My real last name is Kotrodimos. I’m Greek. My father changed our name to “Konnor” around the time he started practicing law thinking that our name was too difficult to pronounce and to avoid some of the ethnic bias against immigrants at the time. My father helped a lot of Greeks immigrate to the States and just like in the movies, many of them opened restaurants. So I got to eat Greek food a lot. One dish I did not encounter until rather recently, however, is the Greek meatball “Keftedes,” pronounced KEF-THED-EES. Keftedes is commonly served as part of a meze (appetizer) platter, with some creamy tzatziki sauce along with some pita bread.
Most restaurants use a combination of beef and pork as the base and many flour and fry the meatballs. I’ve put together the following recipe that uses ground lamb and takes a more healthy and keto approach as I have a tough time digesting carbs.
This recipe looks long and complicated – it’s not. It took considerably longer to write this up than it does to make this dish. It can easily be made in 30-40 minutes.
Pairs very well with hearty Cabernet or rich Pino Noir.
MAKES TWO SERVINGS
For the meatballs:
- 5 oz. ground lamb
- 5 oz ground pork
- 3 TBS raisins
- 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow or sweet onion
- 2 scallions finely chopped, green parts only
- 1/4 cup panko crumbs (or crushed chicharones for keto prep)
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 TBS finely chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 TBS finely chopped mint
- 1 TBS Mediterranean oregano
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp coriander
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 pinch light brown sugar
- Zest of 1/2 lemon
- Freshly ground salt & pepper
For the salad:
- 2 large handfuls arugula (or mixed greens if you prefer)
- 1 large mandarin (I prefer the Dekopon variety)
- 3 TBS dry-roasted hazelnuts (lightly crushed into halves)
- A few slices of sweet onion for each salad
- 2 large pepperoncinis
- Chunks of feta cheese
For the salad dressing:
- Juice of half a lemon
- 4 TBS olive oil
- 3 TBS red wine vinegar
- 1 TBS honey
- Freshly ground salt & pepper to taste
- Herbs de provence to taste
For the tzatziki:
- ½ cup finely grated cucumber
- 1 cup whole fat (5%) Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
- 1 tablespoon chopped mint (optional)
Preheat the oven to 375.
Make the tzatziki
- In a small bowl combine all the tzatziki ingredients except the dill (if using)
- Set aside so the flavors congeal while you make the rest of the dish (better yet, make it a day ahead and leave in the fridge)
- Garnish with dill before serving
Make the meatballs
- In a large bowl combine all of the meatball ingredients.
- Mash together with your hands until all ingredients are well incorporated.
- Using wet hands form nine equally sized meatballs
- In a large, stainless steel frying pan warm 3 TBS olive oil over medium high heat until hot but not smoking.
- Arrange the meatballs in the pan so that they are not touching
- Sear one side of the meatball for 3 minutes, flip and sear the other side for 2 minutes
- Place the pan in the oven and roast for 9-10 minutes until meatballs are just pink in the center
While the meatballs are roasting prepare the salad.
- In a small measuring cup combine all of the dressing ingredients
- Adjust amounts to your taste
- Set aside
- Place a generous handful of arugula in each of two shallow bowls
- Peel and segment the mandarin, removing any pith and split between the bowls
- Split the hazelnuts between the bowls
- Add several slides of sweet onion to each bowl
- Place a pepperoncini at the edge of each bowl
- Add chunks of feta to each bowl
- Optional: add 2 TBS torn mint leaves to each bowl
Finish the dish.
- Remove the meatballs from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes
- Split the tzatziki into two small ramekins
- Dress the salad with about 3 TBS of dressing each
- Top with 4-5 meatballs and serve