By Ashpaz Baashi
May 2, 2001
I got this question from a reader:
Salaam aziz. koofteh tabrizi baladi? man har chi dorost mikonam khoob
dar nemiaad. Let's see your recipe .tnx.
Koofteh tabrizi??? You've got to be kidding. I mean, I know when I'm
being tested. He went on:
aashpaz cheh chofteh tabrizi balad nabaashi aashpaz nesty (lajeh turchi)
Shookhi or no shookhi, I had to meet the challenge. Or at least do some
research, because, to be honest, my one previous attempt at koofteh tabrizi
was not a brilliant success. The research was daunting. I found a recipe
that told me to put a whole roast chicken inside of one giant meatball.
Not in this lifetime, thank you.
Then serendipity struck. At an Italian party in San Francisco I just
happened to meet an honest-to-goodness Tabrizi who had all the answers.
She knew the pitfalls, the secret lore, and she shared it all with me. But
implementation was another matter.
Do I have time for this? No. So I did some experiments, cut some corners,
and I offer you now, guaranteed to succeed
A Post-Feminist Koofteh Tabrizi
1. Choose your own time and reason to begin. Do it for professional pride,
self-indulgence, or love. Don't do it just because Iranian.com has a deadline,
and for god's sake don't do it to impress your mother-in-law, because then
for sure it won't work.
2. Do the preliminaries on separate occasions while you're waiting for
the coffee to reheat in the microwave:
Boil 1/2 cup yellow split peas (lappeh) until soft, about 20 minutes.
Hard-boil 5 eggs and peel them, or soak 5-6 dried plums or 1/4 cup barberries
(zereshk) in water. Cook up 1/2 cup of short-grain rice, or better, find
1 cup of left-over rice from the Chinese take-away in the back of the fridge.
3. Pour yourself a glass of wine. Slice 2-3 onions and fry till brown
in a large pot. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic (chopped), 2-3 tablespoons tomato
paste, 1 teaspoon turmuric, juice of one lemon, salt and pepper, 3 cups
water and 3 cups beef broth. Bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down
until it is simmering very gently.
4. Mix together the split peas, rice, 1 lb. of ground lamb (or beef,
but not too lean), and 2 raw eggs. Add salt and pepper. If you feel the
urge, add a handful of chopped tarragon (tarkhoon).
5. Throw the meat mixture in a food processor and zap it till the peas
are unrecognizable but you can still see a few grains of rice here and there.
6. Consider the possibility of ordering pizza for dinner and eating the
koofteh cold for lunch tomorrow. Dinner won't be ready for another hour
and a quarter. Either way, continue.
7. Wash your hands. You will already have done this about 10 times without
my telling you, what with the mess of meat in the food processor and all
over the table, but do it again. This time, don't dry them.
8. Grab a large fistful of the meat mixture and poke one of the hard-boiled
eggs (or a plum, or a spoonful of the zereshk) into the center of it. Cover
it up with another dollop of the meat.
Toss the big ball from hand to hand a few times, enjoying the squishy
feeling and how it doesn't quite fall apart even though it looks like it
should. When you've had enough of that, drop the ball gently into the simmering
9. Wash your hands again and make another ball. And so on.
10. Wash your hands again and find the cash for the pizza man. Or, if
you've opted for a late dinner, go and check your email. Pour another glass
of wine. Write a poem. Balance your checkbook. Write a letter to Iranian.com.
Send email to your mother-in-law and casually mention what's for dinner.
11. When you're absolutely sure that an hour has passed, pour another
glass of wine and dish up the koofteh.
12. Get somebody else to wash the dishes.