Meatless Monday: Tomatokeftedes (Tomato Balls) with Tzatziki Zucchini Pasta

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The first night that we arrived to Santorini, it was pretty late. Our flight had been delayed and we had been traveling for more than 18 hours, but we were determined  to eat something Greek. So, we dropped our bags off at the hotel and walked 5 minutes to a local spot called Anoti Restaurant. We ordered a bunch of different things, wanting to discover something special. Lucky for us, Santorini is the home of the tomatokeftedes, fried tomato balls. Holy moly was it savory. The richness of the Greek olive oil paired with the refreshing tang of mint creates an unforgettable appetizer experience. Talk about starting the trip on the right foot!

While I sadly don’t have a picture of the tomato balls I had that first night at Anoti in Imerovigli, we ended up having them the next evening in Fira (I posted this picture earlier today):

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What are tomatokeftedes? According to the handy Santorini guide I carried along with me, they are “the trademark of the Santorini cuisine. The exclusive taste is attributed to the local baby tomato.” Basically, it is a mixture of mint, tomatoes, flour, cheese and onion rolled into balls (which are really like fritters) and fried in olive oil. They were served to us with a yogurt cucumber dip called tzatziki. What a combo.

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Right away, the lightbulb went on and I knew I had to Inspiralize these beloved tomato balls. But how? I created a light, vegetarian, and Greek version of spaghetti and meatballs with zucchini spaghetti with tomato balls and used a homemade tzatziki for the sauce. Divine!

Also, after spending 10 days in Europe and everyday eating a loaf of bread and more than enough Mythos beer and wine, I need a bit of a detox. Thus, this version of tomatokeftedes is much healthier, as I:

  • Substituted whole wheat flour for regular bleached white flour,
  • Baked the tomato balls instead of frying them in olive oil,
  • Minimized the amounts of flour and cheese in the mixture, and
  • Used all fresh ingredients.

The raw zucchini pasta with the tzatziki sauce really complements the tomato balls and delivers a filling, crunchy, and refreshing bed of noodles.

Inspiralized Tip: If you have the time, let the tzatziki sauce sit in the refrigerator for 20-30 minutes to thicken and also, let the tomatokeftedes mixture sit for 10 minutes so that it is easier to roll into balls.

Now, after you’ve made this Inspiralized dish, book your ticket to Greece and treat yourself to the real fried deal.

Tzatziki Zucchini Pasta with Tomatokeftedes (Tomato Balls)

Recipe adapted from Dimitris Lazarou in the 2013-2014 Santorini Island Guide (seen above).

Serving size: 1 large bowl of pasta with 2-3 balls
Time to prepare: 15-20 minutes
Time to cook: 25 minutes

Ingredients

For the tzatziki sauce

  • 1/2 of a cucumber
  • 1/3 cup 0% plain Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani)
  • 1 garlic clove, very minced
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • a few (3-4) cranks of a sea salt grinder
  • a couple cranks (2-3) of the peppercorn grinder, to taste

For the tomato balls

  • 1 cup baby vine tomatoes, chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp spring onion, chopped
  • 1 tbsp warm water
  • 1 tbsp mint, chopped
  • 1 pinch of oregano
  • 1/4 cup of whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese (recipe calls for kefalotyri, but normal grocery stores don’t carry it so this will do)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Directions

Preheat the oven to 405 degrees.

Take the cucumber and peel it. With a teaspoon, scrape out the seeds in the inside of the cucumber and discard.

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Time to prepare the tzatziki sauce. Loosely chop the cucumber and put it into a food processor. Pulse until big chunks are gone. If you don’t have a food processor, finely chop the cucumber. When done, place into a bowl with the rest of the ingredients for the sauce (Greek yogurt, garlic, olive oil, red wine vinegar, dill, lemon juice, salt, pepper). Place in the refrigerator.

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Next, prepare the tomato ball mixture. In a large bowl, place in all of the ingredients and mix together with hands until the mixture is thick and sticky enough to create about 2 large tomato balls. If needed, add more flour and water. Form the tomato balls with your hands.

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Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray and place on the tomato balls. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, flip over and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until tomato balls are browned on the outside and don’t easily fall apart with poked with a fork. When done, take out of the oven and set aside.

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Pour the tzatziki sauce over the zucchini pasta and mix thoroughly to combine. Place in a bowl. Top with tomato balls and enjoy your Grecian meal!

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