I don’t know if you noticed, but we haven’t shared too many posts this month so far (although our Sultan Selim Kofte was amazing & you should check it out!). A two-fold problem – we attempted a few recipes that we thought would be “blog-worthy,” that just didn’t turn out well, so we definitely couldn’t share our failures 🙄😬😣😉. And also, we used a few of our saved up vacation days to visit friends and watch UVA beat Wake Forest in Winston-Salem one weekend and to see our families in Nashville for a cousin’s wedding on another weekend! So we really haven’t cooked quite as much as normal this month!
Our lack of blogging this month is a little bit of a tragedy because January is National Soup Month, and I LOVE SOUP! I don’t know what month is better suited to officially be National Soup Month – what sounds more cozy and warming for chilly nights (and days!) than a big flavorful bowl of soup. It’s actually National Slow Cooker month too (probably for similar reasons…), so we just went ahead and did the two birds, one stone thing with this recipe – ✔️ & ✔️!
I’ve had this recipe saved on Pinterest for literally years I think. It comes from Gimme Some Oven, which actually is the very first blog I think I ever started following. I’ve made many of her recipes over the years, prior to the birth of our little infant blog. Check it out for some great recipes from a veteran blogger and much better pictures than ours! We tweaked her recipe just a tiny bit, adding a little extra vegetables & spices, because the entire world (or the 467 commenters on her post at least…) seems to love the original just as is! One little side note… one day we would like to make our own, traditional enchilada sauce, for this recipe or others. We were just feeling a little too lazy today for finding and roasting our own chilies. But we can only imagine how much better this soup would be when substituting authentic homemade enchilada sauce for the canned stuff!
Köfte is one of those dishes that calls to mind something slightly different for every person. Apparently, some company in Turkey determined that there are 291 varieties of köfte native to that country alone. (I get my information via Wikipedia’s kofte page, because I can’t read the original article in Turkish – so hopefully it’s not lying to me.) And that’s just within Turkey! Köfte (or kofta, kufta, kyuft’a, qofte, cufte, keftés, kopta…) is common everywhere from Morocco to Pakistan, and Azerbaijan to Croatia, with so many variations in between.
For Selim, his memories of köfte are just as variable. Think of how varying “American” meatballs can be… there’s variation in meat content (pork, beef, chicken, veal, lamb, turkey, tofu), sauces (marinara, BBQ, mustard, gravy), and cooking technique (crockpot, microwave, baked, fried). Köfte is no different, there’s a lot of variability within families, regions, and countries. I think most people will say that traditionally, köfte is charcoal-grilled as it imparts a distinctive smokiness and flavor that’s so unique. Unfortunately, we don’t have a grill, which kind of ruins that plan, so we decided to broil these to approximate that grilled flavor as much as we could. After living and cooking in our Columbia, SC apartment for over 2 years, we finally set off the smoke detector!
For our köfte tonight, we didn’t try to replicate a specific, authentic type of köfte. Instead, we tried to channel our favorite flavors into our own creation. Ally named these köfte after (one or the other of) Selim’s namesakes to differentiate from all of those 291 original Turkish varieties. You can be the judge as to which Sultan Selim Ally is referencing… Sultan Selim I (aka Selim the Grim or Selim the Resolute) who was a fiery tempered ruler who greatly expanded the Ottoman Empire or Sultan Selim II (aka Selim the Blond) who was a well-loved, soft, generous ruler. Our köfte has a spicy taste/temperament but is sure to be well-loved by all, a perfect combination.
Sultan Selim Köfte
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 shallots, grated
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp Aleppo pepper
1 tbsp sumac
1/2 tsp cumin
Pinch of cinnamon
1 lb lamb (80/20 – you want some fat here)
1 egg (whisked)
Make the spice mix by combining the spices in a small prep bowl, set aside.
In a medium-sized bowl, thoroughly mix the garlic, shallot, and lamb.
Work the spice mix into the lamb slowly, ensuring that there aren’t any clumps of spice and continue working the meat with your hands until well mixed.
Let the mixture sit at room temperature for ~30 minutes.
Now stir in the whisked egg until well-combined.
Using your hands, form into sigara-shaped patties and place on a sheet of foil.
Broil/Grill/Pan Fry: watching carefully until the tops begin to brown and crisp, flipping once to ensure even cooking and charring. (Broilers, grills, and pans are so variable that we don’t want to tell you a specific time and screw up your köfte!) *If grilling, we highly recommend using skewers so as to not lose any köftes to the flames.
When I decided to make surprise Hanukkah dinner tonight, I knew I wanted to make latkes and dessert, but what to make for a main dish…? I’ve never made brisket before, but I don’t live under a rock. I know that this cut of meat is beloved by Jewish bubbes and Texas pit-masters alike. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever made a brisket before, but tonight seemed like the perfect night to give it a whirl!
This recipe is an interesting mix of sweet and savory. The honey and balsamic add sweetness that balances out the meat and onions. The meat comes out so tender, but the sauce and vegetables really make it. I’m not going to lie – I think I actually liked the onions and the carrots even better than the meat.
This is another one of the recipes that we decided to make this blog for… It’s one of my favorite Pinterest finds, from what’s become a favorite blog – Little Spice Jar. We always tweak our recipes a little bit and this was no different. But, per usual, we’ve forgotten the changes we made from the last few times we made it. So this time, we’ll cross our fingers that it turns out to be the best version we’ve ever made and actually write it down.
