There are many recipes for keftedes (plural of kefte). Practically every cook has a unique mixture of ingredients. The following is a combination of recipes from Macedonia and Thrace that I developped for my first book The Foods of Greece . It’s my favorite because the mixture has bulgur and grated zucchini, instead of bread, which make it exceptional. Chef Jim Botsacos of Molyvos restaurant in NYC serves a variation of these keftedes.
Serves 6 (about 35 pieces)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds zucchini or squash, grated
1 1/2 cups finely chopped onions
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped jalapeno, or 1/3 – 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 1/2 cups milk
1 1/4 pounds (750 grams) lean ground beef
2 large or 3 medium eggs
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 tablespoons ouzo or dry white wine
1 1/2 cups grated kefalotyri or Pecorino cheese
1 teaspoon sea salt or to taste
Flour semolina or yellow cornmeal , for dredging
Olive oil, for frying
In a heavy skillet, heat the olive oil over low heat and sauté the grated zucchini until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the onions and pepper and cook, stirring, for 2 more minutes. Remove from the heat and add the bulgur and milk. Stir and let stand for about 15 minutes, or until the wheat absorbs the liquid and becomes soft.
In a large bowl, mix the ground beef with the eggs, garlic, mint, parsley, and ouzo or wine. Stir in the zucchini and bulgur mixture. Add the grated cheese and salt and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour, and up to 8 hours.
To check the seasoning of the meatballs cook a teaspoon of the mixture before proceeding. Take 1/4 cup of the mixture in your hand and shape it into a ball. Press down slightly and coat with flour or semolina. Repeat to shape all the keftedes.
When ready to fry, heat about 2 inches olive oil in a large skillet and fry the meatballs in batches, without crowding the pan, until well browned on all sides, about 8 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain, then serve hot or at room temperature.
Note: Instead of frying the meatballs, you can broil them. Shape as described and, without dusting them in flour, brush liberally with olive oil on both sides and broil for 15 to 20 minutes, turning once.
You can also make keftedakia (small meatballs) by shaping rounded teaspoons of the mixture.