Recipe: Pumpkin Kibbi Balls

Pumpkin Kibbi Balls
Makes about 2 dozen

For the Kibbi

  • 1¼ cups diced yellow onion (½ inch)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can 100% pure pumpkin puree
  • 1½ cups bulgur #1 (fine)
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups canola oil (for frying)
For the Filling
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups (packed) sliced yellow onion (¼ inch)
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons dibs ruman
  • ¼ cup pomegranate seeds (optional, when in season)
  1. Place the onion in a food processor fitted with a metal blade and process to a pulp.

  2. Combine the onion pulp in a bowl with the remaining ingredients or the kibbi (except the oil for frying). Mix well. Pat the mixture down, then cover the bowl with plastic wrap, sealing it around the edges.

  3. Refrigerate overnight, allowing the bulgur to expand. This will make it easier to work with once it is ground.
To prepare the filling
  1. Preheat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, walnuts, salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Stir well.

  2. Reduce the heat to medium - low, and sauté until the onions are limp and tender. Remove from the heat.

  3. Add the dibs ruman and the optional ¼ cup pomegranate seeds when in season (October through January). Mix well and set aside to cool uncovered.
To prepare the kibbi (the following day)
  1. Remove the kibbi mixture from the refrigerator and pass it through a meat grinder fitted with a fine-cutting plate.

  2. Measure the ground mixture into ¼-cup portions. On a flat surface, use your hands to roll and shape each portion into a 3-inch cylinder. (Do not skip this step; rolling them into cylinders makes opening them easier.)

  3. Cut each cylinder in half widthwise; each half will be a portion. Drape plastic wrap over the portions to prevent drying.
To open the kibbi balls
  1. Set a small bowl of cold water within reach. Place one portion of kibbi in the palm of one hand. With your other hand, dip your index finger in the water and rub some on the palm of the hand that is holding the portion.

  2. Insert your index finger into the circular top of the portion (not the side), making an opening toward the center while not poking a hole through the bottom or sides.

  3. Expand the opening to form a cavity by gently pressing against the sides of the portion with your finger and shaping it in your palm.

  4. Dip your finger in water once again to dampen your palm and finger so the kibbi ball will not stick to your palm or finger. The opened kibbi ball should have the shape of a football 2½ to 3 inches long and about 1½ inches around, with walls about ¼ inch thick.

  5. Repeat with the remaining portions.
To fill and close the kibbi balls
  1. Use a demitasse spoon to fill the kibbi balls. They should be full but not stuffed; avoid getting filling on and around the lip. To close the kibbi ball, hold it in one hand, and with your other hand dip your index finger in the water and dampen the ridge between your index finger and thumb.

  2. Using the ridge between your index finger and thumb, apply pressure to the top of the kibbi and press the edges together until they are sealed. Repeat with the remaining kibbi balls.
To fry the kibbi balls
  1. Heat the oil to 375°F in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat.

  2. Using a candy/fry thermometer to measure the temperature of the oil for accuracy.
Specialty ingredients:
  • Bulgur #1 (fine) and dibs ruman (pomegranate molasses), both found at specialty markets or online.
Special equipment:
  • A food processor
  • Meat grinder
  • Candy/fry thermometer
Prepare ahead:
  • The Pumpkin Kibbi Balls can be rozen raw for several weeks.

  • Freeze uncovered on a plastic-lined baking sheet, then store in an airtight container. Fry as directed without thawing. Note: The kibbi must soak overnight.
Parsley and Bulgur Wheat Salad -- Tabbouli
Serves 4 (about 1 quart)

Prepare ahead:For freshest vegetables, rinse and store them ahead of time. You can prepare the salad 1 day in advance. Refrigerate covered. Dress the salad as directed.

For the salad

  • 2½ cups (lightly packed) finely chopped curly parsley; use green leafy parts and tender stems
  • 1 cup diced tomato (¼ inch); use firm red tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped green onion; use the green and white parts
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • or: ½ tablespoon dried mint flakes
  • ¼ cup bulgur wheat #1 (fine)
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1/16 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • (For an extra-lemony flavor, add 1 teaspoon lemon zest)
To prepare the vegetables (the day before):
  1. Loosen the tie around the stems of parsley. Rinse the parsley several times in a bowl of cold water, changing the water until the water is clear of sand particles and debris.

