I don't do restaurant reviews, but from time to time I eat out and have something that I can't get out of my head and then for weeks and weeks I obsess on it until I can make it at home. Earlier this summer my brother-in-law was over and we decided to go out for lunch. There is a small Lebanese joint near my house called Byblo's and I thought we would give it a try. Matt and I were pretty hungry and so many things on the menu looked good that we opted to get Meze (appetizer) sized portions of several different things. We ordered the gyro's, schwarma, kibbeh, lebnah, a pickle and olive plate and some Baklava. Everything we had that day was amazing, the schwarma was incredible and the gyros and pickles were wonderful. The best thing we had that day was the lebnah with the kibbeh coming in a close second.
Lebnah is a type of cheese made with yogurt and is fairly simple to make. You take regular whole milk yogurt add salt and then pour it into cheese cloth and let it drain for 24 hours. The end result is a thick yogurt with the consistency of soft cream cheese. When I made mine I used 32 oz of whole milk yogurt and mashed 1 clove of garlic with 1 tsp of salt then added the salt and garlic to the yogurt and strained it for 24 hours. to serve it I poured a touch of olive oil over it and ground some fresh black pepper. My version was just as delicious as the stuff we had at Byblo's and I will be making it more often. Served with flat bread it would make a delicious snack.
Our other favorite was the kibbeh. Kibbeh is an interesting dish because as I researched it I found that just about every country in the middle east makes it and they all have different versions. Most have similar ingredients they just prepare them different. The version we had at Byblo's was like a meatloaf, for lack of better words. it is made with beef or lamb and ground together with onion and Bulgar wheat. It is traditionally seasoned with cumin, allspice, mint and black pepper although for mine I left out the mint because I am not a big fan of mint. Other versions are formed into little croquettes and deep fried or shells are made with a Bulgar and meat mixture and then stuffed with more meat. One version made with lamb is served raw with roasted peppers.
When I decided to make kibbeh I wanted to try and make all the different version to see which is better. The only problem with this was that I wanted to use venison instead of the more traditional beef or lamb and I only had two pounds of venison left in the freezer. So I decided to make only one type of kibbeh and to make it the same way they do at Byblo's. I wasn't going to add any fat to the venison and I wanted to prevent the meat from drying out as it cooked so I placed a pan in the oven with 2 cups of water to help keep it moist. The end result was a delicious version of kibbeh that I will be making over and over again. My kibbeh wasn't as good as the stuff we had at Byblo's but it was pretty damn tasty. I think I added to much salt and onion so in the recipe below I reduced the amounts I used. I was thinking that I should take some up to the restaurant and see if they would give me any tips but I don't have any leftover to take them.
2 lbs ground venison
1 cup Bulgar wheat soaked in ice water for 2-3 hours
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1. grind together the venison, onion and garlic and then add the bulgar
2. mix in all the seasonings, then cover and refrigerate over night
3. press the mixture into a well greased casserole dish I used a 7x11 dish
4. bake in the oven at 375 for 1 hour or until the meat reaches an internal temp of 155 degrees
I placed a cookie sheet with two cups of water in the oven as well, to help keep the kibbeh moist.