I have been fascinated by foods of the Middle East lately, maybe it’s too many stories in the news of immigrants fleeing their homeland amid the devastating wars taking place, and I think of having to break into the Gates/Rothschild Seed Vault in Norway for the first time to retrieve lost Syrian seeds. With millions of displaced people all around the world I always find the most welcoming thing you can do is to learn about their foods, that is what they will miss the most, let alone most of them are leaving due to starvation, but in the land of plenty they will want to find their home flavors and the west could use some culinary education on flavors, styles of preparation and the grand spices of the Middle East. This recipe takes from several cultures in using Kofta, a traditional and interchangeable meat and spice mixture, used to make meatballs, sausages, patties and much more. There are cheese versions, and one of the great additions is sumac, the main ingredient in za’tar spice mixture. Sumac is a small deep red berry of the sumac bush that grows in the Middle East, it is usually found ground and is an amazing versatile spice with a tangy tart lemony flavor and was long used in Europe for tartness until the Romans brought lemons to the area. Try and purchase fresh, or whole berries and grind yourself to get the best flavor, and remember it’s taken a long journey to get to us in the Pacific. It also makes an amazing addition to salad dressings over grains and greens or specialty cocktails.

2lbs ground organic lamb (can substitute wild game burger, moose would go especially well, or a bit of grass fed beef of lamb if you’re looking for less game flavor)
½ cup fine diced organic onion
3T fresh minced Italian parsley
3T fresh minced mint
¼ cup lightly toasted pine nuts
¼ tsp allspice
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sumac
½ tsp minced garlic
Olive oil and/or breadcrumbs as needed to hold together depending on your meat mixture, if using straight lamb you should be fine without.
Poppy, sesame and fennel seed mixture to sprinkle or lightly coat the meat before cooking, taking a few pulses in a high speed blender or stone grinder to lightly crush and release aromatics. Combine all ingredients and make burger patty, cook or grill on medium high heat until desired temperature, and serve with a fresh bun of your choosing, lettuce, pickled onions, feta cheese and a spiced mustard or mayo… Drinks nicely with a great IPA or pale ale or glass of pinot noir…

From my table to yours
Happy Spring