Squash Kibbeh with Brown Butter and Spiced Feta
This version of kibbeh (Arabic) or kofte (Turkish) is simple to make. The kibbeh is baked and steamed, which gives it the consistency of a dumpling: soft and pliable with a creamy center. I mold the kibbeh in a jumbo espresso cup, stuff it with spiced cheese, and then bake it in the oven just before serving. Then I invert the espresso cups to remove the kibbeh before serving. I love the spices in the feta combined with the brown butter and squash flavors.
The kibbeh is a wonderful accompaniment to rich red meat-such as beef sausage or rib eye or a gamy entree like pheasant or venison. You can make the squash puree, kibbeh, and filling ahead of time (up to 3 days) and assemble and bake them right before serving.
I prefer red kuri squash for this recipe because it’s dense and contains very little water. The goal here is to choose a squash that makes a very creamy puree. Butternut squash is a good substitute for red kuri, although the flavor is more delicate and the kibbeh will be softer.
I like the tall, thin shape that an espresso cup gives the kibbeh. But since Italian espresso cups usually only hold ¼ cup, I use jumbo espresso cups. Any ½-cup ramekin should work.
Aleppo chiles are available from Kalustyan’s (www.Kalustyan.com; 800-352-3451)
Cooking Methodbaking, sauteeing
Total Timeunder 4 hours
Make Ahead RecipeYes
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Courseside dish
Dietary Considerationside dish
Equipmentbaking/gratin dish, food processor
Taste and Texturecreamy, savory, spiced, sweet, tangy
- 3 pounds squash, such as red kuri or butternut
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon Middle Eastern Five-Spice
- 1½ cups fine bulgur
- ½ pound feta cheese, preferably French sheep’s milk or
- goat’s milk, drained and roughly crumbled
- ½ teaspoon Middle Eastern Five Spice ¼ teaspoon sumac
- ½ teaspoon aleppo chillies (see Notes)
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- Salt and pepper to taste
To Make the Squash Kibbeh:
Cut the squash in half lengthwise, scrape out the seeds, and bake it, flesh-side down, on a lightly oiled heavy baking sheet for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender. When the squash is cool, remove the flesh from the skin with a large spoon, and puree it in a food processor fitted with a metal blade, until smooth and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Reserve 2 cups of the puree for the recipe.
To make brown butter, bring the butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, and then reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer the butter for about 10 minutes, until it turns brown and smells like hazelnuts. The butter has just clarified-the solids have sunk to tbe bottom and tbe water has evaporated-and it can burn quickly (turning from brown to black), so you must watch it carefully after 6 minutes of simmering, As soon as you smell a toasted nut aroma, check the butter. Strain the clarified butter immediately through a fine sieve into a small bowl. Allow the butter to cool.
In a large saucepan or soup pan over medium high heat, cook the onion and pepper in olive oil for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and the peppers are soft.
Stir in the paprika and 1 teaspoon of the five-spice and stir to coat the onion mixture.
Stir in 2 cups of the squash puree and cook for about 5 minutes, until the squash is hot.
Reduce the heat to low and stir in the bulgur. Turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. The mixture should be soft, like dough.
Season with salt and pepper, and stir in the brown butter.
To Make the Spiced Feta Filling:
Place the crumbled feta in a mixing bowl and stir in ½ teaspoon five-spice, the sumac. aleppo chilies, and parsley. Stir for a few minutes to make the mixture as creamy as possible, although chunks of feta will remain.
Season with salt and pepper (the feta may be salty enough, depending on the brand).
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
Line up 8 jumbo espresso cups or any ½-cup ramekins. Fill each cup with ½ cup of kibbeh mixture. Then, using your forefinger, make a hole in the center of each cup so that you almost touch the bottom. The hole should be big enough to fit a few teaspoons of feta in the center. Some kibbeh will rise up over the cup, which is good, since you will use it to fold over the filling
3. Using a teaspoon, fill each hole with 2 generous teaspoon of the feta mixture.
4. Seal the tops with the overlapping kibbeh. A few little holes may remain, but try to encapsulate the cheese filling as best you can.
Place the cups on a heavy baking sheet and bake for about 14 minutes, until they are hot.
Turn the kibbeh out of the cups and onto plates and serve with any leftover feta filling on the side. When you split the kibbeh open with a fork the center should be warm, soft, and creamy.
2006 Ana Sortun