Indian-Spiced Turkey Kebabs

My friends host superb wine-tasting potluck parties. They have a kit consisting of little black bottle-suits to shroud the bottles in mystery, tags for labeling, and checklists of flavor and aroma descriptions. All this so that we tasters can so pensively and confidently decide just how we feel about each wine, blurrily throwing around words like “grassy,” “smoky,” and last night: “dusty” (Kelley wasn’t loving that one). We take a moment to declare our favorite, nod approvingly at those who share a kindred palate, then reveal the labels and pour another glass. Or four. It’s really quite a ball!

the mystery...

When invited to a “Pinot Party” this weekend, I wanted to contribute a fun, tasty, not-super-ordinary dish. I recently found Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cooking at my local library–she’s sort of responsible for introducing Indian cooking to the United States; I thank her!–so I decided to open it up and be inspired. I plan to try many of her recipes, but the one for Turkey Kebabs was actually the first one I turned to.

Kebab‘ here refers to ground meat patties served as a stuffed sandwich in pita bread. Any ground meat could be used, but I really enjoyed the dense texture of the turkey patties, and the bold spices complement the turkey quite well. Speaking of spices, you have to buy some Garam Masala if you love Indian flavors–it makes this dish. The whole coriander seeds in the meat mixture also give it exotic pizzazz.

The meat patties themselves are full of flavor, but the condiments here–a Fresh Coriander Chutney and Curried Yogurt Sauce add tangy, spicy kick and gorgeous color to these little pita sandwiches, which work great as assemble-yourself appetizers or a meal. Just make the patties and cut the pita pockets accordingly.

the spread at the potluck--all you need to make a delicious little sandwich!

Spiced Ground Turkey Patties
inspired by Indian Cooking
makes 25-30 small patties

1 pound ground turkey
10 tablespoons dry bread crumbs, divided
1 tsp salt
2 ½ tsp garam masala
½ tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
¼ cup finely chopped fresh tomato
¼ red onion, chopped fine
handful of fresh cilantro, chopped fine

In a bowl, combine the ground turkey, 4 tablespoons of the breadcrumbs, and all other ingredients. Put the remaining 6 tablespoons of bread crumbs on a plate. Form the ground turkey into patties (size depends on your preference–I used walnut-sized balls and pressed them into 2-inch patties), then dip each patty in breadcrumbs to coat. There should be a thin layer of crumbs covering each patty. Refrigerate the patties until ready to fry. In a large frying pan, heat enough vegetable oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Heat oil over medium-high heat, then add the patties in a single layer. Cook on each side until patties are browned and cooked through (6-7 minutes per side). Serve in pita bread with fresh tomato, red onion, Fresh Coriander Chutney, and Curried Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce.

Fresh Coriander Chutney*
inspired by Indian Cooking
makes about 1/4 cup

3 handfuls fresh coriander (cilantro)
small handful fresh spinach leaves
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 tsp olive oil

Pulse everything in a food processor until smooth (or roughly smooth).

Curried Cucumber-Yogurt Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
juice from half a lemon
½ tbsp dried mint (or fresh)
1 tsp Madras curry powder
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt (or to taste)
half a cucumber, peeled and sliced thin

Stir it all up!

*Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for this chutney uses only coriander leaves–I added spinach to mine to fill it out a bit, and I added olive oil (which is not in her recipe) to get everything to blend. Hers also calls for a fresh hot chili, which I didn’t have on hand and replaced with red pepper flakes. This chutney is very perky and quite spicy; I recommend smearing just a bit on the inside of the pita pocket.

Also appearing at the Pinot Party: Cheese Curds with Dill!Sausage-stuffed Mushrooms!Pretty wine-y Cupcakes!

Cheese curds made by local Mennonites!

There's Cabernet in both the cake and icing! (Cupcakes by Sweet Sallie's Bakery and Cafe in Cookeville)


Wine and Food again soon! Thanks Daniel and Kelley for delicious party times!

Warm Barley Salad

First of all, barley is yummy. Barley is comfort food. It cooks up into soft pillowy kernels, begging to be added to a savory vegetable soup or used like pasta in a healthy salad.

I recently attended a lovely afternoon dinner party at the home of a local professor (whom I really barely know), invited by some of my Arabic friends, one of whom was “adopted” by her as a foreign student looking for a host family with which to gain cultural exposure. Boy, was he lucky. From the two times I have visited this lady, I have learned three things about her: 1–Her house is gorgeous, 2–She’s highly intelligent, fun, and spunky, and (to my delight!) 3–She’s a creative foodie with a well-stocked kitchen full of unique (many antique) utensils! I was in wooden-spoon heaven!

To this little dinner party, I contributed a Warm Barley Salad, very savory and fragrant, dreamed up in my head a mere couple of hours before the potluck. It’s lemony-herbal flavors are reminiscent of the Mediterranean, with a nice rich burst from the sun-dried tomatoes. I wasn’t necessarily planning to blog about it, but it was met with wild approval and leftovers were happily taken home by other party attendees.

I also made this dish for a work Christmas party, since its tomatoes and green peas are festively colorful, and it was again a success. So I’ve been asked for the recipe several times by various partakers–friends and librarians, this is for you!

Sitting at that table with this history professor and several of her adoring past and current students, the lot of them making jokes about students in the “survey classes” who can’t keep their historical facts straight, I wondered briefly, “What am I doing here?” I too am quite un-gifted at remembering dates and facts and piecing together the historical ‘big picture.’ I can’t hold my own in a witty history discussion. It’s just not my thing.

