kofta + beet tzaztiki

Yesterday, I had perhaps my first full day of wallowing since moving out to California.  Probably didn’t help that my Sunday was hazed by a rather late and intoxicated Saturday night involving many bad decisions, among them an avoidance-driven sprint through San Francisco.  Really it all started well before Saturday’s antics, with a week that’s seen too many late nights at the office, too many color coded spreadsheets, and too much dating confusion to recount here.  All that added up to a Sunday spent conjuring Bridget Jones, and dreading my impending lifelong spinsterhood.

With the help of some patient friends, a little sweat, and a long hot shower, I wish I could say I shook off my funk completely, but the truth is I just flat out embraced it: spinsterhood be it as it may, a girl’s gotta eat, right?

The kofta here are a riff on a recipe my mom made growing up, taken I think from a picture filled, sea blue book on Greek cooking.  Kofta, a Persian term meaning “ground” or “minced,” are common across the Mediterranean, Middle East, and North Africa.  The flavors here are sweet-savory with the warmth of allspice and raisins tempered by red onion and and unusual, zesty, and pretty-in-pink tzatziki.

The tzatziki is a copy-cat version of one anyone who’s eaten at Sofra in Watertown, MA will recognize.  It’s the basic yogurt-garlic-dill combo, but with raw grated beets instead of finely diced cucumbers, which lend vibrant color and sweet crunch.  I only recently discovered the joy of raw beets, grated for salads or slaws.  Add some stove-charred pita bread, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, greens, and a few slivered kalamata olives, and prepare for the the best [non-Italian] meatball sandwich ever.

Should you be less inclined towards dinner worthy fare, this recipe works well as a starter.  Just make your meatballs smaller and serve the tzatziki on the side for spooning or put a dab in a lettuce leaf along with a kofta and some fresh dill.

One Year Ago: Bulgur and Butternut Salad.

Two Years Ago: Creamy Eggplant Spread with Almonds and Yogurt.

Makes about 24 meatballs and serves 4-6, or one single lady with lots of leftovers as the case may be.  

Kofta + Beet Tzatiki

For the Kofta

  • 3 tbsp raisins, soaked in boiling water for 5 minutes and then drained
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1/2 lb ground beef
  • 1/2 lb ground lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • fresh ground black pepper
  • canola oil for frying
To Serve
  • warm pita
  • cucumbers
  • tomatoes
  • arugula or other greens
  • chopped kalamata olives

Combine the raisins and onion in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped.  Combine this mixture with the remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl.  Using your hands (it’s really the only way to mix thoroughly!), mix, mix, mix, until uniform!  Divide into roughly 24 meatballs – the mixture is quite wet – and refrigerate until needed.

When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 350 degrees heat a heavy bottomed skillet over medium high heat with a little oil.  Add the meatballs – only what will fit comfortably and cook 2-3 minutes per side until browned.  Transfer to an oven safe pan and repeat with the remaining meatballs.  Roast the meatballs in the oven 15 minutes to finish cooking.  Serve warm with toasted pita, beet tzatziki (below), cucumbers, tomatoes, greens, and olives.

For the Beet Tzatziki

  • 1 medium raw purple beet, peeled and coarsely grated
  • 1/2 cup greek yogurt (I used 2%), plus more for topping
  • 2 tbsp very finely chopped red onion
  • 1 small clove garlic, pressed with the back of a knife and very finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus more for topping
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill, plus more for topping
  • salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well.  Refrigerate until ready to serve and then transfer to a clean serving bowl and top with additional yogurt, olive oil, and dill. 
  1. Hello Alex,
    Greetings from Dublin, Ireland!
    I just want to say I really like your site, it makes me want to stuff my face clean off,
    I am really looking forward to making your kofta + beet tzaztiki for a pal of mine who is staying over this coming weekend. We are both studying hard and this will be the perfect treat to take our mind off the books.


  2. Hey Mark,
    “Stuff my face clean off” is about the best compliment I can imagine…
    Good luck with the studying & hope you have a great week. Alex

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