Paleo Keftedes a la Marina

2013-01-25
Meatballs are one of the greatest foods in the world.  Not only are they a perfect bite of delicious protein, but there are so many variations of meat and seasonings that the possibilities are endless!  Keftedes is a Greek fried meatball that is typically made with bread crumbs, onion and mint.  Marina, the Matriarch of our Greek family, has a recipe that is simple, flavorful and a new staple in my meatball repertoire.  I am so thankful that my Mom sent me the recipe!

With family recipes in particular, I aim to maintain the integrity of flavor and tradition even if I make a few changes.  It was very simple to make this recipe Paleo by substituting almond meal/flour for the bread crumbs in the meat mixture, and I “crusted” the meatballs in coconut flour instead of Wondra flour because it is also a fine-grained “flour.”  By rolling the meatballs in a light dusting of coconut flour, they get a slight crust on the outside but remain delightfully juicy in the middle.  I am so glad that the “breading” ingredients could be substituted while still keeping the traditional method of cooking!

I normally shy away from recipes that require “frying,”  but this recipe only uses about a 1/4 cup so the meatballs are never fully submerged.   Also, you set up a paper towel covered plate so that when the meatballs are removed from the heat, the excess oil can drain.  I normally reserve my organic olive oil for salads, but it is traditional to pan fry the meatballs in a shallow bath of olive oil.  Marina suggested Trader Joe’s 100% Greek Kalamata Olive Oil, but unfortunately we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in the area.  The local Commissary also didn’t have anything similar in their selection.  I will hunt down a proper Greek olive oil someday, but the organic olive oil was still delicious.  You could use coconut oil to fry them, but the olive taste definitely compliments the flavors within the meatball.

Marina’s original recipe calls for ground chuck, but I have used both grass fed beef that was 90-10 and 85-15.  Taylor says that he could not tell the difference between the two, so I would consider that a success!  The original recipe calls for a cup of water, but I decided to use a technique that I have seen several times on the Food Network.  I used a small amount of baking soda and then club soda in the egg mixture before adding it to the meat.  I buy small six packs of the Schwepps Club Soda so I don’t waste a whole big bottle.  The club soda is carbonated, so it reacts with the 1/4 teaspoon baking soda.  This allowed me to use just a 1/2 cup of liquid because I didn’t want the meatballs to be too thin.  The effervescence also helps the dried minced onion rehydrate faster.

I let the meat rest three times, once each after mixing the ingredients, forming the meatballs, and coating the meatballs with coconut flour.  This allows the meat to bind together and prevents it from toughening from being overworked.  If you love working with your hands (or have a kitchen helper that does) this is the perfect recipe for you!  The first time I made it, I was smiling and giggling almost the whole time.  I especially love that after you coat the meatballs in coconut flour that they are reminiscent of little donut holes.

 The second time I made these, I made up a delicious complement: Lemon Mint Avocado Dip.  I didn’t have any cucumber on hand, so I can’t call it an Avocado Tzatziki.  I had an avocado that was about to over-ripen.  I simply added fresh mint, lemon zest, and the juice of half a lemon.  Just a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper made for a zingy dip. Bright and citrus flavors complement the keftedes extremely well.  I decided against adding garlic or onion to the dip so as not to lose the flavor of the keftedes.  It was a success!

I have also served these keftedes with my leftover Paleo Tabbouleh from when I made Paleo Greek Lamb Chops and with Spanakopita.  They could also be placed over a salad, or paired with a fresh Greek tzatziki.  So many possibilities!

Ingredients

  • 1 lb grass fed ground beef
  • 3/4 cup almond meal/flour
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 cup club soda
  • 2 tbs dry, minced onion
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • enough organic olive oil to cover bottom of pan (about 1/4 cup)
  • for lemon mint avocado dip (optional):
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 tbs fresh mint finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Instructions

  • 1. Place ground beef and almond flour in large bowl, and mix thoroughly with hands
  • 2. In separate bowl, beat egg, then whisk in baking soda and club soda
  • 3. Pour egg mixture into large bowl with meat and mix thoroughly with hands
  • 4. Add minced onion, garlic powder, black pepper, salt, and continue to mix with hands until evenly incorporated
  • 5. Let meat mixture sit for about 10 minutes to rest
  • 6. Meanwhile, line a baking pan with aluminum foil or parchment paper
  • 7. Form the meatballs by rolling about two tablespoons of filling into small ball (having slightly damp hands helps)
  • 8. Place each meatball on the covered baking pan to set up, and let meatballs rest for 5-10 minutes
  • 9. Pour coconut flour onto large dish to be dry dredging station
  • 10. One at a time, roll each meatball in the coconut flour, then gently toss the meatball between your hands to knock off extra “flour”
  • 11. Set each meatball back on the baking pan, until all meatballs are covered
  • 12. Press the top of each meatball gently so they won’t roll around in the pan, and let them rest while you heat the olive oil in the pan
  • 13. Pour enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large nonstick skillet
  • 14. Heat oil on medium/medium-high heat until oil starts to bubble
  • 15. Carefully add half of the meatballs (8-10), careful not to overcrowd the pan and lose heat
  • 16. Cook for 4 minutes on first side, then remove briefly from heat to flip (if not, oil will splatter), then place back on heat
  • 17. Meanwhile set up large dish covered in paper towel or a brown paper bag
  • 18. Cook second side for about 4 minutes, then turn with tongs to brown any side that didn’t get color (1-2 minutes)
  • 19. Carefully remove each meatball with tongs and set on paper-covered dish to drain extra oil
  • 20. Place second batch of meatballs into oil and cook them just like the first batch: 4 minutes each side + 2 minutes on the egdes
  • 21. If there are no more meatballs to cook, turn off heat and with tongs place cooked meatballs on paper-lined plate to drain oil
  • 22. Serve warm or room temperature
  • 23. Enjoy!