Pumpkin Kibbeh with Chard and Chickpea Filling

Kibbeh (kibbe) is another Middle East culinary offering that is infinitely adaptable, with slight regional differences abound. I have seen reference to eggplant kibbeh, walnut kibbeh, ‘plain’ kibbeh, thin kibbeh, stuffed kibbeh, kibbeh shaped like eggs, stuffed, and deep fried … really if you can dream it up it can be made! The constant seems to be a dough made of bulgur and stuffed with whatever strikes your fancy. This particular kibbeh is what I call Lebanese lasagna. It is a layered casserole with the base of a bulgur and pumpkin mixture and a stuffing of chard with chickpeas and pine nuts. I found the crust recipe on Terry Hope Romero’s blog “Viva Vegan!” way back in October when I found myself with some extra pumpkin. I changed the stuffing to be similar to that of the Fatayer Kolokithopita, because I liked it so much! The result is a mushy casserole that holds its shape with a surprise stuffing element. You get used to the pumpkin bulgur and then a burst of bright green-lemony chard hits you and keeps you on your toes! It’s a very easy recipe to throw together, and would make a great holiday side dish for something different. It is extremely filling, and goes well with some baba ganoush and fresh vegetables for a complete Lebanese dinner. If you decide to go all out, I would start with a Lebanese Lentil soup, which is a nice refreshing dish (and will be posted when I make it again with pictures!)

The complete recipe that I used is below. To make the casserole thinner, you could use two 9×13″ pans and double the stuffing amount. Another thing I may try is split the pumpkin mixture into four, double the stuffing, and make two complete layers. This would make it more like lasagna, and the tangy stuffing would be more vibrant on the palette. If someone tries this, let me know how it turns out!

Note: It took me a very long time to fund sumac, which is red in colour and brings the lemon flavour to the stuffing. If you can’t find it, lemon juice is a great substitute. Also, the pine nuts in the stuffing are a great addition, but they are not the highlight of the dish. As they are so expensive, nothing will be lost if you decide to omit them this time!

Pumpkin Kibbeh with Chard and Chickpea Filling

Filling:
1 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¾ of 1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large bunch Swiss chard or 2 bunches spinach, chopped
1 (15oz.) can chickpeas (1½ cup cooked chickpeas)
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. sumac (can substitute lemon juice)
¼ cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts

Directions:
1) Sauté onion and garlic until golden brown
2) Add chard. Cook until wilted
3) Add chickpeas, salt, and sumac. Smash chickpeas a bit with back of spoon.
4) Stir in pine nuts. Turn off heat and set aside.

Kibbeh Layer:
2 cups bulgur wheat
1-1½ lb. pumpkin or winter squash, peeled and shredded or 1 (32oz.) can pureed pumpkin
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp. dried oregano
1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
1¼ tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. ground coriander
½ tsp. ground mace or nutmeg
½ tsp. ground black pepper

Directions:
1) Cook bulgur. Set aside.
2) In food processor, puree onion.
3) In large bowl mix pumpkin, onion, bulgur, olive oil, parsley, oregano, and all spices
4) Optional: For a smooth batter, process mixture in food processor until thick, even paste.
5) In greased 9×13” pan spread ½ of the dough mixture evenly
6) Spread chard-chickpea filling on top of base evenly
7) Add remaining dough, spreading evenly
8) With a sharp knife, score top with 1” diamond pattern
9) Brush surface with olive oil
10) Bake at 375dF for 35-40 min., or until golden and firm
11) Let stand for 10 min.

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