These small fried patties or croquettes, known as keftes, are popular in the Sephardic Jewish community. They are related to Middle Eastern Arab meatballs, known as kuftas. Unlike kuftas, which are always made with meat, keftes are flattened into disks and come in many different varieties, including meat, lentil, spinach and leek. They are always fried and sometimes finished in sauce. Because they are fried, keftes are often served for Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
I’m partial to vegetarian keftes made from potatoes and green vegetables, particularly those made from spinach. Spinach was originally grown in Asia and made its way to the Mediterranean during the 8th century A.D. The first Middle Eastern country to cultivate it was Persia; historically, spinach became known as the Persian Green. Since that time, it has been a very popular green throughout the Middle East, prized for its distinct flavor and a myriad of health benefits. Spinach is popular in the Sephardic Jewish community, and keftes are just one of the many ways it is prepared and enjoyed.
These Keftes de Espinaca are irresistible. If you have a family member who is reluctant to eat green leafy vegetables, these keftes may just get them to reconsider! They make a scrumptious appetizer, and can also be served as a vegetarian entrée. They’re a great way to use up leftover mashed potatoes. If you don’t mind making this into a dairy dish, these keftes are delicious topped with a little Greek yogurt or labaneh.
Make sure you serve these little fritters fresh out of the pan. If they sit out too long, they’ll lose their crispy texture.
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- 1/2 cup + 1 tbsp olive or grapeseed oil
- 1 onion, minced
- 1/2 tsp crushed garlic
- 10 oz fresh spinach leaves, rinsed and dried
- 1 egg
- 1 cup mashed russet potatoes
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs or matzo meal (for Passover use matzo meal)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- Pinch of cayenne (optional, adds heat)
You will also need
- Large skillet with lid, mixing bowls, mesh strainer, sheet tray
- In a large skillet, warm 1 tbsp of olive or grapeseed oil over medium heat. Sauté minced onion for 5 minutes until translucent. Add crushed garlic, sauté for two minutes longer.
- Add half of the fresh spinach and over the skillet, allow the spinach to wilt and shrink slightly, then add remaining half and cover again till all the spinach has wilted.
- Remove from heat and transfer cooked mixture to a mesh strainer. With a spatula, gently press mixture in the strainer to remove excess moisture.
- Transfer mixture to a cutting board and roughly chop.
- Place chopped mixture into a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients and mix thouroughly.
- With an ice cream scoop or ¼ cup measuring cup, scoop the mixture into your hand and form smooth flat patties. Place them onto a sheet tray as you go.
- Heat remaining ½ cup of oil over medium heat. It should be at about 365 degrees F. Place patties into the hot oil in small batches. Fry until brown, about 4 min on each side. Place on a paper towel or rack to drain.
- Serve immediately.