Meet Kiria Soula.
At the American Farm School, where I live and teach, Soula reigns as supreme matriarch. She is your go-to gal for all medical needs and culinary questions. As the school nurse, she knows everything you could possibly need for any given ailment–and, as a side note, if I had to pantomime out my UTI symptoms to any Greek as I had to do recently, I’m so glad it was her! She’s also a guru of Greek cuisine and agriculture. Curious about which types of the figs that grow on campus will be ready when? Ask Soula. Jonesin’ for dolmadakia, but not sure which kind of grape leaf to use? Soula’s your gal.
(You can also just show up in her kitchen hoping to be fed. I’ve found that works pretty well.)
With her delightful combination of motherly love and total badassness, Soula’s one of my favorite people at the Farm School. She called me every day I was sick just to be sure I didn’t need anything, and isn’t shy about letting out Greek obscenities in the face of kitchen mishaps. She wanders around the cafeteria at lunch, spoon-feeding students whatever concoction she made herself that morning, and also punches them in the arm if she finds them being rude. She’s been known to cook a little piece of fish just for the stray cat that hangs around her kitchen, and she smokes like a chimney. We love her.
I’ve been dying to get some of her recipes this year, but it’s been difficult because she uses no measurements whatsoever. However, when I tried her revithokeftedes, or chickpea fritters, it was love at first bite. I became determined to get the recipe.
Keftedes are a kind of Greek mezede (small dish/appetizer). They’re often translated as “balls,” with which, of course, this punster has an absolute heyday every time (at least they’re not Schweddy!). I’d describe them as “fritters.” Keftedes are made with just about anything you can think of–I’ve had zucchini, tomato, fennel, onion, potato and all manner of other kinds of keftedes. These ones are made with chickpeas. They are called revithokeftedes if you want to be Greek about it, which, of course, any cool person would want to do…
These fritters are one of my favorite things I have tasted here. The chickpea has enough density to fill you up relatively quickly, so they’re really satisfying. Because they’re fried, they have a crunch that is simply delightful. And Soula makes them with extra mint, so they’re sweet and aromatic too.
What follows is Kiria (Mrs.) Soula’s recipe for revithokeftedes. Keep in mind that she does not usually use measurements, so use the ones listed here as a guideline–you can trust them, but be prepared to adjust if necessary.
Kiria Soula’s Revithokeftedes (Chickpea Fritters)
1/2 kilo chickpeas
1 cup mint
1 cup dill
1/2 cup parsley
wheat flour as needed (see directions below)
1 or 2 large white onions, or 1 large white onion and 5 green onions
one soup spoon of salt
pepper as needed
sunflower or corn oil for frying
1. Soak the chickpeas overnight, as you would do for most any chickpea recipe.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until well mixed. Here’s where the flour comes in. According to Soula, you want the mixture to be about the texture of pasta dough. So, add flour until the mixture is nice and thick but still pliable and moist.
3. Put a big pan on the stove to heat up. We used a wok, which worked very well for frying. Once the pan is hot, add your oil. Remember you will need a lot of oil for frying, and it will need to be very hot. (There are many websites that offer tips on frying if you’re a rookie.)
4. Test the heat of the oil by adding just one fritter to see how it responds. The first fritter should be well packed to be sure it stays together. Using your hands, roll a small amount of the mixture into a neat ball, and press it firmly together. Drop it into the oil. If it starts to bubble and cook right away, your oil is ready for frying. If it just sits there limply, wait a little while longer.
5. Once your oil is hot, roll more balls of the mixture together, this time pressing less firmly. Add them one by one to the oil, but be sure to not overcrowd the pan. Flip them over halfway through cooking.
6. They’re ready when dark brown on all sides. Take them out using a fork or other utensil, and transfer them to a plate with a double layer of paper towels to absorb the oil.
7. Eat! These little puppies are best when eaten right away, but will keep for a few days–they’ll just be less crunchy.
You can eat them on their own, with a simple salad, or with a selection of other mezedes. Be careful–they’re addictive! Καλή όρεξη, παιδιά! (Good appetite, children!)
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