In the narrow, exciting streets there were little cookshops that sold kebab (shish kebab is the Turkish form). Bits of meat, tomato, and onion broiled on spikes. In the early spring bunches of green chickpeas, roasted in the bread ovens, were sold. These foods were sold to the peasants who came into the city to work, and our nurses liked them, and we liked them too.
–Bertha Spafford Vester, Our Jerusalem (1950)
When Ibrahim Faraj of Restaurant Diana in Nazareth lifts up his huge knife, watch out! With what seems a single cut and a single slash, he either slices his meat into chunks or chops it so fast that it becomes ground meat for kebabs. The larger the audience, the more this impresario likes it. First he fires up his oven, burning lemon and avocado wood, and waits until the embers are white. Then, with the flourish of an accomplished showman, he sprinkles onions, parsley, salt, and black and white pepper onto the meat, and forms the ovals with an almost magical efficiency. In a country which prides itself on its grilled meat, his recipe wins, hands down.
- 1 pound ground lamb
- 1 onion, finely diced (about 1 cup)
- 1 cup finely diced fresh parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Freshly ground white pepper to taste
- 1 onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 1 large tomato, cut into 2-inch pieces
- 5 pita breads
- Tomato halves, green bell peppers, and parsley for garnish (optional)
1. Put the meat, diced onions, parsley, and salt and peppers on a wooden board or in a bowl. Knead with both hands until well mixed.
2. Divide the meat into 15 pieces and mold these into ovals.
3. Thread 3 of the meat ovals onto a thin meat skewer, each separated by an onion and a tomato.
4. Set the skewers on a grill over white embers. Also place an Iraqi pita or other type of pita on the grill. Watch the meat carefully and turn after a few minutes to grill on the other side.
5. Serve on a platter with the pita, and, if you like, with tomato halves, peppers, and parsley in the center.
Nutritional information is based on 6 servings, 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving and does not include optional Garnishes.