09 April 2011
I have been traveling a lot recently, and while I have always thought of travel as a great culinary experience, I've come to realize it can also be the complete opposite. It can be stuck on the tarmac in a snow-delayed flight with 2 screaming infants and no breakfast in sight, it can be hours of driving across wasteland where even fast food is hard to find, it can be places so unsanitary you are taking your life in your hands by eating.
Schwarma stands are ubiquitous in the Middle East, tall cones of fat and meat dripping and glistening in the light, eaten after a late night of drinking or as a quick meal. I've never been super-excited about schwarma (also called a gyro), but this past week a good schwarma stand was the most exciting part of my week, which was otherwise dominated by hours of work fortified by Cliff bars.
Restaurant-style schwarma is not something to be made at home (it involves layering chunks of fat, marinated meat, and seasoning on a giant stick and cooking it on a rotating spit). However, many Arab cooks make a homestyle version of schwarma made with thinly sliced lamb or beef broiled in the oven. It makes a great sandwich, and I can picture making a large batch of this and having sandwiches everyday for lunch. I like mine with tomatoes, mint, lettuce and tahini sauce.
The meat will appear very greasy when you take it out of the oven- that's exactly how it should be. Adapted from Maria Khalife.
2 lb sirloin steak, cut into julianne strips
1/4 tsp ground mastic (optional, available at Middle Eastern shops)
1/8 tsp each cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and black pepper
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tbl finely minced fat (optional)
2 garlic cloves, minced
for sandwiches: flatbreads, tomatoes, shredded lettuce, mint, tahini sauce
1. Combine all ingredients except minced fat, cover, and marinate overnight.
2. Preheat oven to 400 F. Place meat and marinade into a baking dish, add fat if using, bake for 30 minutes until most of the excess liquid is evaporated and the meat is nicely browned. Serve warm.