I was thinking about my friend Phoebe and how fun it was to cook together. She taught me a few of her kitchen secrets and we would exchange stories about her native Egypt and my native Lebanon; Phoebe loves Lebanese food; she remarked to me once “you know, your food is very healthy you have a lot of fresh salads”. She had her son’s graduation party at her favorite Lebanese restaurant in Dallas, Ali-Baba.
Apparently now that place has branches everywhere, including Vegas. There are so many good entertainment in Vegas! I like the shows, the shopping center and the wide variety of great restaurants. Ali-Baba is the type of Lebanese restaurant with American-style comfort and a generic traditional menu with food that you might find at your aunt or best friend’s house in Lebanon. I read so many good reviews about it. The interior design of the restaurant is amazing, they have chandeliers that are Tiffany-inspired, nice long tables and they also offer belly dancing entertainment which pleased my Egyptian-born friend immensely (I think Egyptians really adore belly dancing, much more than the Lebanese do).
Here is what she would typically order from their menu.
- 1 lb ground meat (beef or lamb or a mixture of the two)
- 1 onion, grated
- 1/2 bunch of Italian parsley, leaves chopped
- Spices: 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp allspice, 1/4 tsp paprika.
- 2 slices of sandwich bread, soaked in water and drained and squeezed dry or 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs
- 1 egg yolk (optional)
If you have a meat grinder, run the meat with the onion and parsley and spices through the grinder a couple of times through the fine grinder. If not, place them in the bowl of a food processor and run the machine till you get a homogenous paste.
NOTE: I added about 1/4 cup of tomato paste, and a couple of tablespoons of tahini, which is not necessary, just an option!
1. Divide the meat mixture into golf-size balls; insert one ball into a skewer and using the palm of one hand, shape each ball into a kebab, stretching it and patting it constantly till it look even and elongated.
2. Grill the meat or roast in a 400F oven for 12 minutes, rotating the skewers after 5 minutes to cook all sides evenly.
3. Serve on pita bread, previously slathered with tomato paste and covered with chopped parsley, onion and sumac.