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{ middle easter kebabs + quinoa tabbouleh + lemony kale }

middle eastern kebabs + lemony kale
quinoa tabbouleh + yogurt sauce

Mouth watering yet? I came up with this concoction in early summer. It was one of those things that I couldn’t stop making and then I totally burned out on it. I just revisited this gem recently and I don’t know why I stopped making it. It gets better and better every time. The pop of lemon, the mystery of Dukkah seasoning…the bright flavors of tabbouleh. It all collides in deliciousness. This is a meal that looks pretty. Tastes fresh. Is healthy. It’s easy to make. It literally gets an A+ across the board.

Just to be clear, I have no authority in the world of Middle Eastern cuisine. Everything in this meal is based upon assumptions and what I tend to have in my kitchen at all times. Thus, it’s easy and I don’t have to think too much.

I do, however, have a thing for Persian food. When I worked in L.A. we used to eat at a restaurant called Javan. One of my coworkers (the lovely Hassan) was Persian and I felt a little more than honored that I was the only girl that he and the other tech guys took to lunch at Javan. We went about once a week. When I was pregnant with my daughter I would sometimes double-up and pay an extra visit by myself. I couldn’t get enough of the kebabs, basmati rice, must o’ kheyar  and tadig. They said my baby was going to come out Persian. She didn’t. But she does have a wildly adventuresome palate that knows no borders…which I like to credit to those lunches and the 50 pounds of pregnancy weight I gained. What can I say, food tasted even better when pregnant.

So, a couple of things about this meal. Because I am giving you a full meal today. I purchased the Dukkah seasoning used below from the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Something about Dukkah reminds me of Beijing street meats, if it had more heat to it. I like it. You can create your own or use the Juliet Mae Classic Dukkah I use. If you’re going to whip some up, do a quick online search for Dukkah…I’m not the expert in making this from scratch; I’m sure there are others more qualified. And if you’re too lazy to do either of the above suggestions (no judging here), throw in some of your favorite herbs (parsley, basil, mint?) and salt and pepper and be done with it. It’ll be fine. It’s dinner, not a peace treaty.

Also, I do call them kebabs, but they really aren’t. I like the sound of it and I wish I could BBQ them that way, but to get the moisture level where I wanted it, they needed to be patties. But ‘patties’ just doesn’t have that exotic, savory ring now does it? I mold them in an oval shape to keep the illusion alive. Although now I’m looking at my photos and they don’t exactly look oval, but that was the intention.

Quinoa. There really is an art to it, I think. I got the best recipe for basic quinoa from Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook, It’s All Good. It’s merely water, quinoa and salt, but it’s the instructions that are sublime. Simple. Perfect every time. If you never picked up her cookbook because it’s Gwyneth Paltrow, you should get over it. There are some good recipes in there. I love her chicken with olives.

Lastly, the Quinoa Tabbouleh. We have a wonderfully crunchy, health food store in town called New Frontiers. Heard of it? I devour their Quinoa Tabboleah. It’s my inspiration for what’s happening below.

This is a surprisingly quick and easy meal. You could make the kebabs in the morning. The quinoa before work. Hell, pretty much everything can be prepped/made the night before. Only thing that needs to be done at the time of eating is the grilling. I get it people, we’re busy. This is a quickie you won’t be disappointed with.

Middle Eastern Kebabs + Lemony Kale
Quinoa Tabbouleh + Yogurt Sauce

Makes 4 Servings


For the Kebabs

  • 1 pound ground turkey, go for some fat here
  • 2 tablespoons Dukkah
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, again, think fat (either full or 2%)
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 lemon, zested
  • 1/4 cooked rice, white or brown (don’t matter)
  • 1/4 cup purple onion, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Lemoney Kale

  • 6 cups of kale, chopped with ribs cut out if they are big or tough
  • 1 lemon, squeezed and zested
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt to taste, don’t be shy

For the Quinoa Tabbouleh

  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1 3/4 cups of water
  • 1 lemon, squeezed and zested
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 cup of tomatoes, chopped or halved depending on size
  • 1 cup of cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 cup Greek yogurt, more fat the better
  • 1/2 lemon, squeezed and zested
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons parsley, chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste


For the Kebabs

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mix lightly. I think turkey is one of those meats that is hypersensitive to the touch. It definitely doesn’t want to be fused with too much. Use a fork, this fluffs it along nicely.
  2. Gently pat the patty-kebabs into ovals of equal size. I usually make about 6-8. You want them smaller than a hamburger so that you can have a couple on your plate.
  3. Place the patty-kebabs on a parchment covered large plate. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to overnight.