I was there because I love food, and I especially enjoy watching someone from anywhere else in the world prepare a dish exotic to me. I love food, and the two people who invited me chez their professor-friend know this. The afternoon held a special treat: Thana and Abdulrahman made Konafa, a sumptuous Arabic dessert, and I watched and took several notes and photos. Soon I’ll make this surprising dish myself!

For now, here’s that Barley Salad Recipe, for all of you who enjoyed it!

Warm Barley Salad
serves 6-8 as a side dish

5 cups water
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups pearled barley*

olive oil, for sautéing
4 carrots, chopped
l large onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
zest from one lemon (grated finely)
juice from 1 lemon + 1 ½ tbsp juice
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 ½ cups frozen green peas
2/3 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp herbes de Provence
1 ½ tablespoons fennel seeds
salt & pepper to taste
ground cayenne pepper to taste
a bit more olive oil

1. Bring water and salt to a boil and add uncooked barley. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer barley 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the grains cook, do step 2.*

2. Sauté carrots in about 4 tbsp olive oil until almost tender (about 20-25 minutes—cover with lid for about half of cook time). Add onions and sauté until softened, then add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Add lemon zest and juice and tomato paste, and stir into vegetables. Pour in the frozen green peas and cook 5-8 minutes over medium heat. Add sun-dried tomatoes, fennel seeds, and herbes de Provence. When the barley is fully cooked (chewy, not crunchy), add it to the pot with the vegetables. Stir everything together and add salt, pepper, and cayenne to taste. (In fact, add more of any of the ingredients to taste!) Add enough olive oil to dress everything nicely.
Serve warm or room temperature.

*The first time I made this, I used both barley and bulgur. Bulgur cooks in only about 10 minutes, so after the barley had cooked for 35 minutes, I added a bit more water and the bulgur to the pot and cooked it for the last 10 minutes so both grains were done simultaneously.

A Brunch to Last All Day

I have some very cool friends who like to do very cool things, like host Sunday brunches for all their other cool friends. And all these fine friends know a thing or two about making crowd-pleasing food and beverages. This fills me with glee and gladness.

There’s Jason–he’s the host–making sweet crêpes in a cast-iron skillet. Mollie and I sprinkled powdered sugar on those crêpes and then squeezed a bit of fresh lemon juice atop. Heaven, in a few feathery-light bites.

There’s a “pot-a-toe” casserole by Bethany. Why pot-a-toe? Not sure, maybe because it’s almost Halloween and Bethany’s being witchy. Anyway, it was ham and cheesy and delicious.

This! This was something new to me, and forgive me, Liz, I’m not sure what to call it. Perhaps Cheesy Bread Pudding?–certainly perfect comfort brunch fare! Like many of the dishes at this brunch, I want the recipe! –***Update! Liz got this recipe from The Pioneer Woman, check it out here!

Matt K made a delightful frittata, and everybody called it quiche. It’s full of hashbrowns, spinach, bacon, and onions, so it doesn’t matter what you call it, it’s exactly what you want to eat.

My best contribution to brunch was these Wilted Kale and Mustard Greens. This is really simple to make, and it’s an awesome tasty side dish for cheese or egg dishes. There’s just bacon, onions, balsamic, and dijon mustard (and s & p) in there. A scrumptious combo! I must say, people were excited about those greens! I’m glad, because I insisted on wilting them there so they’d be served immediately, so I was kind of in Jason’s way while he made his lovely crêpes, and I splashed balsamic on the stovetop.

I also brought these Cinnamon Roll Muffins I recently posted. But I am perpetually late, so I brought them unbaked and Jason and Stacie let me bake them in their oven. So I succeeded in dripping cinnamon sugar in the bottom of their clean oven, which they will smell burning when they do any baking in the days to come. Also, I made the kitchen probably 20 degrees warmer while all the guests bustled about. And finally, a few of the muffins burned because I was busy with those greens on the stovetop, drinking a Mimosa, thinking my cell phone in my purse IN ANOTHER ROOM would serve as a proper timer. I am silly.

Here’s my plate. You’ll notice a mound of pastry with a hole in the center–there’s an apple inside there! Matt T made these baked apples wrapped in pastry with perhaps cinnamon, sugar, and butter in the center. What exquisite Fall flavor and presentation! And Sarah T made sure we got our serving of fresh fruit. Fresh fruit always belongs on the brunch menu.

There’s Staciethe hostess, on the left, and me enjoying our delicious spicy Bloody Marys by Mike. They were bloody good! And Stacie, she is just the nicest. And the fanciest–she has little drink tag charms–I got a cowboy boot!

I didn’t get a photo unfortunately, but the owner of Sweet Sallie’s Bakery and Café was in attendance, and she brought a spread of pretty cupcakes. I got to enjoy a Pumpkin Cupcake, delicious and timely. Thanks, Stephanie!

We all took part in lots of sipping. There was damn good coffee supplied by Trey (from Poet’s On the Square, I believe). And bartender Matt K made his famous Chupacabra (a cocktail featuring grapefruit juice, tequila, tabasco, and a pepper). Unfortunately tequila ran out before I made my order, but here’s a photo from the last brunch. (Yeah, we’ve done this before.)

So brunches like these aren’t a short affair. We rolled out around 4 pm. After all that food, there were hours of sunny yard-lounging. There were footballs and frisbees, blankets and beach chairs, Bocce, juggling, and people wearing pretty boots. Chuckles and smiles permeated the Autumn air, and coffee and cocktails went down easy. It was a perfect Sunday. These people are a special group.