One major difference between, say, French or Italian or Greek cuisine and Middle-Eastern cuisine lies in the widespread use of yogurt in cooking. In traditional Lebanese cooking, béchamel or white sauce is not used, period. Yogurt from cow milk or goat milk is used in hundreds of dishes. To add some kick, a pesto of cilantro (or mint), garlic and olive oil is fried quickly and swirled into the sauce at the last minute.
When warming yogurt to make a sauce, use some cornstarch and (or) egg to prevent curdling and thicken the sauce a bit.
This kibbeh in yogurt sauce is as traditional as it gets; the only difference is that some people stuff the kibbeh balls and some do not. My grandmother never filled hers; my friend Lena would not fill hers either and told me that her husband’s reaction when he discovered the kibbeh balls were hollow was to say: ” Are you playing a trick on me?”. (He was angry).
Most Lebanese supermarkets carry bags of frozen kibbeh balls. In a pinch, I would use frozen meatballs and add a small handful of rice (or bulgur) to the sauce. Kibbeh balls freeze very well if you decide to make them ahead of time.
For a kibbeh labnieh recipe, click here
NOTE: If you make hollow balls, make sure to puncture them from both ends with a toothpick prior to poaching them so that they don’t burst!
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