For the Lemony Kale

  1. Put all ingredients in a bowl and mash together with your fingertips. Check your seasoning? Not enough olive oil? Need more salt? Cover with plastic wrap and throw in the fridge. The longer these guys hang out together the better they become. Like good friends.

For the Quinoa

  1. Bring the 1 3/4 cup of water to a boil.
  2. Add the quinoa and a generous dusting of salt to the water. Cover and reduce the heat to low for 15 minutes. When it’s done, remove from the heat. Place a paper towel between the lid and the pot while the quinoa finishes up for about 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  3. Meanwhile, in a medium size bowl add the lemon zest and juice, plus the olive oil. Go easy on the salt and pepper. Taste. How is it? Add the rest of the tabbouleh ingredients and lightly toss.
  4. When the quinoa is done doing its’ thing, add to the lemony-yumminess in a bowl. Fluff around some more. Taste. Add more salt and pepper? Your call. Let your conscience be your guide.
  5. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge.

For the Yogurt Sauce

  1. Put all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and put in the fridge. That’s pretty much how this meal goes. Mix everything, cover with plastic and throw in the fridge. All the night before or in the morning before work. Boom.

Dinner Time

  1. Get a medium flame going on the BBQ. Make sure it’s nice and clean.
  2. When it’s hot in there, put the patty-kebabs on the grill. Lower the lid.
  3. Set your timer for six minutes. Take a peek around 5 to make sure they are ok. Until you get the hang of your grill and the heat it gives off, don’t wander away. You could pop back in the house to make a quick vodka tonic. I’ll take one too.
  4. Flip them and let them have another 6 minutes on the grill. Again, keep an eye on them. I like to use the edge of my spatula to nudge them a bit on top. Is it firm? Get them off! If it’s squishy, give it another minute or two until firm.
  5. When they’re done, you can honestly assemble them however you’d like. I’m a fan of the meat sundae. I put a bed of lemony kale on the bottom of the plate, a sprinkling of quinoa tabboleh, your perfectly grilled kebab and a glob of yogurt sauce as the cherry on top. Use some leftover chopped parsley for a little more pop of color and freshness. Also, let the patty-kebabs rest for a beat…they need to chill out before you throw them around the plate.
  6. Double boom.

On my mind:

  • Corn Maze & Pumpkin Patch are opening this week. It’s officially fall. I’m excited.
  • I’m reading My Paris Kitchen by David Lebovitz. I am just in the beginning, but I like his style. I’m a big fan of making a recipe fit your life and what’s in your cupboard. Don’t like kale, don’t use it. Swap out another green. Dukkah’s too hard to find? Bag it. Life is too crazy to sweat over cooking. I think it should be fun and never perfect. It makes life more interesting.
  • My three favorite food blogs this week are: LadyandPups.com, HowSweetEats.com and JoytheBaker.com. The latter two I love their style and they satisfy my sweet tooth. As for LadyandPups, I can relate to the saltiness that living in Beijing (as an expat) can bring out in all of us. It takes, for me, love/hate to new levels. Plus her writing and recipes are insane.
  • On my nightstand sits The Vacationers by Emma Staub. I read, at most, ten pages a night before I fall asleep, head on the pages. I like the mirror it holds up to family dysfunction. In a funny way.
  • I’m itching to get to the Santa Barbara Public Market to buy some sweet potato gnocchi from The Pasta Shoppe. Doesn’t that sound amazing? With browned butter? Some sage thrown in there? Or not much at all besides olive oil and fresh grated parmesan.
  • Planning my fall garden. I need to get a move on…but I’m thinking lots of kale, arugula, salad greens, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, beets…we’ll see what winds up in there.
  • Lastly, my purchase for the weekend will probably be a kitchen scale. I have a small one my mom gave me…I’m thinking of going Varsity on this one and getting something digital. I know, it’s pretty exciting.
  • Happy fall all…

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