Bracha's Bulgarian Spinach Patties in Lemon Sauce
Shared by Bracha Luft
Recipe Roots: Bulgaria > Tel Aviv
Bracha Luft remembers her mother cooking in their family kitchen, spending hours chopping, kneading dough, and washing spinach for ketzitzot tered, or fried spinach patties finished in a tart sauce. Everything in her kitchen was made from scratch — and much of it grown in their backyard. During Israel’s era of austerity in the 1950s, her family moved away from Tel Aviv to cultivate a small farm with fruit trees and chickens for eggs. “At the beginning, we didn’t like coming back from school and helping pick strawberries and cucumbers,” Bracha says about her and her siblings. But, it grew on them. “It makes you feel totally differently about food,” she adds.
At 71, Bracha wants to keep the flavors of her mother’s cooking alive, but without the long hours she spent in the kitchen. “You had to slave yourself to do everything in my mother’s days and the generations before,” she says. For Bracha, the key to preserving the dishes and flavors is to make the recipes simpler, so they can be made often. Over the years, she has developed shortcuts for recipes like the spinach patties. She buys pre-washed greens and makes larger patties, so there’s less time spent standing over the stove frying them.
It’s a recipe her mother, who emigrated from Russia to Palestine in 1924, learned from her husband’s sisters who moved to Israel in 1910 from Bulgaria. Their mother passed away before the journey, so “his older sister used to teach my mother how to do these things” she says. The sisters were entrusted with protecting recipes and customs of another country. They “kept all of the traditions of Bulgaria,” she adds, including speaking Ladino.
To keep the recipes and traditions of both sides of her family alive, Bracha along with her sister Regina (whose own recipe and story will appear on the Jewish Food Society’s website soon) gather most Friday evenings at Regina’s son’s home for dinner. The meal is often for a crowd and Bracha doesn’t show up empty handed. “I always come with at least three or four big dishes,” she says. Sometimes, even the spinach patties.
Bracha's Spinach Rissoles with Lemon Sauce
1 ⅓ lb regular spinach leaves, rinsed and dried or pre-washed and then finely chopped
5 eggs, room temperature, whisked
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
⅔ cup Grissini crumbs (or regular bread crumbs if not available)
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Vegetable oil, for frying
¼ cup boiling water
1 tablespoon chicken soup powder or 1 cube of chicken soup concentrate (Bouillon)
½ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1. In a large bowl mix the chopped spinach, the whisked eggs, flour, crumbs, salt and pepper. The mixture should be solid, to hold up in frying. Add flour and crumbs by the tablespoon if it is too loose.
2. In a large pan, heat ¼ inch of oil on medium-high to high, adjusting heat as you go.
3. With a large cooking spoon (or wet hands), scoop from the spinach mixture and gently place in the hot oil. Keep on one side until firm and browned, about 4 to 5 minutes, then flip to the other side for 4 or so minutes. Remove from the pan to a plate lined with paper towels and continue in batches with the remaining egg and spinach mixture.
4. When done frying, remove the pan from the heat and carefully drain most of the oil, leaving about 1 tablespoon with no spinach bits.
5. In a small bowl mix the boiling water with the chicken soup powder until well dissolved. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper and mix well. Pour into the pan and heat on medium until it comes to a boil. Taste and adjust the levels of lemon and salt to your liking.
6. Carefully slide the spinach rissoles into the sauce, partially overlapping, to allow all of them to cook together and immerse in the sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes until most of the sauce is absorbed, rearranging them once in the middle to allow even cooking.
7. Serve immediately.