After a long, unusually cool spring, warmer weather and humidity have returned to south Louisiana in full force. The abrupt switch to summer leaves me craving lighter foods, sharper flavors, and less fat…which means my Big Green Eggs are being fired up at least once a week. I’ve been on a kebab kick: chicken, beef tenderloin, zucchini. If it fits on a stick and cooks quickly, I’m a fan right now.
In a web search for new-to-me stuff on a stick, I came across the Turkish Adana kebab (capitalized because it’s the name of Turkey’s fourth-largest city), consisting of hand-minced meat from a male lamb, lamb tail fat, minced red peppers, and salt. Up to a meter long, Adana kebab is grilled over coals and served atop flatbread, accompanied by roasted tomatoes and an onion/parsley/sumac mixture. These kebabs are taken seriously–the Adana kebab has been protected by a “Controlled Designation of Origin” since 2005.
Well, fat-tailed sheep are not a standard item in my local markets, nor is the lamb meat labeled with the sex of the animal. So, despite the CDO regulations, I took the liberty of substituting 80/20 ground turkey, roasted red peppers, and added a little ground onion and za’atar to the minced poultry mixture. After shaping it around sticks and grilling until done throughout, I served my not-Adana kebabs with a yogurt/lime/mint spread on toasted naan. Perhaps all of these adjustments would be blasphemy to the culinary accountants who created the CDO for a kebab. I thought the results were delicious; the finely cut onions and peppers lightened the ground turkey’s often too dense texture, resulting in tender, almost fluffy kebabs with a crisp crust and deep flavor.
My turkey and and red pepper kebabs, inspired by Adana kebabs
- 1 1/2 lbs ground turkey (choose a mixture with more fat for a succulent kebab)
- 1 large roasted red pepper, skinned (or equivalent jarred roasted red pepper)
- 1/4 cup onion (1/4 to 1/2 of a small onion)
- 4 tsp za’atar seasoning mixture
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 T olive oil
- kebab skewers; charcoal grill
Light a charcoal grill; set it up for direct cooking. In a food processor, pulse the roasted peppers and onion until finely minced; take care not to over-process into a paste. Place minced pepper and onion in a large bowl with the ground turkey, za’atar, and salt. Stir until well combined, using hands to thoroughly incorporate the seasonings. Using about 1/2 cup of turkey mixture at a time, squeeze it into an oblong shape around a kebab skewer, compressing it firmly around the stick. Kebabs should be approximately 1.5-2″ wide and 4-6′ long. Lay the formed kebab gently onto a sheet pan. Repeat until all of the turkey mixture is used. Brush formed kebabs with olive oil. Cook over a hot charcoal fire until cooked throughout; kebabs will feel slightly spongy when poked with a finger. Remove the skewers; serve on pita, naan, or flatbread of choice, with tomatoes and plain yogurt. Yields 12-18 kebabs, depending on size/thickness.