Kibbeh with Yogurt Sauce
1 pound (90%) lean ground beef
2 cups cooked bulgur (cooked from instant is fine), cooled to just barely warm
1 large onion, finely minced
1 cup roughly-chopped parsley
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup golden raisins, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon Za’atar
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
Finely grated zest and juice of one lemon (keep them separate)
3/4 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup chopped fresh mint or parsley (chop these just before you add them to the sauce if you’re using them, this keeps them from browning)
Break up the beef into small pieces in a large bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Mix with a fork, and then let the meat sit for about 15 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and lemon zest, along with a little salt and pepper. Cook for a minute, then add the Za’atar and the red pepper flakes. Crank up the heat for a minute until everything’s smelling great. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the pine nuts, half the parsley, and the raisins. Stir for 2-3 minutes while cooking. The raisin pieces should all be separate. Scrape the mixture onto a plate to cool to just barely warm.
Add the cooled bulgur to the bowl with the meat, then the cooled onion mixture. Mix well with your hands. Shape into 24 small patties. If you have time, put the patties on a couple of dinner plates and chill for a half hour or so. This isn’t strictly necessary, but they are less likely to crumble when you cook them if you do. (You can mix and shape them way ahead if you like.)
Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet, preferably nonstick. Cook the Kibbeh patties about 4 minutes per side. They should be nicely crusted and brown, and cooked all the way through. You will probably have to do this in two batches unless you have two skillets — add a little oil to the pan if necessary between batches.
Let the patties cool for a few minutes and make the sauce: combine the lemon juice, yogurt, and remaining parsley, along with some pepper and a little salt if you need it. Stir in the mint or basil, if you’re using them. Serve with the Kibbeh, which can be warm or at room temperature.