In her highly-anticipated first cookbook, “Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora” (Ten Speed ​​Press, $35), Bay Area chef Reem Assil of Reem’s California writes that no food better represents her Syrian-Palestinian upbringing than these Arab-spiced patties or kafta.

Laced With onions, parsley and the spices of the Levant, they are simple to prepare — from fridge to table in about 20 minutes — and make a delightful weeknight meal as grilled burgers. You can also use the mix of lamb and beef to make meatloaf or meatballs in tomato sauce, says Assil, who is a finalist for the 2022 James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef.

Tip: To get the patties’ caramelized, crisp edgesshe suggests dropping a pea-sized morsel of meat into the pan to see if it sizzles. If the pan is not sufficiently hot, the meat will release its water and boil instead of fry. If it’s too hot, the meat will scorch before fully cooking inside. You want the oil shimmering but not smoking.

Arab Spiced Patties

Makes 6 patties


1 cup coarsely chopped onions (about 1 onion)

½ cup finely chopped parsley

2 teaspoons ground allspice

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons sumac, divided use

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons kosher salt

2 pounds ground lamb or beef (or mixture of both)

2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as sunflower or canola, for cooking


Grate or pulse the onions in a food processor until they are finely mashed. Line a colander with cheesecloth to drain the onions or squeeze out the liquid by hand.

In a large bowl, combine the onions, parsley, allspice, cinnamon, pepper, 1 teaspoon sumac, nutmeg and salt. Add the meat and using your hands, knead the meat into the onion-spice mixture. To keep the meat tender, avoid overmixing.

Divide the meat into 6 even portions and roll into balls about the size of tennis balls. Using the flat sides of your index and middle fingers, press down on the meatballs to create several shallow ridges in the surface of the meat while patting into ½-inch-thick, 4-inch-diameter patties. The ridges will crisp up and char while cooking.

Heat an electric griddle to 400 degrees or a cast-iron or heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Drizzle a thin coat of the oil onto the griddle or skillet and grill the patties for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 teaspoon sumac. Serve immediately.

From Reem Assil’s “Arabiyya: Recipes from the Life of an Arab in Diaspora” (Ten Speed ​​Press; $35)

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