These little meatballs are so full of flavorful spices, and the meatballs actually flavor the soup broth itself. This broth has such depth, and the aromas floating through your kitchen are so enticing. The flavors build and build the more you eat. And actually, this is one of those soups that is so much better as a leftover. Do what we did and eat it for dinner, but then enjoy the leftovers for lunch for the rest of the week. Feel free to tweak the spices based on your personal preferences, but keep it spice-heavy! It is not super spicy, so if you want it that way, go ahead and increase the spice level. You may have noticed if you’ve read our blog a lot that we love the flavors of the Middle East and Northern African. No exception here. If you’re not familiar with or unsure of the cuisine from this part of the world, please let this soup be your gateway drug. You won’t be disappointed!
Why is this called North African wedding soup? Well, every time we make it, it makes me think of Italian wedding soup – the small meatballs, couscous in place of the orzo, and of course, North African spices in place of Italian flavors. Even more confirmation for this name? Tomorrow is our wedding anniversary! North African wedding soup it is! (I have no idea if there is actually a traditional North African wedding soup – if there is, this is not it!)
In a bowl, mix together the beef, tomato paste, and spices through nutmeg. Combine well.
Then form into small meatballs and place on a lined cookie sheet. Bake for ~10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.
Add the garlic, onions, and carrots to the pot and top with several turns of black pepper, the Aleppo pepper, and the fresh thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are fragrant/browning and carrots have begun to soften, ~10-12minutes.
Pour beef broth into the pot and adjust heat to a light simmer.
Add the meatballs and the couscous, partially cover if needed, and continue to lightly simmer for ~15 minutes, until the couscous is soft and tender.
Taste and adjust for salt as needed, then serve.
Quick response to a question I’m anticipating. Why bake the meatballs, won’t they cook in the broth? Yes, they would. Baking them briefly allows for two important things in my mind – 1) it helps the meatballs hold their shape and 2) allows the meat to leech some of its fat somewhere other than your broth. Yes the fat tastes delicious and yes, you’re losing some of the spiced flavors, but it can definitely make your soup cloudy and oily.
We’re not really a picky couple when it comes to meat. We pretty much like it all. Our weekly routine usually consists of two nights of fish or other seafood, a night of beef, and pretty much the rest of the nights with chicken of some variety. We also love lamb, goat, duck, and all kinds of game meat, but get our grad-school-budgeted hands on those a little less often. But somehow, I feel like we always forget about pork. Every time we make pork, we always wonder why we don’t eat it more often. Fall and the cooler weather we’ve (finally!) been having made me think about doing a braised dish and this time, my mind went straight to the other white meat! I initially wanted to braise the pork in cider, with apples and potatoes on the side, a dish I make pretty much every fall. But then I realized that would end up being pretty darn similar to the Cider Chicken with Savory Fall Fruits that we made just two weekends ago. So I browsed our two favorite culinary magazines (Bon Appetit and Food & Wine) for some inspiration. Turns out, everyone braises pork in cider in the fall… But working back a few years, I came across the recipe we adapted this dish from – a different flavor profile that was exactly what I was looking for!
Speaking of different flavor profile… I was a little skeptical about the grapes. I thought the grapes might make the whole dish too sweet. I was happily wrong! While they do add a little bit of sweetness to the final product, it isn’t overwhelming. Even more interestingly, the grapes take on some of the savoriness of the pork. When you see them after they’ve braised for half the afternoon, you’ll notice that they’ve lost a lot of their color. I thought that might mean that they would’ve leeched out all of their flavor too. Not the case! As it turns out, the grapes ended up being my favorite part of the dish, so I’m glad I didn’t trust my first instinct to get rid of them!
Season the pork loin with salt & pepper on both sides.
In a large dutch oven, heat 2 tbsp neutral oil at just above medium heat (#6). Once hot, sear the pork on all sides, 3-5 minutes per side.
Remove the pork to a plate on the side and lower heat to medium-low.
After allowing a few minutes for the oil the cool slightly, add the garlic and onions to the dish. Cook, stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Then add the grapes and top with the brown sugar. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Pour in the vinegar and simmer for about 3 minutes.
Add the stock and fresh herbs to the dish. Now also return the pork. Nestle the meat down into the dish (the top should still be exposed).
Bring the liquid to a boil and then immediately reduce to low heat. Cover and cook at a very low simmer for 45 minutes.
Flip the pork loin, re-cover, and cook at the same low simmer for another 30-45 minutes. [We suggest checking for doneness at the 30 minute mark, especially if you prefer your pork less than well-done!]
Remove the pork loin from the dish and ensure it is cooked sufficiently with a meat thermometer (the FDA recommends a minimum safe temperature of 145 degrees for pork).
Meanwhile, increase the burner heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil. Boil vigorously until the liquid has reduced and thickened. While the sauce is reducing, intermittently skim fat/oil/debris off the top. Also, remove the sprigs of herbs.
Gosh, it’s been awhile since we’ve made zoodles. For awhile there we were making, eating, and sharing zoodle recipes every week it seems like. We took a little bit of a hiatus it seems, but don’t worry – the zoodles are back! This time, they’re topped with a deliciously spicy sauce that makes you think you’re on the Mediterranean coast.
Even better news? This meal is simple to make – it only takes a few minutes of active preparation. Even more better news? This vegetarian dish is healthy and pretty darn low calorie. A great meal to sneak in to your weekly meal rotation.