It’s time for a wild card in the kitchen — a recipe that’s a crowd-pleaser but not entirely all that common. These saffron beef kebabs are precisely that — everyone loves kebabs, but not everyone adds saffron. It’s my version of a classic Persian recipe I’ve had lying around for years. It comes out a few times every grilling season and makes a lot of good first impressions. It’s one of those recipes I’ve just plain forgotten to share until I had a sudden urge to make it the other day and realized I should share it with you in time for Labor Day.
My dear friend’s mother, Mrs. Hemmat first taught me her kebab recipe sometime in high school. I was hanging out at her house — as I often did — and after much begging on my part, she finally agreed to teach me. It’s such a comfort food to me because I had some version of it at nearly all of my (many) Persian-American friends’s houses growing up.
The bonus is that it’s a lot of flavor for minimal work as it really involves nothing more than blending the marinade, letting it marinate as long as you can handle before your hunger gets the best of you, and then cooking — or, more aptly, searing it — on the grill. Though it’s often served over long-grain rice, I prefer the more mobile version where it’s wrapped up in warm lavosh, tossed with grilled tomatoes, onions, and greens and then topped with a dollop of tangy yogurt.
Grilled Saffron Beef Kebab Recipe
- Makes: 4 to 6 servings
- Total Time: 45 minutes to 12 hours 15 minutes
- Hands-On Time: 15 minutes
- For the kebabs:
- 2 pinches saffron threads
- 2 1/2 pounds sirloin or strip steak
- 1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
- 6 medium garlic cloves, smashed
- Juice from 1 medium lime
- 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 8 (12-inch) metal or wooden skewers, if wooden, soak in water for 15 minutes
- 12 small Roma tomatoes
- Olive oil
- For serving:
- 1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
- Warmed lavash bread
- 4 ounces spinach or tatsoi
- 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 1 lime, cut into sixths
- For the kebabs:
Place saffron in a few tablespoons of hot water and let steep while you trim the meat. Trim any excess fat from the steaks, then cut into 1-inch cubes, and place in a large nonreactive bowl.
Place onion, garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, and saffron and saffron liquid, in a food processor and process until smooth. Pour mixture over meat, toss to coat, cover and marinate 30 minutes at room temperature, or up to 12 hours in the refrigerator.
When ready to cook, heat a gas or charcoal grill to medium (about 350°F) and rub the grill with a towel dipped in vegetable oil. Remove the meat from the marinade and let any excess marinade drip off.
Thread meat on skewers, leaving at least 1/2-inch space between each piece of meat. Meanwhile, in a small bowl and the tomatoes, drizzle with oil, season with salt and pepper, and toss to coat thoroughly. Place meat and tomatoes on grill. Cook meat, turning once, until charred and medium-rare, about 7 to 10 minutes. Cook tomatoes, turning rarely, until blistered and soft, about 10 minutes.
- For serving:
Remove meat and tomatoes from skewers. Stir together the cilantro and yogurt until well mixed. Assemble a sandwich as desired with the meat, tomatoes, lavash, yogurt, thinly sliced onions, and greens. Squeeze some lime over the top and serve.