Dinner Tonight: Lamb Kefta with Dates and Sage


[Photograph: Nick Kindelsperger]

Kefta is a Middle Eastern term for a ground meat mixture that's usually seasoned with all kinds of other ingredients. While I would never dream of overseasoning a burger with anything beyond salt and pepper, something turns off in my brain when I'm dealing with kefta. Suddenly I'm adding as many ingredients as I possibly can—herbs, spices, it doesn't matter. The more the merrier.

So what's so strange about this recipe adapted from Charlotte Puckette's The Ethnic Paris Cookbook is how stripped down it is. Besides salt and pepper, there are only three ingredients.

Luckily, the three ingredients are all flavorful and generously used. I mean, 17 dates and two sprigs of sage are added to just one pound of lamb, making for a funky and slightly sweet mixture.

It's easy enough to form the paste onto skewers, but cooking them requires some patience. You could, of course, grill them over a live fire (make sure to soak the wooden skewers first, or to use metal skewers instead), but I cooked them on a cast-iron grill pan. Either way, you need to be on call. Due to all the sugar in the dates, you'll have to keep turning down the heat so they don't burn. In the end, it wasn't a big deal, but you should definitely be careful.

There is something really thrilling about realizing that only three ingredients make something so dramatically flavorful. Some rice wouldn't be out of order; I served mine with warm pita and hummus.

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Lamb Kefta with Dates and Sage »