pomegranate sumac shish kebab

shish kebab

It's a long weekend and everyone with a grill will be grilling. Burgers and hotdogs are all well and good, but if you're looking for something a little punchier, with a lot more color, you're going to want to try this recipe. Chunks of lamb are marinated in pomegranate molasses, and then glazed with more pomegranate molasses as they cook. The tangy caramelized sugars make this lamb completely irresistible. As if that wasn't enough, the veggie skewers are marinated in za'atar and sumac, and they blister, char, and soften to perfection on the grill. This shish kebab is fabulous for entertaining because the whole thing can be prepared ahead, left to marinate in the refrigerator, and once they go on the grill, they're done in a flash.

leg of lamb
red onion, tomato, bell pepper
red onion, tomato, bell pepper shish kebab
leg of lamb shish kebab

There's no magical reason why this recipe calls for tomato, onion, and bell pepper. It's the veggie mix my family always makes, it's always easy to find, and it goes great with grilled meats. The sumac flavor adds just the right zest to the mellow flavor of the charred and blistered veggies. But feel free to experiment with skewering other produce for grilling. Mushrooms, zucchini, eggplant, radicchio, asparagus, or even stone fruit like peaches, all work great here. It doesn't matter what color cherry tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers you find—a more colorful variety will give this dish a brighter presentation, but red tomatoes with red bell pepper and red onions look chic in their own monochromatic way.

And speaking of good looks: while it would be even prettier to put the veggies on the same skewers as the lamb pieces, this is one time when you've got to sacrifice some style for substance. The vegetable skewers will be done cooking a couple minutes before the lamb, and it's important that you take them off the grill as soon as they're ready. You know the veggie skewers are done when the tomatoes are blistered, slightly softened, and just starting to shrivel. You don't want to cook them beyond this point or you will make a delicious tomato sauce, which will slough off the skewers and sink right through the grill grates.

shish kebab
shish kebab

pomegranate sumac shish kebab

yield: 4 servings
active time: 35 minutes
total time: 2 hours and 30 minutes *
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  • 2 pounds semi-boneless leg of lamb (if you are buying bone-in, buy 2 1/2 to 3 pounds)

  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons salt (to taste)

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (for marinade)

  • 1 small red onion

  • 1 green bell pepper (can substitute another color bell pepper)

  • 1 pound cherry tomatoes

  • 1/2 teaspoon sumac

  • 1/2 teaspoon za'atar (optional, add 1/4 teaspoon more sumac instead)

  • About 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons salt (to taste) *

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (for grilling)

  1. Trim any large pieces of fat from the leg of lamb, and cut the lamb into chunks, discarding any bone or gristle.

  2. Place the lamb it in a ziplock bag (or another sealable container), add the salt and pomegranate molasses, mix it around by squeezing the bag, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. **

  3. Chop the onion and bell pepper into large chunks. Mix together in a ziplock bag with the cherry tomatoes, sumac, za'atar, salt, and olive oil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 1 day.

  4. Once they're ready, skewer the veggies and the lamb separately. ***

  5. Pre-heat the grill to medium-hot and brush one side of the lamb with 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses.

  6. Once the grill is hot, add the lamb, molasses-side-down, and brush the other side of the lamb with the other tablespoon of pomegranate molasses. Then add the veggie skewers.

  7. Regularly check to make sure nothing is burning, and turn everything once or twice to cook evenly.

  8. Remove the veggies once they are charred and slightly wilted. For medium-rare, the lamb should be internally 135° F, although they're also very tasty when cooked beyond medium rare.

* Use a little less salt if your za'atar is seasoned.
** If you're in a hurry, you can get away with marinating it for 30 minutes, but the flavor intensifies if you leave it a bit longer. If you marinade for a shorter period, glaze the lamb with a little extra molasses during the grilling.
*** If you're making everything ahead of time: Simply mix the veggies with the seasoning, skewer them immediately, and refrigerate for up to a day. Start the lamb off by marinating it in a ziplock bag for an hour, then skewer and refrigerate for up to a day.

shish kebab

kale fattoush

kale fattoush

If I had to pick one word to describe fattoush, I would call it meaty. Don't get me wrong, this traditional Middle Eastern salad is 100% vegan, and it's essentially just veggies and bread, but it tastes so much more substantial than it looks. The toasted, staled, or (in this case) fried pita chips add a lot of gravity to the crunchy romaine and big chunks of summer veggies. Since I eat classic fattoush all the time, I like to change my recipe a little whenever I make it, and lately I've been adding lots of chopped kale instead of romaine, which makes for an even heartier salad.