  2. Dry the parsley by holding each bunch by the stems and shaking out the excess water. (I step outdoors to do this, giving each bunch several good swings.

  3. If stepping outdoors is not an option, you can give it a couple of good swings over the bathtub. You can also use a salad spinner if you have one.) Place the parsley on a dry kitchen towel (turning each bunch periodically), allowing it to air-dry (not wilt).

  4. To store overnight, roll the air-dried bunches of parsley in a dry kitchen towel or paper towel and place them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator.

  5. Rinse and store the fresh mint and green onions the day before as well (see Rinsing and Storing Produce, page xiv).
To prepare the tabbouli
  1. It is essential to use a sharp 8- to 10-inch chef's knife to chop the parsley for tabbouli. (For larger amounts of tabbouli, you can use a food processor.

  2. The blade must be sharp and the parsley must be air-dried, not wilted. Pulse the parsley in small batches, about 4 cups at a time depending on the size of your food processor. I use one that holds 12 cups.)
To prepare the salad
  1. Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to serving (allowing the bulgur to expand).

  2. Add the next 6 ingredients and mix thoroughly just before serving.
To serve
  • Serve the tabbouli spooned on heart of romaine leaves (or tender cabbage leaves, fresh grape leaves off the vine, or endive spears), garnished with lemon wedges, tomato wedges, and sprigs of mint.
Selecting Parsley
  • Choose parsley with tightly curled leaves that are dark green with no wilting or yellowing.
Specialty ingredients:
  • Bulgur wheat #1 (fine), found at specialty markets or online.
Cabbage and Beet Salad -- Salata Malfoof ma Shamandar
Serves 4 (about 1 quart)

Prepare ahead: You can prepare the salad up to 1 day in advance. Store covered in the refrigerator. Dress the salad as directed.

For the salad

  • 4 cups (lightly packed) thinly sliced green cabbage (1/8 inch)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can sliced beets (drain and slice into 1/8-inch strips)
  • 1 large clove garlic
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or freshly squeezed lemon juice)
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
To prepare the salad
  1. Combine the cabbage and beets in a medium-sized bowl; cover and refrigerate.
  2. In a small bowl, mash the garlic and salt to a pulp using a pestle.
  3. Add the vinegar and oil. Mix well. Toss with the salad and refrigerate covered for about an hour prior to serving; this allows the flavors to develop. Offer with kibbi trays and Eggplant Moussaka.
Selecting Cabbage
  • Choose heads that are firm and seem heavy for their size. Avoid light or discolored ones, as that means they have lost much of their moisture.
Special equipment:
  • A pestle (a garlic press will do)
Yogurt Cheese Canapés -- Labni Canapé
Makes 2 dozen

These tasty canapés are so easy to prepare and are the perfect choice with cocktails or as a tray-passed hors d'oeuvre. The flavor of the fresh mint complements the tangy bite of the olives, and the cool yogurt cheese is great with crisp cucumber.

For the yogurt cheese canapés

  • 1 small baguette (about a 12-inch baguette)
  • 1 firm cucumber
  • 24 small fresh mint leaves
  • ½ cup yogurt cheese
  • 12 small Spanish manzanilla olives, cut in half widthwise
  • Paprika
To prepare the yogurt cheese canapés
  1. Slice the baguette into 24 rounds ¼ inch thick. Cut the cucumber into 24 slices ¼-inch thick. Use a 1½-inch round cookie cutter to cut an inner circle of bread from each round that is crust free.

  2. Cut the cucumber slices the same way so they will be a perfect fit once stacked over the discs of bread. Punch a small hole in the center of each cucumber slice large enough to set the small olive half on top of the hole.

  3. Prepare 24 small fresh mint leaves that have been pre-rinsed and are completely dry. Spread about 1 teaspoon of yogurt cheese over each disc of bread.

