Juliette Cezzar, American köfte

Serves 3–4



Yogurt sauce


  1. In a medium bowl, finely grate the onion. (I used to just dice it, but my son will pick it out if it’s diced.) Wash your hands, and add the beef. Then add the bread crumbs, egg, ground pepper, cumin, pepper flakes, and salt. Using a zester, zest 1-2 cloves of garlic on top. Add the parsley if you’re adding parsley (see my note about the picky eater).
  2. Take off your rings, if you have rings on. Mince the ingredients with your hands, making sure they are mixed thoroughly. Divide the mass in half, and then half again. Working one quadrant at a time, divide each into thirds, and from each third, make a little köfte that takes the oblong shape of your palm. It should be neither round nor flat, with edges somewhat thinner than the center. Arrange them in the bowl as you go.
  3. Wash your hands and put your rings back on.
  4. Start the rice. In a medium saucepan, sauté the rice over medium heat in the butter. This will keep the grains from sticking to each other. When you start to smell the butter, aadd a little less than two cups of water, and about one tablespoon of chicken-flavored Better than Bouillon. When it boils, lower the heat to a simmer, cover it, and set a timer for 18 minutes.
  5. Heat the olive oil on the stove over medium to medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, arrange the köftes in the pan, starting from the outside and moving in. If you’re using a 10in cast iron pan, the pieces will fit perfectly by the time you add the last piece in the center.
  6. Cook one side until it’s dark on the bottom and the edges look cooked, about 6–8 minutes, depending on the heat.
  7. While the köftes are cooking, put the yogurt in a bowl and add water. Mix it with a fork until it’s totally smooth. Using the zester, zest 2 cloves of garlic into the yogurt. Add a couple of shakes of salt.
  8. Flip each of the köftes over and cook an additional 6–8 minutes. They shouldn’t be burned on the bottom and they shouldn’t be raw in the center. Remove from the pan and onto plates or a serving dish. Check on the rice, and turn off the heat if it’s done.

Serve the köftes with yogurt sauce and rice.

* I usually get high-fat organic ground beef, 80/20. Though this will work with whatever you have. You can also make a 50/50 mix of ground beef and ground lamb if you’re up for it. Ground lamb wasn’t a thing you could get at C-Town when I was growing up, so I’m not used to cooking with it. The more fat in the meat, the better it tastes.

** Panko is best for the bread crumbs, though again this will work with whatever you have. Similar to the beef above, I’m used to making this with Progresso Italian Bread Crumbs, since that’s what was available, and using more parsley, cumin, and garlic to overpower whatever crap they put in it.

*** Use more water with strained Greek yogurt, less water with “plain yogurt.” It’s better with the Greek yogurt, but any unflavored yogurt will do.