Fried Meat From the Levant

Hunting & Gathering

BY ANDREW FABIAN SRQ DAILY FRESHLY SQUEEZED CONTENT EVERY MORNING TUESDAY MAR 10, 2020

Like the cultures and cuisines of the Levant in the Middle East, Sahara Mediterranean Café has maintained a distinct identity in Sarasota even as the region has undergone dramatic changes to its makeup. Every few years, the owners spruce up the décor, slap on a fresh coat of paint and maybe hang up some new art, but the one thing they never change is the flavor profile of the food that has made them so successful for 20 years. Average customers gravitate towards their gyro wraps, and rightfully so. Others might go for a vegetarian platter of hummus, grape leaves, tabbouleh and falafel. But we direct our attention now to kibbeh.

Kibbeh comes from the Classical Arabic word for “ball,” but unlike its more spherically inclined vegetarian cousin falafel, kibbeh often takes the shape of a football. The shape comes from the small cones that are used to mold the delicious morsel, but more important than the shape is its contents. Minced beef gets sautéed with onions, parsley, pine nuts and various spices that may include cinnamon, nutmeg, cumin, pepper, allspice or whatever else tickles the fancy of its maker. The spiced meat is then stuffed into a pocket of a crudely made cracked wheat dough, then deep-fried. An exquisitely browned and crispy treat similar to a croquette is the final result, and it makes the perfect fried and meaty compliment to accompaniments like tabbouleh and hummus.

Photo taken by Andrew Fabian.

Sahara Café and Mediterranean Foods, 1121 South Tamiami Trl., 941-954-1423.

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