  4. Place the cucumber over the cheese. Set a half olive, pimento side facing up, in the hole in the cucumber. Insert the mint leaf under the olive, securing it in place. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To serve
  • Arrange sprigs of fresh mint and sprinkle paprika along the edge of the serving dish.
Specialty ingredients:
  • Yogurt cheese (labni). You can prepare it fresh, or buy it at a specialty market or online.
Special equipment:
  • A 1.-inch round cookie cutter.
Prepare ahead:
    You can prepare the individual items a day in advance.

    Cover and refrigerate separately.

    You can assemble them up to 3 hours in advance. Refrigerate covered.

Baklava -- Baklawa bi Jouz
Makes about 4 dozen

You can find baklava in many grocery stores and bakeries. These pastries come in many shapes and sizes and are traditionally diamond shaped, available with a variety of nut fillings, walnuts being most commonly used. What separates this baklava from store bought is the clarified butter, the homemade syrup, and the fact that it is freshly baked from your oven. This sweet, crisp walnut strudel is so easy to prepare and is a delicious addition at any gathering.

For the baklava

  • 1 (16-ounce) package 12 x 17-inch fillo dough (room temperature)
  • 1 cup cooled syrup (see the following recipe)
  • 3 cups finely ground walnuts (about ¾ pound)
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons mazaher
  • 1¼ cups melted clarified butter (unsalted butter will do)
  • 2 tablespoons finely ground unsalted pistachios (garnish)
To prepare the baklava
  1. Bring the fillo to room temperature (see "Handling Fillo Dough," page xiv). Prepare the syrup as described below and set it aside.

  2. Combine the walnuts and sugar in a bowl. Mix in the mazaher, using the back of a spoon to press the mazaher into the walnuts and sugar until evenly blended and the nuts seem damp. Set aside.

  3. Count the sheets of fillo dough (the number of sheets in a pound of fillo varies from box to box). Divide them, using one-third of the sheets for the bottom, 4 sheets for the center to hold the nuts, and the rest to be used on top. Keep the fillo dough covered with plastic to prevent drying.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush the bottom of a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan with melted butter. Place 1 sheet of fillo dough on the bottom of the tray. It will be slightly crumpled, which is no problem. Brush it with butter by starting at the corners and edges, working your way to the center. Continue layering one-third of the sheets on the bottom of the pan, making certain that you are brushing each sheet with butter before placing the next. (Some of the sheets may tear while transferring them into the tray; it's okay, just adjust them as best you can.)

  5. The next 4 sheets will line the edges of the pan to prevent the nuts from touching the sides of the pan and burning while baking. Place 1 sheet of fillo so that half of it is in the pan and the other half drapes over the edge. Brush the section in the pan with butter. Repeat this on the other 3 edges. Fold each piece that is draped over the edge back in toward the center of the pan to form a double layer of fillo against each side of the pan. Brush the fillo with butter.

  6. Transfer the walnut mixture to the pan. Use the tines of a fork to evenly distribute the mixture up to the corners and sides, right up to the fillo. Fold the pieces of fillo that are draped over the sides in and over the walnut mixture and brush them with butter.

  7. Continue layering the sheets of fillo, brushing each sheet with butter before placing the next. (Always brush them from the corners and edges, working your way toward the center.) Carefully arrange the final 2 sheets so they are as flat as possible, brushing each layer with butter. Work your way around the border, using a small spatula, and tuck in any loose pieces. Brush the top and edges one final time with butter.

  8. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the top of the baklava pan, and use a flat pancake turner to press down evenly over the entire top. (Doing this before cutting the baklava into individual pieces will ensure that the layers are even and will bake together.) Remove the plastic wrap and make 5 cuts lengthwise (from one side to the other), about 1 ½ inches apart. Make 9 diagonal cuts widthwise (from one side to the other) that are also about 1 ½ inches apart.

