Greek food is very memorable. Whether it is the first time you taste your first gyro sandwich or maybe you are just a sucker for homemade baklava, but regardless of which recipe exactly it is, you definitely remember its origins! The first time I tasted keftedes (Greek for meatballs) or keftedakia (Greek for small meatballs) was kind of an unusual experience. We had just been visiting the in-laws for a couple of weeks and were leaving that morning to drive to Athens, about a 5-6 hour drive from north Greece. Being the wonderful mother-in-law that she is, she made us a picnic for the road.
As you might have suspected, Greek picnics are defined a bit different than the American ones I was more familiar with. I typically assume that road picnics include cold cuts of meat and cheese, well preserved salads like maybe a couscous, fruits, crackers, nuts and basically anything that is (1) easily accessible (2) easily eaten, possibly even while driving and (3) not smelling strong of anything in particular. Greek picnics are defined more as full home-cooked meals on the road. So, on our first Greek picnic when I was told that we had meatballs, rice, eggs, and salad veggies I was a little confused and concerned on how we were going to eat them on the road. My skepticism lasted up until the point that I felt hunger pangs in my belly and reached for a meatball. With only one bite I knew that it was unlike any other meatball I had tasted before, this was special, this was melting in my mouth and exploding with flavor all at the same time! WOW. After I ate 6-10 myself, I was convinced that the Greek picnics could also be a wonderful experience. Now, when we travel, you might be able to catch us with some stuffed beefteki, hard boiled eggs, whole tomatoes and cucumbers, and maybe even some rice, but for the most part I try to enjoy this at a table with family and friends!
Did I mention how spectacular these meatballs go with tzatziki? Just perfect I tell ya! I am also a lover of mustard and this too paired splendidly! There is another recipe using meatballs but that is cooked in a tomato sauce that I am very eager to try and share with you, but for now these babies will work. I am not even a huge meat fan, I made some meat-less balls a while back using lentils and I enjoyed those too but they are in no comparison to the original meatball!
Greek Meatballs “Keftedakia” Recipe: Makes ~ 24 meatballs Printable Recipe 500 g. (~1 lb.) ground lamb, beef, or pork 1 medium onion, grated 1 small/medium tomato, grated 1-2 cloves garlic, pressed* (optional) 1 egg, slightly beaten 1/4 + 1/2 cup fine semolina or breadcrumbs few pinches of salt and pepper pinch of cumin (optional) handful of fresh parsley, chopped Olive oil to fry the meatballs Mix meat, onion, tomato, all spices, egg, 1/4 semolina/breadcrumbs, and fresh parsley by hand or with two forks until very evenly distributed. Let rest in fridge for 1 hour up to overnight. A very helpful tool I use to shape the meatballs is the same mini scooper I use for cookies too. It is a little more than a tablespoon sized ice cream scooper that releases all of the inside at the pinch of finger. I simply scoop out as many meatballs that I can, usually between 22-24 and set them on a piece of parchment paper. I then sprinkle the remaining semolina/breadcrumbs over the tops of the scooped balls. Then, one by one I take into my hands and roll and shape into a perfect ball; okay so they aren’t always so perfect but it works really well! When finished with all of them, heat your choice of oil in a skillet so that it will reach almost half way up the meatballs. Place in hot oil and cook until evenly browned, flipping when necessary. Drain excess oil by placing on a paper towel lined plate, keep warm in the oven until ready to serve.I think the difference between these meatballs and others I have tried is the addition of grated tomato and fresh parsley. The tomato keeps the meatball extremely moist and the parsley adds a deep level of freshness. I typically add fresh garlic when serving with plain rice, but if I am serving these with Greek oven potatoes (recipe to follow) then the garlic factor is already there and not needed, ultimately your choice. Depending on whether you use semolina (like a cream of wheat) or breadcrumbs shouldn’t make a huge difference. In my ideal recipe, I use breadcrumbs to mix in the meat and semolina to lightly roll the outside before frying. Use what you have and what works for you, small changes won’t make a huge difference! The same goes with lamb or beef or pork. I personally do not use pork but I know plenty of people who use a mixture of pork and beef; whatever you prefer and can fit in your budget that month!
So, if you have never tried Greek meatballs and have always found yourself enjoying meat related meals, this is definitely one to add to your list of to make very soon items. You will enjoy each and every bite, or make them bite-sized and just pop them in your mouth as you drive down the road on your next highway adventure! Just be sure to take some trident too if you decide to add the garlic
Thanks for visiting the new blog site, I hope you’ll enjoy it more than the previous one. I am working trying to go through old posts and updating links that send you to the old blog, hopefully within another week I will have finished the tweaks. Also, I would love to hear from you and how things are going. I hope you are enjoying your weekend and kalo mena (Happy 1st of the month) to you!