Monday, December 6, 2010

LEEK FRITTERS WITH MEAT (PRASSO-KEFTES)


Keftes in Greek means meat patty, and prasso-keftes is a meat patty into which leeks have been incorporated. The recipe I am using here makes a crunchy and juicy leek fritter, let me tell you!  It's based on one found in the book Sephardic Flavors - Jewish Cooking of the Mediterranean, which I recently purchased from Amazon.com


The book is an exploration of Jewish culinary history in the Mediterranean area. Joyce Goldstein, the author, tells the story of how the Sephardic Jews adapted to the cuisines of their new homelands. It's a book full of historical information and unique recipes of the Jews of Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Italy, and Greece. Myself being Greek, I focused mostly on the Greek recipes, and particularly on the one for leek fritters. These delectable meatballs are a favorite of the Sephardim, who make them in both vegetarian and meat versions.



For the most part, the Jews of Greece are Sephardim. Sephardim or Sephardic Jews are descendants of Jews who were forced out of Spain in 1492, as a result of the Spanish Inquisition. The word “Sephardim” is derived from "Sepharad," the Hebrew word for Spain. After 1492, a large number of Sephardim found refuge in the Greek city of Salonika, where they established a thriving community. Its pre-World War II Jewish population numbered 56,000, which made Salonika the largest Sephardic center in the world. Unfortunately, the Sephardim suffered greatly in the Holocaust. Only 2,000 of these Jews survived Auschwitz-Birkenau to return to Salonika. How were those people able to rebuild their lives after having survived such a tragic period of grief and destruction? It must have been a herculean task for each and every one of them to pick up one by one the pieces of their lives and to try to become whole again.



The White Tower in Salonika (formally known as Thessaloniki), near which was located one of the three Jewish quarters of the town.
My family, who are Salonika natives, had developed friendships in the Sephardic community. I remember one gentleman in particular, a bachelor, who was a close friend. He gave us one of his favorite recipes, leek fritters with meat, and we made it for him often, especially around such Jewish holidays as Passover and Rosh Hashanah. We too loved those leek fritters.  I remember them sitting on the kitchen counter, freshly cooked and aromatic. "Don't touch," my mother would say to me.  I had to wait my turn.  Adults got served first, then children.  I kept counting them as they were being plated, wondering how many would be left for me.  Through the years we unfortunately lost our recipe for leek fritters.  Weren't we lucky to find this delectable version, nestled among the pages of the cookbook "Sephardic Flavors?"

How to make leek fritters with meat:

Ingredients:

3 pounds leeks
3/4 pound ground beef
3 slices rustic bread, crusts removed, soaked in water, and squeezed dry. (The recipe allows to substitute 2 mashed potatoes for the bread. I tried this, but to me, the fritters taste better with the bread).
2 eggs separated
3 tablespoons walnuts, ground up well in a food processor
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, chopped well
2 shallots, chopped well
salt and pepper to taste
all purpose flour for dredging
canola oil for frying
lemon wedges

Directions:
  • Clean the leeks well, cut off the root end and most of the green part. Cut them lenghwise and then crosswise in 1/2 inch pieces. Soak them in water to remove any left over dirt, then drain them. Put them in a pot with salted water to cover, and then simmer until the leeks are soft, about 25 minutes. Drain them very well.
  • In a bowl combine the leeks, ground beef, bread, egg yolks, walnuts, parsley, garlic and shallots. Season with salt and pepper and knead until the mixture holds together well.
  • Form them into balls about 2 inches in diameter, and then flatten them a bit.
  • Pour canola oil to a depth of 1 inch into a medium saucepan and heat the oil.
  • Meanwhile spread some flour on a plate, and in a bowl beat the egg whites until they get frothy (not stiff).
  • When the oil is hot, dip the meatballs in the flour and then in the egg whites. Add them to the oil in batches and fry them until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a slotted spoon transfer them to paper towels to drain.
  • Arrange them on a platter and serve them with lemon wedges.
  • Left over leek fritters can be reheated in tomato sauce. Also, the bread crumbs and flour listed in the recipe can be substituted by matzoh meal.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for the wonderful post. I know about Sephardin Jews, but now you have reminded me. Also, since I make koftes (recently, on my blog, with bulgur) I am very anxious to try these as well. They sound really tasty and I always love to try some new things.

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  2. i'm a huge fan of leek, and fritter foods - this will definitely be bookmarked; i recently bought a book about jewish cooking, so i must try it together with a range of other foods to complement the meal

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