  9. Bake the baklava in the center of the oven for 55 to 65 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Evenly drizzle cooled syrup over the top of the hot baklava (oven hot baklava absorbs syrup better), to coat each piece. (Do not pour warm or hot syrup over the baked baklava; it will decrease the crispy texture.) Set aside to cool for at least 4 hours before removing pieces.
To serve
  1. Prior to serving the baklava, go over the cuts to loosen the individual pieces from the tray.

  2. Garnish the top of each piece with a pinch of ground pistachios. Serve at room temperature.
Variation: You can substitute 1 teaspoon cinnamon for the mazaher. Substitute almonds, cashews, or pistachios in place of the walnuts. When using pistachios, use maward (rose water) instead of mazaher (orange blossom water). The rest of the recipe and procedure remain the same.

Syrup -- Atr (utt-terr)
Makes about 1 ½ cups

Prepare ahead: You can prepare this days to weeks in advance. Cool completely prior to storing it in an airtight container at room temperature.

Referred to by some as simple syrup, I think of it as essential syrup. While it's very easy to make, it is important not to over-boil the syrup. The longer you boil the sugar and water mixture, the thicker the syrup will become. When it gets too thick, it will not be absorbed as well by the sweets you are preparing it for.

For the syrup

  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, strained
To prepare the syrup
  1. Dissolve the sugar and water together in a saucepan and mix well. (A word of caution: Do not use a wooden cooking utensil that you have used to sauté onions, garlic, or other foods, as the syrup will absorb that flavor.) The syrup will appear cloudy at this stage.

  2. Place over high heat, uncovered. Once the mixture has come to a rolling boil and the surface seems engulfed by bubbles, set the timer and boil for 2 minutes.

  3. Then stir in the lemon juice and return to a boil for an additional 10 to 15 seconds. Remove from the heat and set aside, uncovered. Cool completely before using. Note: When preparing larger batches of syrup, you may need to allow the mixture to boil a bit longer accordingly.
Variation: You can substitute lime juice for the lemon juice. You can add ½ tablespoon mazaher (orange blossom water) or maward (rose water) at the same time you add the lemon juice for scented syrups.

Specialty ingredients:

  • Fillo dough, found in most grocery stores or specialty markets (my favorite brand is Apollo)
  • Clarified butter
  • Mazaher (orange blossom water), found in specialty markets or online
Special equipment: A food processor, pastry brush, and a 9 x 13 x 2-inch baking pan.

Prepare ahead: You can bake baklava up to 3 days in advance. Cool completely and store in an airtight container. It can be refrigerated prior to baking for several days or frozen unbaked for several months. When refrigerating or freezing unbaked baklava, do not cut it into pieces until ready to bake. Press plastic wrap up against the top of the baklava and seal it around the edges to keep the moisture in; then place the pan in an airtight bag. When frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator. Always bring it to room temperature prior to baking.

All recipes are from the book "Classic Lebanese Cuisine"

>> Buy this book on Amazon: Classic Lebanese Cuisine: 170 Fresh and Healthy Mediterranean Favorites

About Chef Kamal Al-Faqih:

Born in the United States as the son of a diplomat, Chef Kamal Al-Faqih was quickly introduced to Lebanese cuisine at his parent's home in Washington D.C. where he would assist his mother in the kitchen as they prepared time honored family recipes.

His background and upbringing instilled in him a natural authenticity and palate for Lebanese and Mediterranean cuisine. In 1986, the chef made his debut as the owner and head chef of the first exclusively Mediterranean catering company in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area (Med Catering).

He has cooked for major American celebrities and foreign dignitaries alike, including Francis Ford Coppola, Angelica Houston, the Jordanian Royal family, and the White House. In addition to his professional catering business, from the early 1990s to the present, Chef Kamal has led a variety of cooking demonstrations across North America.

From Georgetown University and the Middle East Institute in Washington D.C. to dozens of private homes on the West Coast, Chef Kamal's charm and natural skills in the kitchen has introduced hundreds of individuals to heart-healthy Mediterranean foods for both formal entertaining and casual dining.

For more information about Chef Kamal Al-Faqih visit

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