the meat is encased around the skewers. If you are cooking in a grill pan or cast-iron skillet, form the mixture into 12 3–4-inch ovals, without the skewer. Once formed, the meat can be stored in the fridge.
Bring to room temperature 30 minutes before grilling. I have successfully used a lidded Weber kettle and a Big Green Egg Grill at 500-degree heat. Fire up your grill to medium heat and place the kofta on the oiled grate. Grill for about four minutes on each side, until well browned and light pink in the interior. If some of the koftas are beginning to char, move them to a cooler spot on the grill. Remove to a warmed platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of coarse sea salt and chopped parsley.
To cook in a grill-pan or cast-iron skillet, heat the lightly oiled pan to medium. Add koftas and sear on one side for a couple of minutes before reducing heat to low. Continue to cook for about 10 minutes, rotating them to prevent burning. When they are well browned and still light pink in the middle, remove to a warmed platter. Drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt and chopped parsley.
Serve the koftas on warmed flatbread or pita with a drizzle of tahini and hot sauce. Accompany with sliced roasted cauliflower and red cabbage salad. Garnish with lemon wedges.
It is important to use a high-quality brand of tahini. It should have a creamy pouring consistency and a fresh, slightly sweet taste. Do not use brands sold in a tin, as they are often too dry and thick. Roland brand, sold in the IGA, is my favorite, and you cannot go wrong with any brand imported from Israel, where it is an everyday condiment. Any leftover sauce can be stored in the fridge for a couple of weeks and used to dress salads or to drizzle over grilled meats or vegetables.
½ cup tahini
Juice of one lemon
1 large clove garlic, peeled
½ tsp fine sea salt
½ cup water (approx.)
Pound the garlic clove and a pinch of salt into a fine paste in a pestle and mortar or with the blunt side of a heavy knife. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in the lemon juice, tahini, and more salt. The mixture will become very thick, and you will need to thin it down by gradually whisking in enough water to create a smooth sauce that is the consistency of heavy cream. You may need more than half a cup. Check for seasoning if you have added extra water. Store in a covered container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
Spiced Roasted Cauliflower
Local cauliflower is around from early October until the first hard frost. Make the most of this favorite when it is in season. This dish makes a great light supper, topped with a poached or fried egg, hot sauce and a sprinkling of sesame seeds and scallions.
1 large cauliflower cut into florets
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sweet paprika
½ tsp. smoked paprika
½ tsp. Aleppo pepper
½ tsp. organic garlic powder
½ tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. ground turmeric
½ tsp. fine sea salt
1/3 tsp fresh ground black pepper
Mix the oil, spices, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Place the cauliflower florets in a large bowl, add the spice oil and mix thoroughly to coat each piece. Spread in a single layer on a heavy baking sheet and roast at 410 degrees for 18 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees and roast for a further 6 to 8 minutes until crisp and brown on the outside, and just tender on the inside. Transfer to a warmed serving dish and garnish with cilantro.
Lebanese Red Cabbage Salad
This simple preparation really highlights freshly harvested local cabbage. You can jazz it up with the addition of dried oregano, fresh parsley or thinly sliced scallions and a sprinkling of sesame seeds.
½ a head of fresh local red cabbage, thinly shredded
¾ tsp. fine sea salt
Juice of one fresh lemon
1 clove of garlic, peeled
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Place the shredded cabbage in a large bowl and add the sea salt, lemon juice and olive oil. Grate the garlic over the cabbage using a fine micro plane grater. Mix everything together with your hands, massaging the dressing into the cabbage to soften and season it. Allow the salad to marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours before serving.