Cooking Class: Middle East Inspired BBQ and Tangy Tamarind Iced Tea with Jennifer Abadi

Cooking Class: Middle East Inspired BBQ and Tangy Tamarind Iced Tea with Jennifer Abadi


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The world's first barbecue dates back to prehistoric times in South Africa when early humans began cooking meats and vegetables over an open fire. Evidence discovered in the Middle East and Asia indicates a more complex technique of utilizing skewers for grilling marinated meats going back at least as early as the 17th-century B.C.E.

Led by Sephardic and Middle Eastern food instructor, recipe preserver, and cookbook author Jennifer Abadi, this interactive hands-on seminar will teach you how to easily prepare a spiced ground meat kebab with allspice, ginger, and paprika, accompanied by a traditional herb salad with za’tar, mint, and pita chips that pairs perfectly with a tangy and refreshing drink of tamarind and lemon. Open to all levels, whether participants have outdoor grills or small apartment kitchens, together we will get into the spirit of the summer season with these simple and flavorful recipes.

The Arabic word kebab meaning “roasted meat” can be traced back to the ancient Mesopotamian word kababu meaning “frying” or “burning.” A kufta kebab is a type of ground meat mixed with spices and herbs, formed into a torpedo or round ball, and grilled. Throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Mediterranean, and Central Asia home cooks, as well as professional chefs, take pride in their varied spiced and grilled meat dishes, complimenting them with fresh, colorful salads.

Designed to inform curiosity as well as future travels, participants will come away with an increased understanding of how to arrange a balanced menu of bright and earthy flavors that brings the Middle East closer to home.

INGREDIENTS LIST: 

  • ½ cup tamarind concentrate/paste (get type that resembles blackstrap molasses; not lighter Thai brands) 
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons superfine or regular sugar 
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar 
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil 
  • Ice cubes (for chilling tamarind drink) 
  • Kosher or sea salt 
  • 2 teaspoons dried mint leaves 
  • 1 tablespoon za’tar spice mix/blend (green type such as Israeli blend; not red kind with sumac)
  • Ground black pepper 
  • Ground allspice 
  • Ground ginger 
  • Ground sweet or smoked paprika, mild chili powder, or Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1½ cups plain/unflavored pita chips (optional but recommended) 
  • 6 tablespoons plain breadcrumbs or matzah meal (gluten-free okay) 
  • Flatbread (such as Greek, Indian Naan, Mediterranean), for serving kufta kebabs (optional)
  • 1 pound ground beef or lamb (or mix of the two) 
  • 1 medium yellow or white onion 
  • ¼ cup finely chopped scallions 
  • 1 bunch fresh mint leaves 
  • 4 cups flat-leaf/Italian parsley leaves (bunch should be rinsed and dried; not chopped)
  • ½ cup finely chopped flat-leaf/Italian parsley or coriander leaves (can use 2½ tablespoons dried parsley if fresh unavailable)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce, rinsed and dried 
  • ¼ cup pine nuts or pomegranate seeds 
  • 2 large lemons (need 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed and strained lemon juice + 1 cut into wedges)
  • 2 teaspoons crushed or very finely chopped garlic 
  • 3 vine ripe or kumato tomatoes (get best available; cherry/grape tomatoes okay too)
  • 5 Israeli or Persian cucumbers (can use 3 Kirby or 1 English cucumber) 

Equipment: 

  • Measuring cups and spoons 
  • Large chef’s/chopping knife and cutting board 
  • Medium mixing bowl, for blending kufta kebab mixture 
  • 2 to 3 dozen disposable wooden skewers or metal (optional; for broiling kufta kebabs)
  • Baking pan, for broiling kufta kebabs 
  • Large pitcher and mixing spoon, for tamarind drink 
  • Small bowl or jar, for mixing salad dressing 
  • Small bowl and spoon, for mixing tahini dressing 
  • Large serving bowl and spoons, to toss and serve salad

Jennifer Abadi is a native New Yorker, born, bred and raised on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. She is half Sephardic (Aleppo, Syria) and half Ashkenazic (Riga, Latvia). She is a researcher, developer, and preserver of Judeo-Arabic and Sephardic recipes and food customs, focusing on the Jewish communities of the Middle East, Mediterranean, Central Asia, and North Africa. She is the author of two cookbooks: "Too Good To Passover: Sephardic & Judeo-Arabic Seder Menus and Memories from Africa, Asia and Europe" and "A Fistful of Lentils: Syrian-Jewish Recipes From Grandma Fritzie's Kitchen." Jennifer teaches cooking at the Institute of Culinary Education (ICE) and at the Jewish Community Center Manhattan (JCC), as well as privately. Jennifer has been providing Jewish Food & Culture tours on Manhattan’s Lower East Side for Context Travel since 2012."

This conversation is suitable for all ages.

90 minutes, including a 30 minute Q&A.

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