• Yield: Serves 2 to 3; doubles easily

  • Time: 15 minutes prep, 20 minutes grill time cooking, 35 minutes total

The haunting scent of allspice balanced with bright lemon juice and flecks of nuts make these Middle Eastern kofta (meat patties) hard to resist. This recipe is Sally’s savior as she lives with a major carnivore (exactly the opposite of how she likes to eat). She uses 80% to 85% ground chuck, but because there is so much flavor here, you can use leaner meat and still have no fear of cooking them to well done as recommended. Serve them with simple brown jasmine rice or the Golden Rice Salad, and a spoonful of Cucumber Yogurt Salad.

Cook to Cook: It’s hard to judge the spicing of raw ground meat as you should never taste it raw. Instead, make a trial patty, cook it up, taste (the perk of being the cook), and adjust the seasoning as needed.

Can be made and stored in the refrigerator until ready to grill. Makes delicious leftovers.

Accompaniment: Cucumber Yogurt Salad


  • 1 pound 80% to 85% ground chuck, or other ground meat as desired

  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1/2 cup minced onion

  • Grated zest of half a large lemon

  • Juice of half a large lemon

  • 2 teaspoons allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste

  • 1/4 cup chopped blanched almonds or pine nuts

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

  • Good-tasting extra-virgin olive oil


1. Make the kofta: Place all the ingredients except the salad in a large bowl and knead with your hands until well combined. Firmly form the mixture with your hands into 2-inch, slightly flattened patties and set aside. (They need to be firmly formed or they will break apart when you cook them.) You can make the kofta ahead at this point and store loosely covered in the refrigerator overnight.

2. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking. If using a gas grill, set one burner on high and one burner on low.

3. When the coals are at medium heat, generously oil the grill. Place the kofta on the grill, taking care not to crowd them, cooking them in batches if necessary. Let them cook thoroughly on one side before flipping them and cooking the other. It is important not to move them around too much so they don’t break apart. Pull them from the grill when there is no pink interior and their centers have reached 160°F on an instant-reading thermometer.

From A Summertime Grilling Guide by Lynne Rossetto Kasper and Sally Swift. Copyright © 2012 by American Public Media.

Sally Swift
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.