Mediterranean cuisine is known for its abundance of vegetarian side dishes that are made from fresh, seasonally available products. Some vegetables, like potatoes, are in the markets year ’round. These easy Greek potato patties, served with a creamy Feta cheese sauce, are an example of how a side dish can be transformed into a satisfying main-dish vegetarian meal, when accompanied by a seasonal salad and some freshly baked bread.
My mom used to make these potato patties for us throughout the year. I thought of them now during Lent, however, when people concentrate on fasting and a more vegetarian diet. For many, excluding meat from their diets is done, not only for religious reasons, but also as a way to live a healthier lifestyle for a few weeks. For others, fasting is done in anticipation of Easter celebrations and all the food associated with it.
Many of my relatives in Greece still follow a strict fasting regimen, for which they exclude all dairy products in addition to not eating any meat. My Godfather and his family, for example, fast for the entire 40 days of Lent–this takes tremendous willpower and I have great admiration for those who can fast for such a long time! Their diet consist mostly of vegetables, beans, lots of salads, rice, shellfish, pasta, potatoes, olives, lots of olive oil and of course plenty of fruit.
These potato patties are often made from leftover mashed potatoes. A few herbs, Feta cheese and some seasoning are mixed together and the patties are cooked in a skillet until golden brown. They can be served as part of an appetizer spread alongside tzatziki, or, as a main or side dish (as prepared here) with a creamy Feta cheese sauce.
- 1 lb. boiling potatoes
- 5 oz. Greek feta cheese, crumbled
- ¼ cup parsley, minced
- ½ tsp. dried spearmint
- --- pinch of nutmeg
- ½ tsp. salt
- ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- --- all purpose flour (for the patties if needed)
- 1 cup all purpose flour to coat the patties
- 5-6 TBSP. olive oil for sautéing
- 2 small green onions, sliced, for decoration (optional)
- For the Feta Cheese Sauce:
- 2 sm. pepperoncini, stems removed
- 8 oz. Greek Feta cheese
- ¼ cup Greek yogurt
- 2 tsp. cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP. olive oil
- --- sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- Wash the potatoes then place them with their skins in a pot with plenty of salted water and cook them until tender. Drain and let them cool slightly. Peel off their skin.
- Place the potatoes in a bowl and mash them with a potato masher or pass them through a potato ricer.
- To the bowl with the potatoes, add the Feta, parsley, mint, nutmeg, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Add the egg and mix again. If the mixture is too loose to form patties, add some flour, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture is solid. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
- Take the bowl out of the refrigerator and form small patties, about 2½”. Place the patties on a large plate.
- In a large, non-stick skillet, heat the olive oil under medium-high heat.
- Flour both sides of the patties lightly and cook in the hot oil until golden brown. Turn and cook the second side too. If they brown too fast, lower the temperature. Add more oil to the skillet as necessary.
- Top with a few sliced green onions and serve warm with some Feta Cheese sauce on the side.
- For the Feta Cheese Sauce: Combine all ingredients in a small food processor and mix until fairly smooth. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. The sauce can keep in the fridge for a week and can also be used to top baked potatoes or in a salad dressing.
Boiled potatoes ready to be mashed.
Potato, Feta and Herb Mixture ready
Potato Patties served warm with Feta Cheese Sauce
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