Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sardine Keftedes

As soon as our weather warms up, I start thinking more and more about Greek food. Grilled souvlaki with tzatziki is a favorite; cucumber, tomato, olive, and feta salad with basil is a must, and so is watermelon with seared halloumi. Just in time for summer, I received a review copy of Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia. I’m a big fan of her book The Modern Vegetarian, so I suspected there would be a lot to like about this new book. This time, the recipes aren’t entirely vegetarian, but many are and many others are adaptable to exclude meat. Elia set out to take Greek ingredients “on a new culinary journey.” The dishes in this book are familiar but with a new perspective. For instance, figs appear often in Greek cuisine, but the leaves aren’t used. Elia was inspired to incorporate fig leaves in different ways. There’s a recipe for fresh pasta made with dried fig leaves, and the pasta is served with Lemon and Oregano Roasted Tomatoes, fresh figs, and almonds. Also, there’s a Fig-Leaf Wrapped Feta dish that’s baked until the feta is softened. Another recipe that caught my eye was the Scallops, Soutzouki, and Watermelon dish that looks perfect for summer. I’d skip the sausage component, but the Raisin Oregano Dressing served with it sounds so intriguing. Then, I saw the Sardine Keftedes and headed straight to the kitchen. I still had a tin of sardines that I brought home from Spain, and this was a great use for it. To make the keftedes, it’s actually about a half and half mix of chickpeas and sardines that are combined with bread crumbs and lots of great flavorings. The result is not too sardine-forward, and sardines are a great choice of sustainable seafood with healthy omega-3s. 

Rinsed and drained chickpeas from a can were added to the food processor with tahini and broken up a bit by pulsing. That was transferred to a mixing bowl. Depending on what kind of canned sardines you choose, you might need to remove the backbones. Once boneless, the sardines were broken into pieces and added to the chickpea mixture. Kefalotyri cheese was to be used, but I wasn’t able to find it the day I needed it, so I used Myzithra. Parmesan or pecorino could also be substituted. The finely shredded cheese was added to the mix with a pinch of cinnamon, a little cumin, some paprika, an egg, and bread crumbs. I also used some parsley, oregano, and basil from my herb garden. Mint was suggested in the ingredient list, but I tend to skip mint and opt for basil. The mixture was divided into 12 portions and rolled into balls that were flattened, dusted with flour, and seared in olive oil until golden on each side. 

The keftedes were served with a sprinkling of sumac and lemon wedges for squeezing. I topped them with yogurt mixed with fresh dill and added a cucumber, tomato, and feta salad on the side. The sprinkling of sumac added a bright, citrusy note. Elia suggests serving them in a sandwich with skordalia, tomatoes, and basil. I’ll try that next time. And, then I need to try several other dishes and spend some time with the sweets chapter. The Almond, Rose Water, and Chocolate Mallomar Chimneys might be next.  

Sardine Keftedes 
Recipe reprinted with publisher's permission from Smashing Plates: Greek Flavors Redefined by Maria Elia is published by Kyle Books, priced $27.95. Photography by Jenny Zarins.

These are great served cold in a sandwich with skordalia, vine-ripened tomatoes, and fresh basil—it adds a whole new meaning to a fish finger sandwich! I like to serve mine with Lemon Parsley Salad (page 147) and a little Skordalia (page 130), Taramasalata (page 129), or dill yogurt. Variations: Omit the Kefalotyri and add 1⁄3 cup of crumbled feta and 2 tablespoons of grated onion. 

Makes 12 

1 x 14oz can of chickpeas, drained 
1/4 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped 
3 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped 
2 tablespoons tahini 
2 x 3 1/2oz cans of sardines, drained, backbones removed 
a pinch of ground cinnamon 
1 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/2 teaspoon paprika 
1⁄3 cup Kefalotyri, Parmesan, or Pecorino 
1 free-range egg sea 
salt and freshly ground black pepper 
3/4 cup fresh bread crumbs 
all-purpose flour, for dusting 
olive oil, for frying 
sumac, to sprinkle 
lemon wedges, to serve (optional) 

Put the chickpeas, herbs, and tahini in a food processor and pulse until the chickpeas have broken up a little. Transfer to a bowl. Add the sardines, flaking them into pieces by hand, then the spices, cheese, egg, and some salt and pepper. Mix well, adding the bread crumbs to combine. 

Divide the mixture into 12 and roll into balls, dusting in the flour. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate, uncovered, for a couple of hours to firm up. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat, slightly flatten the keftedes so they’ll cook evenly, and pan-fry until golden on each side (about 3 minutes per side). You could deep-fry if you prefer, at 325°F for 2–3 minutes, turning once. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle with salt and sumac, and serve immediately or at room temperature, with lemon wedges on the side, if you wish.

I am a member of the Amazon Affiliate Program.


  1. These do look very tasty and perfect to be served with a salad. This is definitely a wonderful dish to serve in summer xx

  2. Delicious and original! great summer food.



  3. Thanks for the heads up on this cookbook... These look fabulous!

  4. such spicy and delicious sardine keftedes....they must taste amazing with freshly squeezed lemon....flavorful and oh so good,thanks :-)

  5. I would love to try these...they look just right and perfect!

    ela h.
    Gray Apron

  6. What a delicious recipe, it looks so wonderful :D

    Choc Chip Uru

  7. HI Lisa!
    Oh how I adore Greek food. It's funny how the craving hits extra hard in the Summer time too:)

    I have never heard of this dish but I surely have been missing something because it sounds quite intriguing. I'd love to give it a try so I have bookmarked it. That book sounds like a keeper too.

    Thank you so much for sharing, Lisa...

  8. I once made courgette keftedes (a recipe by Elia, too, from another book) and they were amazing - I love the idea of using canned sardines!

  9. welllll, when you put the sardines that way--yes I will eat them!

  10. I have never had sardines made this way...sounds delicious with the chickpeas and all the spices...delicious patties.
    Thanks for the recipe Lisa...have a wonderful week :D

  11. I feel like this recipe was made for me! I'm crazy about sardines at the moment as we're getting some beautiful fresh ones at the markets :D

  12. My husband loves sardines and would certainly enjoy the keftedes.

  13. i think i was ruined at an early age thinking sardines were super gross because i still have that initial reaction when i see them as an ingredient. i'd give these a chance though--i love everything else about the dish!

  14. Great way to use sardines! This recipe is new to me, but it won't be a stranger. ;-) Thanks.

  15. Ooh, these do look tasty -- and very versatile. Thanks for sharing, Lisa!

  16. I've had her "Modern Vegetarian" on my "to buy" list for a while.

    These look great!

  17. You brought some from Spain? I would never have thought to do that! I was so into Santos and antiques in general at the time, although we had some fantastic meals there. I remember the fresh sardines while in Portugal. Oh my, fantastic.
    The keftedes look so good, Lisa. An interesting recipe and an interesting cookbook. Am anxious to see what else you make from it.
    (My dad adored sardines...those dreaded ones available at markets here. Not the greatest example, and I had them often as a child.)

    1. I brought home a suitcase full of food from Spain! Guindillas, a mild pickled skinny pepper, was one of my favorite things--along with piquiillo peppers and several types of canned seafood. The canned mussels were so good too! Wishing I'd brought home even more. I need to plan another trip.

  18. Sardines are so full of flavor, that I'm sure they make these keftedes taste amazing!

  19. Looks like an amazing recipe. Thanks for sharing.


Blogging tips