I had a craving for something different lately. I think it could have been the idea of a flatbread, or maybe it was hummus, or something to eat with ajvar that I had recently made. I know we all get this way at times, and we need to fill that craving pretty immediately. Fortunately, I was able to have a little patience, think things through, and come up with what is known a cevapi. Pronounced “chevapi” as I later found out by a lady from Kosovo.
Many of us who our not from southeastern Europe probably have no idea, nor heard of cevapi. That is one of the reasons I am going to introduce it to you today. Cevapi, in my opinion, are like grilled kebabs that look dense in texture, but are extremely light and airy. Not only that but they are packed with some great flavor. They are found in the southestern parts of Europe. Think Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia. To me, this is their kebob, and one similar to kofta. After all, it cannot be just the Italians that make some sort of meatball right?
Let’s get started on this wonderful southeastern Europe style kebab.
Ingredients: (serves eight)
- 1 lb ground lamb
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
- 1/4 cup of Italian leaf parsley, finely chopped
- 4 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup warm water mixed with 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cracked black pepper
- Naan bread, warmed
- Ajvar (optional)
- tzatziki (optional)
If you have never added baking soda to any of your meat mixtures, you might be missing out. The baking soda builds that pillow texture, that airiness you get in this kebob. Remember that when you are biting into the final product. Take all of your ingredients, throw them in a bowl, and mix well with your hands. Mix like you are making meatballs, or a meatloaf.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let this sit overnight if you can, if not, at least 4-6 hours.
Next, form the cevapi into thick finger likc shapes, if you will. They do not have to be perfect. They should be about the length of your index finger, an inch or so thick.
Let these rest while you fire up your grill. I highly recommend cooking over charcoal if you have that opportunity as the charcoal give this kebobs that smoky flavor. Well, let’s admit, charcoal or wood should be used when grilling. I will admit that I have not used the gas grill all summer long since my cousin was kind enough to hand down his charcoal grills to me.
Once the coals are hot, add the cevapi to the grill, cooking a few minutes per side. These do not take very long to cook. You should get nice sear marks on the outside of the kebabs, while going for a medium, to medium well on the inside.
Once your cevapi are off the grill, you have some options in plating.
My personal favorite is to plate the cevapi on a nice plate. To another plate, stack the warm naan or pita bread. Then in two separate bowls, add the ajvar and the tzatziki.
Build your cevapi by spreading ajvar on the bottom of the bread, top with the cevapi, and drizzle some tzatziki sauce on top. Wrap and bite into it. The result is something out of this world. Tender bites of the kebab that are so well balanced by the slightly spicy ajvar sauce then cooled by the tzatziki sauce. This southeastern Europe kebab known as the cevapi is hard to be. So if you are looking for something new to try, and get your family or guests questioning at the dinner table, this one might just do that. Enjoy!