Kabab Torsh (Kebabs Marinated in Pomegranate and Herbs)

published Jun 23, 2021
summer
Kabab Torsh (Kebabs Marinated in Pomegranate and Herbs)

These beef kebabs are delightfully tender and flavorful, which comes from marinading them for an extended period of time in a mixture of fresh herbs and pomegranate molasses.

Serves4

Prep30 minutes

Cook25 minutes

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persian kebabs next to pita on a tray
Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

However you spell or pronounce them (the term is kabob in Farsi), kebabs take pride of place among other meat dishes in Persian cuisine. They’re typically small pieces of seasoned beef, lamb, chicken, or seafood that are marinated with onion and seasonings, threaded onto metal skewers, and grilled over hot charcoal, often alongside vegetables.

Today, I’m sharing my favorite recipe for beef kebabs. For tender, flavorful meat, I marinate the beef in a mixture of fresh herbs and pomegranate molasses for at least 12 hours. These tart, slightly sweet, and aromatic ingredients are a signature flavor combination in Northern Iranian cuisine that’s truly magical. I’ve included instructions for grilling veggie skewers, too, which turns this dish into a complete (and colorful) meal.

What Are the Best Herbs for Kabab Torsh?

Traditionally, a specific regional Persian herb called chochagh in Farsi (commonly called sea holly) is used for the marinade, but it can be difficult to come by. When I prepare this dish, I rely on more readily available aromatic herbs — such as basil, mint, and parsley — to create a flavor profile that best matches my memories of eating these kebabs as a child by the shores of the Caspian Sea.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne; Food Styling: Anna Stockwell

Grilling the Kebabs

These kebabs are traditionally threaded on metal skewers and suspended over hot charcoal without a grill grate, but they can also be cooked on a gas or charcoal grill on wooden skewers. Be sure to soak the wooden skewers in water for at least 30 minutes before putting them on the grill so they won’t burn. To prevent the meat from sticking to the grill grates, heat the grill on high for at least 10 minutes, then use a folded paper towel and tongs to lightly rub a small amount of oil onto the grates.

Serving the Kebabs

Persian kebabs are often served with a side of yogurt, flatbread, and plenty of fresh herbs, such as parsley, cilantro, dill, tarragon, and chives. I also love serving a side of steamed basmati rice, which I top with a dab of butter and a sprinkling of sumac.

Kabab Torsh (Kebabs Marinated in Pomegranate and Herbs)

These beef kebabs are delightfully tender and flavorful, which comes from marinading them for an extended period of time in a mixture of fresh herbs and pomegranate molasses.

Prep time 30 minutes

Cook time 25 minutes

Serves4

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the beef:

  • 1 1/2 pounds

    boneless beef ribeye or tenderloin

  • 1

    medium yellow or red onion

  • 1 to 2

    medium limes

  • 4 cloves

    garlic

  • 1 cup

    raw walnuts

  • 1/2 packed cup

    fresh basil leaves

  • 1/2 packed cup

    fresh mint leaves

  • 1/2 packed cup

    fresh parsley leaves

  • 1/2 cup

    pomegranate molasses

  • 1/4 cup

    olive oil

  • 1 1/4 teaspoons

    kosher salt

  • 1 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

For the vegetables:

  • 1

    medium red onion

  • 2

    medium green bell peppers

  • 4

    medium plum or Roma tomatoes (about 1 pound total)

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Serving options:

  • Persian flatbreads, lavash, pita, or naan

  • Cooked basmati or saffron basmati rice

  • Plain yogurt

Instructions

Marinate the beef:

  1. Cut 1 1/2 pounds beef ribeye into 1 1/2-inch pieces, then place in a large bowl. Coarsely chop 1 medium onion, then place in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment.

  2. Squeeze the juice from 1 to 2 medium limes until you have 2 tablespoons. Add the juice, 4 garlic cloves, 1 cup raw walnuts, 1/2 packed cup fresh basil leaves, 1/2 packed cup fresh mint leaves, 1/2 packed cup fresh parsley leaves, 1/2 cup pomegranate molasses, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper to the food processor. Process until you have a creamy paste, stopping and scraping down the sides of the bowl once or twice, about 1 1/2 minutes total.

  3. Add the paste to the beef and stir until the beef is well coated. Cover and refrigerate at least 12 or up to 24 hours.

Grill the vegetables and beef:

  1. If using wooden skewers, soak 15 (10-inch) or 12 (12-inch) skewers in water for at least 30 minutes.

  2. If using a gas grill, heat the grill to medium, direct heat (about 300ºF). For a charcoal grill, pile the lit coals on one side to create two heat zones. Meanwhile, remove the beef from the refrigerator. Wipe most of the excess marinade off the beef but leave a thin coating on. Thread the beef onto the skewers, arranging the pieces so they are just barely touching, 4 to 5 pieces per skewer. Place on a large plate and let sit at room temperature at least 30 minutes while you prepare and grill the vegetables.

  3. Peel and quarter 1 medium red onion through the root. Thread onto 1 to 2 skewers. Core and quarter 2 medium green bell peppers lengthwise. Thread lengthwise, threading each piece through 2 places, onto 4 skewers.

  4. Place all the vegetable skewers and 4 Roma tomatoes on a baking sheet. Brush the vegetables with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season all over with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.

  5. Scrape the grill grates clean if needed. Place the vegetable skewers and tomatoes on the cooler side of the grill. Cover and grill, flipping the skewers and tomatoes every 5 minutes, until tender and lightly charred in spots, about 15 minutes total. Transfer to a platter and cover loosely with a sheet of aluminum foil to keep warm.

  6. If using a gas grill, increase the heat to medium-high (about 400ºF) and let the grill heat up for 5 minutes. Scrape the grill grates clean again. Place the beef skewers on the grill, using the hotter side of the charcoal grill. Cover and cook until grill marks appear on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Flip the skewers, cover, and cook until desired doneness, 3 to 4 minutes more for medium rare. Transfer to the platter. Serve with flatbreads or rice and yogurt if desired.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The beef can be marinated up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.

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