Burhan's Marinated Lamb Kebabs with Sumac-Onion Salad

Burhan Cagda's most famous kebab, kusbasi, is the quintessence of what shish kebab should be. It's made from chunks of lamb cut from the loin and interlaced with thin slices of lamb fat cut from the saddle (most kebab houses just use the leg), marinated in spices and grilled over oak.

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  • Servings: 4

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  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Aleppo pepper (see Note)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Turkish Baharat
  • 1 1/2 pounds boneless well-trimmed lamb, preferably from the loin, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 medium white onions, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground sumac (see Note)
  • Warm pita bread, for serving

How to make this recipe

  1. In a large bowl, mix the olive oil with the tomato paste, Aleppo pepper, garlic and Baharat. Add the lamb cubes and stir to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. Bring to room temperature before grilling.

  2. Light a grill. Thread the lamb onto 4 long skewers and season with salt. Grill the lamb, turning, over moderately high heat for about 5 minutes for medium meat.

  3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, thoroughly toss the onions with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt. Let stand until the onions are slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Rinse and drain well. In a serving bowl, toss the onions with the parsley and sumac. Serve the lamb kebabs with the onion salad and warm pita bread.


Sumac, a tangy Middle Eastern spice, is available at spice shops and online from Kalustyan's (kalustyans.com) and Adriana's Caravan (adrianascaravan.com).

Aleppo pepper is a Turkish crushed chile, which is more robust and slightly fruitier that regular red chile flakes. If you can't find Aleppo pepper, substitute 1/4 teaspoon of paprika and a tiny pinch of cayenne.

Suggested Pairing

Grenache, with its soft red-cherry flavors, balances the tangy notes in this marinade and in the sumac salad. The variety does especially well along Spain's Mediterranean coast, where it's called Garnacha.

Contributed By Published June 2006

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