Rediscovering Palestinian Cuisine

Kibbet Laa’tin (Pumpkin Kubbeh)

Kibbet Laa’tin (Pumpkin Kubbeh)
Pumpkin kubbeh bil sanieh
Chickpea, chard, onion, sumac, and pomegranate molasses filling

Remember kubbeh?  Those little footballs of lamb, onions, and spices wrapped in a crispy jacket of bulgur? It’s our FAVORITE at Intifooda, but is almost never made due to lack of time and chronic weekend laziness. The good news is, today was a sick day, and I fully took advantage of this by making a vegetarian AND vegan (I have so much West Coast cred right now) version bil sanieh, or, “in a dish.” In a world where home cooking, by itself, is an act of radical self-care, cooking to heal one’s body is something even more important. I did other things, too, like lie in bed, pop Zicam, eat an extraordinary amount of dates for someone of my size, and binge watch The Mindy Project. Sick days are the best.

Eventually I had to eat something other than those delicious Tunisian dates, and wanted a meal that would be filling but also easy on my body, which is still recuperating from the office cold that’s been circulating for the last month. I have my suspicions about the identity of patient zero…

Anyway, there are so many different ways of making kubbeh in the Middle East, and of course rich the region has rich and varied vegetarian options. The Lebanese have a really delicious, incredibly healthy version of kubbeh that incorporates everyone’s favorite fall ingredient: pumpkin. Kibbet laa’tin (pumpkin kibbeh) is traditionally eaten during the time of fasting for Lent, when one would give up meat. I don’t fast (ha) but were I ever going to give discipline a try, I would turn to this dish to keep me satisfied. The combination of flavors is exquisite–from the pumpkin, burgul, and cayenne laced dough to the fragrant, tangy mixture of chard, chickpeas, onions, sumac, and pomegranate molasses that are melted together in a pan for the filling. I don’t even need to explain why this dish is so nutritious. While not classically Palestinian, this recipe is a must-try, adapted from Hadia’s Lebanese Kitchen , and uses canned pumpkin and half the cayenne:

Ingredients:

For the dough:

2 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree (easily found in grocery stores)
3 cups fine bulgur wheat
1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
11/2 teaspoon salt
½ cup flour

For the filling:

1 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, or 2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and peeled
2 1/2 cups red or yellow onion, julienned (about one large onion)
2 tablespoons sumac
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional
1/3 cup olive oil
½ teaspoon cumin powder
2 cups sliced/shredded Swiss chard

Instructions:

  1. If using fresh chickpeas, you will have soaked them overnight. To peel them, toss them in a little baking soda, as described in our hummus recipe, and then boil them for 15 minutes, skimming off the peels. If using canned chickpeas, use them as-is–they don’t require anything more.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the dry bulgur and the blended pumpkin. There is no need to soak the bulgur ahead of time in this recipe, since the pumpkin has a lot of moisture that will be absorbed. Add the finely chopped onion, cayenne pepper, salt, spices and mix. Set aside for 20 minutes.
  3. Add the flour to the mix and knead the kibbeh dough to properly blend together.

Filling directions:

  1. In a skillet, add the olive oil and onions. Saute the onions over high heat until they become translucent.
  2. Add the chickpeas and Swiss chard to the onions and cook for an additional 2 minutes.
  3. Add the sumac, pomegranate molasses, cayenne pepper, and cumin powder. Cook for an additional minute, turn off the heat, and let the mixture cool.

All together:

  1. Divide the pumpkin kibbeh dough into 2 equal portions.
  2. Grease a 13 inch round shallow baking tray. Firmly spread the first half of the kibbeh over the baking tray.
  3. Spread all the chickpea, chard, and onion stuffing onto the first layer of dough
  4. Top it with the other half of the pumpkin kibbeh dough. Wet your palm, spread and flatten the surface of the kibbeh, ensuring that it covers the whole surface.
  5. With a pairing knife, score in diamond patterns.
  6. Drizzle about 1/3 cup olive oil on top, spread evenly with your hand to give it a golden crust.
  7. Bake in a preheated oven at 400°F, for about 30 minutes.

Kibbet laa’tin can be served warm or at room temperature, decorated with pomegranate seeds and a sprig of mint.

Pumpkin dough on the left, chickpea and chard filling on the right



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