I set out to make ground turkey kofteh kebabs: These are the well-seasoned, oblong, sausage-shaped bites that are pressed onto a skewer and grilled.
I have made them from beef frequently in the past, but had not used turkey. Turkey is a blank canvas and, if not treated right, can dry out, so I set out to season it well and serve it on skewers for a casual, easy-to-eat barbecue.
The best-laid plans …
I mixed the turkey with onion, garlic, some fresh herbs, panko and an egg. Then I tried to form it into cylinders and press it onto the skewers. I failed. The mixture slopped off and fell back into the bowl.
I thought chilling it might help, so I stuck it in the fridge for an hour. Optimistically, I removed the bowl from the fridge and tried again. Fail.
Guests were due in the backyard for a socially distanced dinner in 45 minutes, and I had to come up with something. Patties suggested themselves, but I did not want this to come off as a burger dinner, so I made the patties small. They were a breeze to cook and, although we did not serve them with pita, they would be excellent as a gyro-esque wrap.
The “tabouleh” was a bit of a revelation. We have become fans of groats as a result of shopping from an interesting merchant at our farmers market. Morganics Grains offers various types of flours, oats, grains and cereals, which are grown on its local farm, and sells them by the pound.
Groats are oats in their whole-grain form. Unlike rolled oats, the flat grains we enjoy as oatmeal for breakfast, raw groats look more like brown rice. They have a nutty, crunchy texture and are loaded with nutrition and fiber.
They do take at least an hour to cook, so some advance planning is required, but I cooked these a day ahead and put them in the fridge; when it came time to assemble the salad, it took 10 minutes. The results were terrific, especially in these days when so many are avoiding wheat for health reasons.
If groats are not to your liking, you can certainly use bulgur wheat for the recipe. Just be sure to cook it or soak it in boiling water according to the package directions. Alternatively, consider using cooked brown rice, barley, quinoa or farro for some variety on this iconic dish.
Turkey ‘Kofteh’ Patties
Makes about 10 small patties
We served these with an assortment of condiments — green chutney, hot sauce, Sriracha mayonnaise, mustard, steak sauce, tamarind sauce — as it was a bit of a free-for-all clean out of the jars in the fridge, but it allowed everyone to dress the patties to their preferences.
1 pound ground turkey
½ cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons crushed garlic (approximately 4 cloves)
1 handful fresh cilantro, chopped finely
1 teaspoon Sriracha or your favorite hot sauce (optional)
½ teaspoon each salt and pepper
⅔ cup panko breadcrumbs
Mix all the ingredients well in a large bowl.
Form the mixture into small patties.
Heat your grill to medium-high and grill the patties, about 4-5 minutes per side, until cooked through.
Serve with sauces, pita or your favorite sides.
Cooking the groats ahead of time — it can be done a few days in advance — makes this a super-quick assembly. And the groats must be completely cooled before putting the salad together or you risk “cooking” some of the vegetables, which will make them soggy and reduce their flavors.
The beauty of this dish lies in the variation of taste and texture in one delicious bowl: the crunch of the grain, the zing of the onion, the tang of the lemon juice, the crunch of the cucumber, the freshness of the parsley and mint, the summery goodness of the tomato. Yum.
It makes for a splendid side, because it comprises salad and starch in one. And it is robust enough to be a main course; add some chickpeas if you crave additional heft and protein.
1 pound groats
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 large bunch parsley, chopped
1 small bunch mint, chopped
Juice of 2 lemons
¼ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Generous sprinkling of fresh cracked pepper
Prepare the groats: Soak the groats for about an hour, skim the pieces that float to the top and discard. Drain the groats, then place them in a pot with enough water to cover by 3 inches, add a pinch of salt and bring it to a boil.
Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 60-70 minutes until the grains burst and are chewable. Drain the groats, and cool.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and add the cooled groats. Stir, taste, add more salt, pepper and lemon juice and/or oil, if needed, for flavor and texture.
This is best if allowed to sit at room temperature for an hour or so before serving. It will keep for several days in the refrigerator.
Keri White is a food writer based in Philadelphia.