Kofta and Tahini Cream

One of my favorite meals in Middle Eastern cuisine is kofta, that is, spiced meatballs. But achieving the right balance of herbs and spices, the right consistency and flavor making these at home has thus far eluded me. Today I give it another go!

My first attempts failed because I tried to go TOO low carb and reduce the breadcrumbs way too much. That was before I understood the true importance of a well-hydrated breadcrumb to making good meatballs. Since then, I’ve struggled with the spice mix. I like kofta that are cinnamon-forward in flavor, so I always make sure to include a larger portion of cinnamon. The problem is that I have such a vast spice cabinet that it is tempting to add so many more spices in this category… cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, mace, coriander seed, etc. etc. I think I have to hold back and simplify my kofta so that the flavors I like best are the ones most prominently featured.

Spiced Kofta and Tahini Cream

Spiced Kofta and Tahini Cream


1/3 cup breadcrumbs
2 eggs
1 lb ground meat
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1⁄2 teaspoon allspice
1⁄2 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon pepper
1 spring onion, chopped or snipped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or fresh parsley or fresh mint, or all three

Preheat oven to 350. In a medium-sized bowl, beat the egg into the breadcrumbs with a fork. Let stand at least ten minutes to allow the egg to hydrate your breadcrumbs. Add the meat, garlic, spices, salt, pepper, onions and herbs. Let stand at least another ten minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

Form the meat mixture into meatballs, patties, or log-shapes. Place in a shallow baking dish. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Serve with tahini cream (below) and/or hummus.

One of my favorite dressings for kofta is tahini cream:


4 tablespoons sesame tahini
4 tablespoons sour cream or yogurt
4 tablespoons cream or half & half

Combine all ingredients in a food processor, or with an immersion blender. Chill. Serve as a dressing for kofta meatballs, above.

Tabbouleh Salad with Cauliflower “Rice”

As it turns out, a full-sized head of cauliflower produces quite a lot of “rice,” and so last weekend I divided what I produced and made a second recipe. This dish continues the trend of using raw cauliflower “rice,” this time to make a low-carb tabbouleh salad. Of course, in this instance, the cauliflower is substituting for bulgur wheat. As a result, this version of tabbouleh with cauliflower “rice” is much simpler to make, as one does not need to cook and then let cool the bulgur.

Make certain you are using fresh parsley for this recipe; tabbouleh traditionally features parsley as the main ingredient, in the same way a standard restaurant salad features lettuce. The amount of parsley is truly up to you. Use more than one bunch if you want to make it more traditional. I simply used as much as my indoor herb garden had to offer.

Tabbouleh Salad

Tabbouleh Salad


3 cups raw cauliflower “rice”
2 lemons, juiced
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 bunch of parsley, chopped or snipped finely
4-6 spring onions, chopped or snipped finely
3-4 roma tomatoes, deseeded and diced

Rice your cauliflower in batches, stems separately from florets, in a food processor. Fold into a clean kitchen towel and set aside.

Strain the lemon juice to remove seeds and most of the pulp. In a medium bowl whisk lemon juice, oil, salt and pepper together for the dressing.

Add the cauliflower rice, parsley, spring onions and tomatoes. Stir together until well combined. Store chilled for at least an hour to let the flavors meld. Serve chilled.

I was quite pleased with this recipe. I’m not a huge fan of parsley, but the combination of flavors kept its profile mild in the dish. I found that the amount of lemon juice also cut down on the cauliflower’s natural flavor, which I was worried might be too dominant due to lack of spices or other seasonings. All in all, a very refreshing and tasty dish. It would be a perfect side dish for any Middle Eastern meal, or as a salad for a summer picnic or cook-out.

Hummus Mastery

I’ve blogged basic hummus recipes before, and while I was never displeased with my hummus creations, I never stopped experimenting with this fundamental recipe. My primary goal in working on this recipe was to create a smoother hummus. Word on the street was that using dried garbanzos, as opposed to canned, would yield a smooth result. I did not find this to be true, but I did find that getting the proportions right with dried beans and balancing it all with the rehydration process was just not worth the trouble. The results I got weren’t especially smooth and the quality was spotty. I eventually scrapped the notion of using dried beans.

All this trial and error resulted in much extra hummus being produced, so I ended up bringing my experiments to work to unload on my co-workers. One of my co-workers at the time, Scott, is a vegan, but also a former employee at Aladdin’s Eatery, a Middle Eastern chain restaurant in our area. As chains go it is actually quite good due to their emphasis on natural foods and ingredients, and I have long admired their hummus and baba. What Scott revealed to me about the way they make hummus was positively shocking… they don’t use garlic. He told me that garlic is in fact not a standard ingredient in traditional hummus. Every recipe for hummus I have seem in my life uses garlic; how garlic weaseled its way into the standard ingredient list, I do not know. It’s not that hummus is bad with garlic. It can be quite tasty. But what I discovered following Scott’s revelation is that hummus can be even better without!

healthy-hummus-recipesSARAH’S MASTERFUL HUMMUS

1 (15oz) can of Trader Joe’s Garbanzo Beans, rinsed and drained
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
1/3 cup olive oil
juice of one or two lemons
1/2 teaspoon salt
dash of cumin
1/4 cup water
paprika, for garnish

Combine the garbanzos, tahini and oil in the food processor. Juice the lemons, making sure to strain out the seeds. Add lemon juice, salt and cumin to the processor. I usually use 1/4 cup of water, but you may want to use more or less, depending on the consistency you want. If you like a thicker hummus, add less. I recommend adding water one tablespoon at a time while processing to find out how much you need to reach your desired consistency. Adding more liquid will also enable the food processor to make the hummus smoother. Serve with chips or pita bread, garnish with paprika and drizzled olive oil.

I have tweaked this recipe many times, and have done side-by-side comparisons with Aladdin’s hummus (I make a batch for comparison whenever I get Aladdin’s take-out). Over this past weekend I did the same, and it’s finally gotten to the point where they are nearly indistinguishable. Any subtle difference in flavor is probably due to differing source ingredients (I’m sure I don’t use the exact same tahini brand as they do, for example), but the general balance of flavors is the same.

If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s nearby, you can, of course, use another brand of garbanzos, but I would recommend using them if you have a TJ in town. I discovered that Trader Joe’s garbanzos are significantly better tasting than other brands of canned beans after using them in my Garbanzo Salad. They are the only garbanzos I will use, now, for the salad, and they make a big flavor difference in the hummus, too.

One final note about the lemons: I usually double this recipe and use three lemons, so technically, I use one and a half lemons for a recipe of this size, but the flexibility to go up or down in lemon flavor is up to you!