Small fried patties or croquettes, known as keftes, are popular in the Sephardic Jewish community. These Keftes de Espinaca are a unique and delicious vegetarian take on the kefte concept. Because keftes are pan fried, they are often served for Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil.
Keftes are related to Middle Eastern Arab meatballs, known as kuftas. Kuftas are usually made with meat. Keftes come in many different varieties including lentil, spinach and leek.
Spinach originated in Asia and made its way to the Mediterranean during the 8th century A.D. Persia was the first Middle Eastern country to cultivate this nutritious green; historically, spinach became known as the Persian Green. Spinach is now popular throughout the Middle East, prized for its distinct flavor and a myriad of health benefits.
These Sephardic 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. My favorite way to enjoy them is topped with a little Greek yogurt, sour cream or labaneh.
Make sure you serve these little fritters fresh out of the pan. If they sit out too long they’ll lose their crisp exterior.
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Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
- 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 large 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 cayenne (optional, adds heat)
- 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.