Monthly Archives: December 2007

The great Kubba experiment

kubba in process

I loooove kubba, at least, the way my mother-in-law made it, Iraqi-style with an incredible thin shell and flavorful and juicy meat stuffing. She was a fantastic cook, someone who (along with a good friend in college) instilled my foodie tendencies and gave me the base for my cooking fervor. They say that in the Middle East, you can judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kubba, just as in Korea you judge a cook by his/her (more likely her) kimchi.

By Middle Eastern standards then, I am a horrible cook, because I have never made a decent kubba. I’ve made some great tasting filling, but my kubba or kibbe or kibbeh or kobeba, once constructed, has a dry, thick shell that overwhelms any juicy meat stuffing. I guess that’s an improvement from my first kubba attempt–I couldn’t even get the filling around the meat, I just had lumps of disaster.

And yet, every few years, I try to make kubba on my own. Each time, the results are a little closer to the real thing, though I’ve never been able to replicate my mother-in-law’s kubba (some day, some day). The traditional recipe calls for a bulgur cracked wheat based shell, but I am beginning to think that that is not what she used (the cream of wheat below is for a different kind of kubba, the kind that goes into stews).

ingredients for kubba

The ingredients are above–spices, pine nuts, parsley, an onion, ground beef…and bulgur for the shell (the cream of wheat again, is for a different kind of kubba, described later on below).

This website that I and my friends share with you–one of the purposes of it is to serve as an archive for my own recipes. And these days, I’m trying to compile family recipes, and in this case, re-create a family recipe.

Visually, the kubba were a success. And they do beat kubba I’ve had in some restaurants.

kubba

But my husband and I, we’re still dreaming of his mother’s kubba. Next time, I’ll work on making a thinner shell, and maybe using something other than bulgur for the shell base. He and I are now in agreement that his mother did not use bulgur for the shell. Maybe matzo? Who knows. We’ll keep experimenting. It’s how I ended up making many of her other dishes, guessing secret ingredients and other components until the dishes tasted just like hers.

Still, there’s something you can do with leftover kubba filling–it’s easy and not as complicated as making kubba, but it’s just as delicious. And if all your kubba fails, you will still be left with something savory and delicious to eat, something I call “kubba meat omelettes” that my mother-in-law also used to make. And I think it might actually be an authentic dish, though I can’t verify that.  It is also called “Uk.”

kubba filling

Eat it in a pita with some hot sauce (sriracha, or sambal oelek…or just some hummus), or eat them on their own. It’s a good reward, successful kubba or no. They’re great for brunch, served room temperature or cold. In sum, they’re versatile and yummy.

And they’re good for my cooking self-esteem. For, of all else fails, at least there are these tasty omelettes to fall back on. I wonder, sometimes, if these came about from the failed kubba of other cooks.

But onward to other kinds of kubba!

There are several different kinds of kubba–in addition to the kubba above, there is kubba made with semolina, cooked in a stew like dumplings.

kubba for the kubba bamia

The above kubba look different, yes, because the shell is made of semolina (or cream of wheat). The stuffing is also different–less spicy than the kubba above, and void of pine nuts.

The cream of wheat kubba is not to be fried…they’re included as dumplings in a stew…

Cooked in an okra stew, the “kubba bamia” is wonderful…

kubba bamia

The stew by itself is great–a favorite in our household, but with kubba the stew takes on an extra flair.

Recipes follow after the jump…

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The lune

Butternut squash lune pasta!

I purchased a pasta roller last week, an attachment to my kitchenaid mixer that I’ve been eyeing for quite some time. I’ve also been hesitating for quite some time, because it’s an expensive accessory for a food (pasta) that I don’t eat very often, and pasta is a food that I generally try to avoid (I’m watching my weight though admittedly, I generally watch my weight in a very passive manner–as I just recently watched myself gain two pounds…okay, enough of that weight digression).

Despite the odds, I purchased a pasta roller in a moment of self indulgence. And I used it.

Instead of tackling something entirely new for Muffin Top, I decided to use a recipe in our archives–that of Mario Batali’s Pumpkin Lune with Butter and Sage, using The French Laundry’s recipe for pasta dough (minus one egg, because I only had six eggs on hand). Given that this was my first time making pasta dough from scratch, I thought I would use Connie’s directions as a spiritual guide.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli) in process

As Connie suggested, I started making the pasta dough in a large mixing bowl (what a great suggestion) and aside from keeping my marble clear from broken yolk, it actually helped keep the flour well intact. I was surprised at how simple pasta is to make, and silently vowed to make pasta more often.

But it’s a bit of work–especially that kneading part! The French Laundry recipe says to knead the pasta dough for a minimum of 15 minutes (and then to knead it an additional 10 minutes). So I was kneading for nearly 30 minutes, in fear of “pasta collapse,” according to directions:

Even if you think you are finished kneading, knead it for an extra ten minutes; you cannot overknead this dough. It is important to work the dough long enough to pass the pull test; otherwise, when it rests, it will collapse.

Whatever pasta collapse is, it sounded terrifying. So I kneaded. Vigorously. For half an hour. By the end, I wasn’t exactly sweating, but I was definitely feeling warm. A good way to burn off calories for the imminent pasta fest. While the pasta dough rested, I focused on the filling. The pasta dough is supposed to rest for between 30 minutes to one hour, so you’ll want to work accordingly.

I’d roasted a small butternut squash the night before. Yes, I used butternut squash because that’s what I prefer…and you’ll definitely want to do the roasting beforehand if you want the timeline to work well. The squash took about an hour to roast–Mario Batali’s recipe states half that time, but my squash, like Connie’s, was not anywhere near soft at that point. Plus, you’ll need cooling time for the filling.

If you’ve roasted your squash/pumpkin the night before (or before making the pasta) the filling is a quick step: it’s simply combining ingredients and mixing/mashing them together.

Rolling out the pasta was a fun matter–kind of like craft class for me, really! Though I rolled the pasta out to the appropriate thinness for ravioli, according to my pasta roller’s directions (notch “5”), I think I will roll them out thinner in the future. It was still very satisfactory, and the thicker pasta gave the lune a rustic mien.

Filling and making the ravioli reminded me of my childhood. No, I’m not Italian, but I am Korean, and the round pasta, with filling, and the process of sealing the edges in reminded me of making mandu or mandoo with my mother. Though Batali’s recipe says to just seal the edges, I was a bit dubious…so I used little dabs of water on the edges before sealing and pinching the lune shut. (Be sure to not leave ANY air inside the pasta–otherwise they will pop open while being boiled!) The water seal was a great reassurance to me–and none of my lune popped–the result was good enough for me.

homemade butternut squash lune pasta (ravioli)

In the end, I had a very good little stack of lune. I was disappointed by the fact that all of the pasta rolling work had resulted in only fourteen ravioli (though they were sizable). I had hoped to have enough to freeze for another meal, or enough to give to a friend. But nope. So you’ll want to double the French Laundry pasta dough recipe to match it to the Batali (or likewise, halve the Batali filling recipe).

The hardest part was done–I followed the recipe for the butter and sage–yes, the lune splatters as it enters the hot butter as Connie says (so watch out). And I did leave the amaretti cookie out because I didn’t have an amaretti cookie.

Oh, and like Connie, I didn’t throw away the pasta scraps–I saved them to eat a rustic pasta meal a couple nights later.

Enjoy–thank you Connie and Batali and Keller, for the inspiration, and for initiating me to pasta making!

Recipes follow after the jump…

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