16 September 2010

Kebab Karaz (Cherry Kebabs)


This dish is a specialty of Aleppo, Syria, where sour cherries are prevalent. I ate this dish for the first time at the famous Beit Sissi in Aleppo, a must-visit for anyone interested in Levantine cuisine. I'd never made kebab karaz because sour cherries are very hard to come by in my neighborhood. But if you're determined, possessing of friends from Michigan, or willing to order frozen or canned cherries, it is possible to get your fix. You can check out Middle Eastern or Persian/Pakistani groceries too.

At its simplest version, kebab karaz involves stringing sour cherries and little meatballs on a stick and grilling them. The idea is always to have the cherries and the meatballs approximately the same size. In a slightly more complicated version, you make a sauce with the cherries and add the grilled meatballs to it afterwards, and in the most complex version, you make kibbeh (follow this recipe) and then add it to the cherry sauce.


I prefer the middle version, since it's easy and the cherry sauce that coats the meatballs is a beautiful glistening red, and delicious. The photo here really does not do it justice. I'm not a big eater of red meat, and yet I made sure I got the last portion of this to take for my lunch the next day. I think that says a lot.


Kebab Karaz (Cherry Kebabs)

Be sure to serve this over flattened pieces of pita bread, or over rice, to absorb the juices.

1/2 an onion, finely diced
4 cups sour cherries, pitted
2 generous tablespoons pomegranate molasses
2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste
1 pound ground lamb or beef
2 teaspoons baharat
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
black pepper to taste
cilantro, pine nuts, for garnish

1. Prepare meatballs: knead the meat and remaining ingredients together until the mixture is smooth and sticky (you can also pulse it in the food processor if you want. Shape the mixture into balls the same size as large cherries and string onto kebab skewers. Refrigerate.
2. Preheat grill.
3. Saute the onion in some olive oil in a large skillet until it is translucent and tender. Add in the cherries, pomegranate molasses, and sugar and stir to combine. Simmer for 5-10 minutes, just to combine.
4. Grill the meatballs until nicely browned on the outside and cooked through. Add meatballs to the cherry sauce. Garnish with cilantro and pine nuts as desired. Serve immediately over rice or bread.


Unknown said...

This looks amazing, where do you typically get sour cherries?


Alépine said...

It's one of my favourite dishes ! I made it recently (here : http://parisalep.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/lahme-bel-karaz-kabab-aux-cerises/)

If you mix cherries (keep just a little for serving) to make the sauce, it will taste better, and it's the traditional way of making cherry kebab.

franmouse39 said...

Oh my. Those look very very good. Loving your blog and will link to it from mine.

Suha said...

hi! just wanted to let you know that i love your blog... i also love middle eastern food and cook it a lot (my parents are palestinian). keep it up! :-)

Food Jihadist said...

Okay. I am pretty much obsessed with the idea of this. I love sweet fruit with meats. Just did a dish of golden raisins with meatball but cherries sound sublime. Will be try it soon.

Unknown said...

This looks and sounds absolutely amazing. My father is from Greece and they're all about sour cherries, but I've never seen them combined with meat before. Fantastic! Can't wait to give it a try :)

Food Jihadist said...

Love it! Totally going to do it! Very happy I found your blog.