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Kofta is a Middle Eastern and Asian dish that is similar in composition and texture to North American meatloaf. Made from minced meat and a combination of spices, it can come in a variety of tastes and presentations. Lebanese kofta is based on those meats, spices, and cooking methods traditional to Lebabnon, although it is widely available in North America, often as a slightly reinterpreted dish.
Lebanese kofta is traditionally made from lamb or beef. The meat is a lean cut, often taken from the shoulder. After mincing, cooks combine the meat with parsley, onion, and spices including cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. They form the mixture into tubes and wrap them lengthwise around wooden skewers before grilling them.
When making Lebanese kofta, the meat mixture should be soft and smooth but still able to keep its shape and integrity during cooking. To achieve a smooth mixture, the meat, onions, and spices can be combined and blended in a food processor. Sometimes, cooks add an egg to make the mixture firmer and better able to hold its shape. Ideally, cooks prepare the mixture a few hours or even up to the day before cooking it as this allows the spices to infuse into the meat and intensify the flavors.
The traditional way to cook Lebanese kofta is to grill the skewers over hot coals. As this may not always be practical, cooks may broil the kofta in a standard oven. It is important in either method to make sure that the skewers, if wooden, are well soaked before use; otherwise, they can burn.
Kofta is also shaped into patties and balls. These can also be cooked on the grill or under the broiler. The meatballs are often cooked along with vegetables such as peppers, which are placed alternately on the skewers. Another popular way of cooking Lebanese kofta is kofta bi sanieh, in which the meatballs are oven cooked in a dish along with tomatoes and potatoes.
The kofta, or kebabs, as they are commonly called in North America, are eaten as a main meal. Cooks serve them with Lebanese flat bread, pita, or hummus. Rice, salad, and tabbouleh are also popular accompaniments. The meat is also usually served with a sauce, often yogurt mixed with mint or tahini. There are a number of adaptations on the protein used in Lebanese kofta, where cooks substitute the beef or lamb with chicken, seafood, or even goat, although the seasonings tend to remain the same.