I am generally a proponent of going out to lunch. It’s so easy to find yourself sitting in your swivel chair, staring at your screen for twelve straight hours, urinating into a soda bottle and eating out of a bag like some kind of farm animal. Better to break up the day with a walk to, and some time sitting in, a nice place to eat food off a plate.
That said, it’s cold out right now. And some days, screw it, stay indoors and in sweat pants. This time of year, its good to have a well-stocked fridge. And I have a recommendation as to how to stock part of it, and what to do with that stock once you have.
First, go to Sahadi’s, the excellent Middle-Eastern foods emporium on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn. Take a number from the machine at the vast nuts display you see when you come in the front door. Actually, you might not even need to take a number, unless you’re shopping on a Saturday — oh, they’re closed Sunday, don’t go then. But if there’s a line, wait til your number is called and then ask one of the servers to serve you from the the long olives-and-pickles counter adjacent to the nuts department. (I mean, by all means, get some nuts, too. They’re delicious: the pistachios, the almond mix, the lemon-and-salt roasted pumpkin seeds, and, despite the rantings of a crazy person, the cashews. But nuts don’t make a proper lunch, and that’s what we’re talking about today.) At the pickle counter, point to the things labled “peppadews,” which are, as one of the guys there recently explained to me, “sweet-spicy pickled peppers.” They are small and spherical and bright, bright red and the guy went into some detail about the flavor. They start out sweet, he said, but then got hot and spicy at the end of their time in your mouth. He invited me to try one and I did, and I was so happy that I did, because his description was very accurate and it was a new and different taste sensation for me. And an excellent one. I asked him for a half-pound container. He then told me that they were very good filled with cheese. Feta, he said, or blue. I could see why someone would have thought to fill them with something, because they are just the right size and shape — they are a like a mini teacup, or a thumb thimble. And I have since learned that some people like to put hummus inside them, too. I’m sure all these combinations are tasty, but I tried something else, and that’s what I’m taking probably too long to tell you about.
After you get your peppadews (Oh, and definitely also get the pickled baby eggplant. Those things are the best, and an even brighter color than the peppadews — they glow, almost. From being soaked in red wine vinegar, I assume. In fact the pickled eggplant, which are little, like the size of a walnut, are almost exactly the color of the dress that my girlfriend wore to our high school prom, and so, I embarrassedly report, also the color of the cummerbund and tie that I wore with my rented tuxedo in New Jersey in 1989. And that color is most often called fuschia.) Anyway, after you get your peppadews and thank the friendly and informative and nuts-and-pickle server (that’s a good job title!), go to the back of the store, where the prepared foods are, and get yourself some kibbee. Because kibbee is what you should really stuff your peppadews with.
Kibbee is basically meat pie. It can be made with lamb or beef, apparently, but I think Sahadi’s is lamb. Pretty much just ground lamb and spices, it seems. There are “kibbee balls” on display at the prepared foods counter, too. But those tend to be dryer and less flavorful than the actual slices of pie. Lots of kibbee I’ve eaten from other places is similarly disappointingly bland and dry. It almost always needs salt and some tahini over the top. (Which, yes, get some tahini while you’re here at Sahadi’s prepared food counter, too, and some fried cauliflower and some spinach pies, too. Get enough food for a week. It’s winter, after all, and cold out. You might never want to leave your house again!) The actual slices of pie, though — and get a nice big slice, like well more than you’d want of a flourless chocolate cake, which is sort of what it looks like — seem to be kept moist by a thin crust of crushed-up bulgur (and, I think, more lamb).
So buy all this stuff and bring it home and then for lunch you heat up some kibbee in the toaster oven, and take, oh, eight or nine peppadews out of the container and put them on a plate, and when the kibbee’s ready, take a spoon and spoon out some ground lamb from the center and stuff it into a peppadew, push it in there real good, and pop it into your mouth. Repeat eight or nine times. (And then maybe go get a few more peppadews out of the fridge and repeat a few more times after that. Unless you have something as an accompaniment — a salad or a couple of bowls of soup or something.) Each stuffed peppadew makes for a perfect sized bite. And the rich, earthy meat makes for a perfect balance with the vinegar sharpness and the tingly sting of the pepper. Yum!
Or you could try one of the cheese versions the server recommended, or with hummus. I mean…