Thursday, September 5, 2013

Ktzitzot: Tasty Meat Patties that are Easier to Make than Pronounce!

ktzitzot Sephardic Jewish meat patties
I enjoy culinary challenges like experimenting with new ingredients (stay tuned for recipes calling for sumac and hog jowls - but not together) and exploring unfamiliar cuisines.

One recent kitchen "R&D" project involved researching traditional foods for Rosh Hashanah, and that led me to discover Sephardic recipes. Having grown up in New York City, I've enjoyed many different Jewish dishes but virtually all of them have come from the Ashkenazi or European Jewish tradition, which is heavily influenced by the cuisines of Eastern Europe and Germany. Sephardic Jews, on the other hand, trace their lineage back through Spain, northern Africa and the Middle East. Thus, while Sephardic recipes feature many of the same traditional foods found in Ashkenazi recipes, the seasonings usually are stronger and more varied due to the influence of Spanish, Middle Eastern, Moroccan and other north African cuisines.

One such Sephardic recipe is ktzitzot, or Israeli ground beef patties (I've read that they can also be made from ground chicken). Similar to the better-known kofta kabobs of Lebanon and Egypt, ktzitzot are formed into little meatballs that are flattened out into patties before frying. Ktzitzot can also be shaped into long "sausage-like" cylinders that are flattened out. Either way you shape them, the key is to fry them until they are crispy on the outside and well-done on the inside. You can serve ktzitsot as a snack with a spiced tomato sauce or tahini dipping sauce, or in a wrap or pita sandwich with lettuce, tomato and onions (you can add either of those sauces to the sandwich). For a low-carb meal, I served the ktzitzot on a bed of lettuce with sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes, drizzled with tahini sauce. A pound of beef will easily make a dozen patties or kabobs, and you can serve any leftovers straight from the refrigerator or reheated.

1 large onion, chopped
2 to 3 Tbs olive oil for frying (used in 2 batches)
2 eggs
1 lb ground beef
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp smoked Spanish paprika* (mild or hot)
1/2 tsp sweet paprika*
1/2 tsp dried dill weed
1/2 to 1 Tbs matzoh meal or bread crumbs
Optional: Tahini sauce or dressing, chopped parsley as garnish

*If you don't have smoked Spanish paprika, or if you prefer a milder flavor that isn't smoky, omit the smoked paprika and increase the sweet paprika to 1 tsp (you can also do the opposite if you prefer a bolder, smokier flavor)

Heat a Tablespoon of oil (reserve the rest) in a large skillet over medium-high heat, then fry the onion until they turn deep golden-brown, being careful not to burn. If necessary, add a little of the reserved oil to the skillet to keep the onions from burning.

While the onions are cooking, beat the eggs in a large bowl, then add the rest of the ingredients except the reserved oil and the matzoh meal or bread crumbs. Use a large spoon to combine everything that's in the bowl until thoroughly mixed, then begin adding in the matzoh meal or bread crumbs a little at a time until all excess liquid has been absorbed -- you want the beef mixture to glisten and still be very moist and "sticky" to handle, but without being wet or runny, and you might not need to use the entire Tablespoon. When the onions are nicely browned, stir them into the meat mixture.

Add reserved oil to the frying pan and turn heat down to low. Use your hands to take a small amount of the meat mixture and form into a relatively "loose" meatball -- handle the meat as little as possible and avoid compressing it together. Place the meatball in the pan and use a spatula or the back of a large spoon to flatten it out into a patty. Repeat this process with the rest of the meat, leaving a little space between the patties so that you can turn them over while they cook (you may need to cook the meat in batches). When the pan is full, turn the heat back up to medium-high and fry until dark and crispy on the outside (they'll be well-done in the middle, which is how you want them), turning over to cook both sides. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to transfer the cooked ktzitzot onto paper towels to absorb excess oil. Serve with a dipping sauce or a drizzle of tahini dressing and garnish with chopped parsley if desired. Serves 3 to 4.

Zestfully yours,


  1. G'day Gloria and looks delicious too!
    These are now on my list to do! Thank you!
    Cheers! Joanne

  2. Howdy Joanne, and thanks! Yep, these were very tasty, and best of all my husband devoured them & asked for more (finally, a salad he likes!). I can't wait to make them again and have them in a pita sandwich.
    Zestfully yours,

  3. Thank you, Gloria. I'm a subscriber to your e-mails and I just happened to see this in your most recent one. I'll repost this on our synagogue's Facebook page in Charleston.

    1. You are most welcome, and thank YOU for sharing my post! If you or anyone else in your synagogue would like to share any recipes, feedback, cooking questions or would like to send me a cooking challenge, you're always welcome here and on my Carolina Sauce Company Facebook page. Thanks for being a newsletter subscriber and for taking the time to comment!
      Zestfully yours,