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A recipe for summer-friendly Greek ‘keftedes’

Keftedes are Greek meatballs that go into a number of dishes. In this recipe, the meat is skipped for eggs and chickpeas

Greek Keftedes with tzatziki sauce.
Greek Keftedes with tzatziki sauce. (Freepik)

Keftedes are Greek meatballs, sometimes made with a mixture of chickpeas and sardines. For this version, we substitute the sardines with feta cheese, which gives the keftedes a deeply savory note while keeping them meat-free. Based on the chickpea and sardine keftedes from “Smashing Plates” by London chef Maria Elia, this version is just as flavorful. In this recipe from “Tuesday Nights Mediterranean,” which features weeknight-friendly meals from the region, we flatten portions of the chickpea mixture into patties directly in the skillet, instead of shaping them into balls. This creates more surface area for browning and speeds the cooking. 

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To begin, we whisk an egg with paprika, cinnamon, cumin, salt and pepper, then add the chickpeas, mashing them with a potato masher until they are broken down but not completely smooth. Feta and herbs are mixed in, and the mixture is shaped into balls and transferred to the refrigerator to chill for 15 minutes, which helps them hold together in the skillet. Once smashed into a nonstick skillet, let the delicate keftedes cook undisturbed until they form a golden brown crust, and flip them only once. These chickpea patties are great with a simple salad, or tuck them into pita with vegetables such as onions, tomatoes, cucumber and radishes. Serve with yogurt-tahini sauce and lemon wedges.


Start to finish: 45 minutes 
Servings: 4 ½ cup whole-milk plain yogurt

¼ cup tahini

6 teaspoons lemon juice, divided, plus lemon wedges to serve

1½ teaspoons ground cumin, divided

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

1 large egg

1½ teaspoons sweet paprika

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

Two 15½-ounce cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)

½ cup finely chopped fresh mint, flat-leaf parsley or a combination, plus whole or torn leaves to serve

2 tablespoons grapeseed or other neutral oil, divided

In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, tahini, 4 teaspoons of lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of cumin. Transfer ⅓ cup of the mixture to a large bowl. Into the remaining yogurt mixture, stir the remaining 2 teaspoons lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper; set aside for serving. To the large bowl, add the egg, paprika, cinnamon, the remaining ½ teaspoon cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon pepper, then whisk to combine. Add the chickpeas and mash with a potato masher until broken down but not completely smooth. Add the feta and herb(s), then mix well.
Form into 12 evenly sized balls (each about a scant ¼ cup); place on a plate and refrigerate for about 15 minutes. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add 6 of the balls, spacing them evenly apart (return the remainder to the refrigerator), then flatten each with a metal spatula into a 2- to 2½-inch patty. Cook until golden brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side, gently flipping them once. Transfer to a platter and tent with foil. Wipe out the skillet and repeat with the remaining oil and patties. Top the keftedes with whole or torn herb(s) and serve with the yogurt-tahini sauce and lemon wedges. 

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