Recipe Thursday: Venison Kofta Kabobs & Laban w/ Sweet Potato/Pumpkin Seed Lemony Salad

So, it’s not news to those who know but I’ve been pretty sick this past Spring (and off and on for many years – Lyme disease makes everything harder) and my healthcare team have decided I need some ‘deeper cleaning’ – clean out the lymph system, regulate the endocrine, boost my gut biome. My body likes to hang on to things until there is slow and uncomfortable damage. The first things to go were alcohol (oh, lovely cocktail hour), sugar of any additional kind (not fruits – they’re ok, they’re food!), dairy, and grains. The latter being particular hard since the majority of this house is in some sort of baking process. None for me.

It’s been 2 weeks and my body is certainly doing new things (some good, some bad but detoxifying is not always a pretty process, so say my itchy hives all over my body). What have we been eating? Well, frankly, a lot of clean meat and fruits and veggies. Nuts/seeds/tofu/eggs are all good. Beans and some fruit are occasional friends. I did buy a couple of grain-free crackers and tortillas just in case I go nutty and need to feel like I’m eating something ‘substantial’ once in a while (they are ok, not great but they do the job; most of the time I just learn how to eat in a new way). I’ve had problems going grain-free before (my neurotransmitters get wonky, I get moody/crazy/depressed, etc) so I’m trying to keep a good eye on my blood sugar so I can keep the crazy to a minimum.

I eat lots of kimchi with toasted nuts/seeds and a ‘dippy egg’. Salads with lots of different roasted and raw veggies. Sauteed greens or a side salad or just cucumber with everything. Nuts and fruit as snacks, veggies and hummus, apple and peanut butter, grain free crackers and tapenade, etc. Though we did manage to have Tacos the other day because the shells we get are already grain free (they are chia/cassava and delish), with avocado and cashew yogurt. I’m not a big substituter – I don’t eat ‘meat’ substitutes (though I eat tofu, I don’t consider it a meat substitute, just a food in itself, same with veggie burgers), so I won’t buy a lot of dairy subs either – though I do already drink Almond milk (I just don’t care to drink Cow’s milk) so yogurt was a nice addition. My child is upset for me – since her world revolves around cheese and ice cream.

Tonight we will have Venison Kofta with a fresh frilly lettuce that came in the CSA today, roasted sweet potato chunks with a Mediterranean lemon dressing and likely toasted pumpkin seeds. It covers all my needs, is exciting, and the other peeps will like it, too. In fact, the venison – the lettuce – and the sweet potatoes all came in the CSA today so it’s already here and ready to be made! I have a pantry of international spices and lemon juice always at hand. These are simple and sexy with a garlicky cucumber yogurt sauce (Laban) and my mint (that I threw under the willow tree) is finally coming up to accompany this. Summery, satisfying, and fulfills the rules. Perfect.

As usual, there are many substitutes (despite what I say above) that could be handled here – any kind of ground meat would work – and you don’t have to kebab them if you don’t want to – savory meatballs are just as lovely, any kind of yogurt, any kind of lettuce and if you don’t have sweet potatoes – roasted cauliflower (of any color) or winter squash or even golden beets would work great here. No mint? You could sub lemon balm or fresh oregano, even just fresh parsley (I wouldn’t recommend dried herbs here as they will not soften enough in the yogurt) or for foraged goods some fresh sorrel (of any kind) or baby dock though if adding these last 2, start small and taste often as they could overpower quickly if using lemon or sumac. In addition, you could add Preserved Lemons as a delectable addition to the salad portion, and Broad, Lima, or Fava Beans sauteed with Olive Oil and a little Sea Salt to add texture, protein, and variety.

Venison Kofta & Laban with Roasted Sweet Potato/Pumpkin Seed Lemony Salad

Venison Kofta
makes 10 skewers

15 wooden skewers (soaked in salted water for at least 1 hour)
1 lb ground Venison (I like the leanness for these kofta but any ground meat will do)
1 Med Onion, minced
2 large cloves Garlic, minced
1/2 bunch Parsley, finely chopped
1/4 tsp Allspice
1/2 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Black Pepper
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Preheat oven to 350. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and then place cooling racks on top of the parchment paper (or use broiler pan). Set aside.

Prepare kofta kabobs – In a large bowl, mix together all ingredients until well combined – I find using your hands mixes things better than a spoon. (FYI – make sure your onion is finely diced, if it is too big then you may have difficulty pressing it on the skewer.) 

Break off golf ball sized pieces of the mixture and press firmly around a wooden skewer that has been soaked in water. Lay the skewer on the cooling racks on the cookie sheet. Continue until all the meat has been used up. Bake at 350 until meat is cooked through – about 30 minutes, rotating at the half way point.

Serve hot with the garlic yogurt sauce, on top of lettuce greens with roasted veg and pepitas! The lemon dressing below just sparks up the greens a bit but you could just use the garlic yogurt sauce as dressing, too.

If you are making larger kabobs then you may want to finish them off under the broiler or on a grill to get those pretty blackened grill marks. Totally not necessary though.
You can also cook these completely on the grill instead of in the oven.

Garlic Laban
1 cup Greek Yogurt, plain
1/2 cup Cucumber, peeled, seeded, finely diced (or grated, if they look too wet, drain them a bit in a colander or pat them with a paper towel)
2 cloves Garlic, minced (or Garlic Scapes/Wild Garlic/or Toum – garlic sauce)
1 tsp freshly squeezed Lemon Juice (or 1/2 tsp Sumac)
2 tsp Garden Mint (whatever you’ve got), minced
1/8 tsp Ancho pepper (or whatever a little hot spice pepper you like)
1/2 tsp Sweet Paprika
1/8 tsp Sea Salt
drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Place all ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly to combine. Garnish with more fresh mint, a drizzle of olive oil and serve. Can be stored for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. If the dip thins out too much with time, add extra yogurt and stir to re-thicken.

Roasted Sweet Potato Salad with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Roasted Sweet Potato:
2-3 Sweet Potato or Yams, cut into 2″ cubes
1/4 Olive Oil
Sea Salt & Black Pepper, to taste
1/2 cup Pepitas (pumpkin seeds, hulled – green)

Lemon dressing:
Juice of 1 ½ lemons (more to taste)
3 Tbsp chopped Parsley
1 tsp ground Cumin
Pinch of Sea Salt
¾ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil, or Avocado Oil

Take the first 3 ingredients, blend and spread out on a sheet tray. If you have another rack, feel free to bake them with the kofta until the edges are caramelized a bit – in fact, I put my Sweet Potatoes in first and then worked on the Kofta. (If by the time the kofta come out, the sweet potatoes are not roasted enough, remove the kofta from the oven and turn up the temperature to 400 degrees to finish roasting the vegetable). When finished, set aside.

In a heavy-bottom sauté pan, toast Pepitas until they have changed color a bit (yellow or brown are very thoroughly toasted, try and have most of them not too dark, when I start hearing popping or see yellowing, I remove them from the heat – works best if you keep them moving while toasting). Set aside.

Prepare lettuce by briefly rinsing and shake or pat dry. Rip into edible bits. Set aside.

Combine all lemon dressing ingredients (if using), shake well until emulsified (a mason jar works great for this – make sure it’s sealed nicely). Toss with lettuce.

To build salad: Add dressed greens to plate, put sweet potato chunks all over, and sprinkle pepitas over top. Add Kofta and drizzle with Laban or serve on side.

Happy Day!

Published by Rachael M Rollson

creative life-learner

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