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Beef Kofta with Harissa Yogurt Sauce

In a recent issue of Bon Appétit, meatballs made the list of favorite foods in 2009. I seemed to miss that trend on menus and magazines but nonetheless was inspired by the ethnic versions in the issue.

Kofta, in simplest terms, is a Middle Eastern meatball. The Bon Appétit recipe called for lamb but the beef roast in my freezer was begging to be used. So after a few whirls in the food processor my lean beef was meatball worthy. I saved myself some time and threw the onions in for a few spins. If you have lean beef the onions are key to keep the beef moist.

This yogurt sauce was also begging for something – my new favorite fiery ingredient – harissa. The paste of chili peppers, garlic, coriander and caraway took this sauce from blah to bold.

Servings: 6


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup coarsely grated onion
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon coriander
  • 1/2 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 6 Whole Wheat pitas (warmed in oven or microwave)
  • 2 large onions, halved through core, cut crosswise into 1/4- to 1/3-inch slices

Yogurt Sauce:

  • 1 cup Greek Yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon prepared Harissa
  • 1/2 Lemon, juiced
  • Kosher salt


For the Harissa Yogurt Sauce:

Stir all ingredients in medium bowl to blend. Cover and chill.

For the Beef Kofta:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions; sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sauté until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Transfer onions to a bowl and set aside.

Gently mix beef and next 9 ingredients in large bowl. Using 2 tablespoonfuls for each, roll meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch meatballs (24 total).

Add 1 tablespoon oil to same skillet used to cook onions; heat over medium-high heat. Sauté half of meatballs until just cooked through, 7 to 8 minutes. Transfer to baking sheet in oven. Repeat with remaining meatballs.

Top warm pita with yogurt sauce, onions and meatballs.

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