Cherry Kebab~ a dish I dedicate to my Grandmother Tita Um Kusta
Updated: Jun 19
In honor of my grandmother, my Armenian great grandparents, and our visit to the Armenian quarter in Jerusalem (story saved under highlights on IG), I wanted to make this dish called Fishnah Kebab (cherry kebab). This is a classic Armenian and Syrian meatball dish, native to the city of Aleppo. It is served with a sauce of wild sour cherries, which is a variety grown in specific regions of Armenia. I made this with local sour cherries that I found here from Michigan, but you can also make it with frozen or canned unsweetened cherries as well (more about that in the recipe below). I dedicate this dish to my amazing grandmother and her life story that's nothing but sweet and sour. Her story has taught me so much about life. She was born to Armenian parents and married my Palestinian grandfather who I have never met and who my mother vaguely remembers. My tita lost her husband due to a truck crash in the Jordanian mountains just a few years after their marriage and right after my mom was born. My Tita was left to care for her 3 children alone. She lived in a small house that my grandfather bought before he died in a town called Beit Safafa, a new neighborhood that barely had any neighbors or living souls at the time. Her neighborhood turned into a ghost town during the 1967 war. Fearing for her life and the life of her children, she left her home to go to Jerusalem. After the war was over, she insisted on going home, which really was the only remembrance of her husband.
The original door of tita's house that is still there today.
When you ask my tita how she coped with the loneliness and fear of war, she said: "it was the mosque prayers in the village nearby that kept her company."
It’s the meals like this one that bring memories and stir emotions that are the ones that I cherish most. Cheers to life and to all it has to offer from the sweet and the sour. To my tita and to the greatest gift she ever gave me, my mother.
2 pounds fresh sour cherries pitted
If you can’t find then substitute with a combination of 2 cups sour cherry juice and 4 oz of dried tart cherries.
You can also use frozen sour cherries or unsweetened canned cherries
1 tbls pomegranate molasses (optional)
A cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper or pepper flakes (optional) Not traditional but I like the savory element it adds:
1 Onion chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
2 tbls of olive oil
salt, and pepper as needed
Pit the cherries
For the kebabs;
1 pound ground meat (I used turkey but use whatever you like it’s traditionally made With lamb)
1 tsp 7-spice blend or I just used 1 tsp all spice, 1/2 Tsp of cinnamon, few grates of nutmeg.
Salt and pepper
2 tbls finely chopped parsley
Small onion grated
2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts, for garnish Fresh mint About 4 sprigs
You can serve this with: flatbread or pita, you can lightly toast them or rice pilaf. It’s perfect as an appetizer.
In a large pan heat 1 tbls of olive oil Sauté the onions, garlic and Aleppo peppers until translucent about 5 min.
Add the pitted cherries With their juices.
bring the mixture to a bubble over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and, add the Cinnamon stick and pomegranate molasses stirring occasionally, simmer for 15 to 25 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened and the cherries are tender.
From the heat the cherries will burst open releasing all their yummy juices that will help create the sauce.
***If you are using sour cherry juice then:
Combine the sour cherry juice
cinnamon stick, salt and pepper in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook uncovered for 7 to 10 minutes, until slightly syrupy. Add the dried chopped sour cherries and let it warm through and plump up.
This sauce is delicious on its own or drizzled over pork and lamb chops. If you prefer a smooth sauce then discard the cinnamon stick and puree in a blender. To thin the sauce you can add a splash of water.
To make the kebabs:
Combine the meat, parsley, grated onion, spices, salt and pepper and knead until combined. Shape into bite size balls. Brush With olive oil and roast in the oven or sauté until browned on all sides.
Add the meatballs and their juices to the cherry sauce and simmer for another 15 minutes, until tender and cooked through.
To Assemble the dish:
Arrange the pita bread triangles all over a serving platter, the pointed side on the outside of the platter. Drizzle with a tbls of olive oil. Spoon the kebab and cherry sauce over the bread. Sprinkle with the chopped mint and toasted pine nuts.
You can also serve this on top of rice pilaf.
This makes for a killer appetizer or a main dish served With rice or salad.