Massaging Kale
Pita chips
Kale Fattoush

If you've made a kale salad before, you're probably familiar with the concept of massaging the greens. I used to think this was a sort of ridiculously over the top thing to do (I think we can all agree that it's at least a very silly phrase), but it really makes all the difference. The kale starts out with the consistency of that green cellophane they use to wrap gift baskets, but after a brief olive oil massage, it takes on a texture much more like al dente noodles—pleasantly chewy, and definitely not sharp or crinkly. I've also experimented with massaging the leaves through a plastic bag, which is a pretty good good alternative if you prefer not to touch food with your bare hands, but it's not quite the same a real deep tissue massage.

Kale Fattoush

When I make this salad with kale, I like to add a little pomegranate molasses to accent the brightness of the lemon and sumac, as well as some toasted sesame seeds to give this salad a little more depth. And for a little more fragrance, I replaced the mint with basil—it's the fattoush you know and love, but with a few small twists. If you want to modify this recipe to make it a vegan main course, feel free to add one or two cans of rinsed chickpeas, but it also goes great with kebabs or lahm bi ajeen.

kale fattoushie

kale fattoush

yield: 6 servings
total time: 35 minutes
for variations, try my
classic fattoush and grilled radicchio fattoush
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PDF to print

  • 1 pint to 1 quart oil for deep frying (e.g., peanut, canola, corn, olive oil, but not extra virgin)

  • 2 medium pitas, cut into small triangles (store-bought or homemade)

  • 1/2 pound washed, dried, stemmed, and chopped kale (from 1 large or 2 small bunches)

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided into 1 tablespoon + 2 tablespoons

  • 1 1/2 cups large-chopped cucumbers, (2 to 3 Persian cucumbers)

  • 2 cups large-chopped tomatoes, (3 roma tomatoes)

  • 1 1/2 cups large-chopped green pepper (1 pepper)

  • 1 cup chopped parsley (1 bunch)

  • 1/4 cup chiffonade basil

  • 3/4 cups chopped green onions (3 or 4 green onions)

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice, (1 lemon)

  • 2 tablespoons pomegranate molasses *

  • 3 tablespoons sumac **

  • 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt
    2 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds (plus an extra 1 teaspoon for garnish)

  1. Set up a safe fry station on the stove or in a dedicated deep fryer. Turn the heat to high so that the oil slowly rises to 340° F.

  2. To fry the pita chips, work in batches and don't crowd the oil. Once the oil has heated, add a handful of pita chips and stir them around, keeping a close eye on them. Once they're golden brown and crispy (about 1 minute), remove them with a slotted spoon or spider.

  3. Add the kale to a big serving bowl and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Massage the oil into the leaves by crushing them with your hands until they shrink down a bit and become more tender. This should take about 3 to 5 minutes. ***

  4. Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, green pepper, parsley, basil, and green onions.

  5. When you're ready to serve, toss the salad with the lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, sumac, salt, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and 2 tablespoons sesame seeds. Right before serving, toss in the pita chips and top with the extra teaspoon of sesame seeds for garnish.

* Pomegranate molasses is available in Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores in the ethnic foods aisle. You could also make your own. It keeps very well and is used in a lot of Middle Eastern recipes.
** Sumac is also available in Middle Eastern markets and some grocery stores, but it's also very easy to find online. I use sumac in several of my recipes, and it's a good thing to have in your pantry if you want to make a lot of Middle Eastern food. Learn more about it here.
*** If you don't like touching food with your hands, you could instead mix the kale with 1 tablespoon olive oil in a gallon ziplock bag, press all the air out of the bag, and massage the bag for a couple minutes. But if you plan to store it in the fridge afterward, it's important to let the air back in the bag.

Storage suggestions: If you are planning on keeping some of the salad as left overs or packing it to take to work, it's best to mix up the dressing (lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, sumac, salt, and 2T olive oil) on the side. To pack up your salad, get out as many storage containers as will fit the salad. Massage the kale with 1T oil. Shake the dressing well and then divide it evenly between the container(s). Place the kale on top of the dressing, followed by the veggies, then the herbs, and then pack the pita chips in a sealed plastic bag on top of the greens. Once you're ready to eat, you can toss everything together and enjoy.

kale fattoushie