In Macedonia—both the Balkan state and the northern section of Greece—leeks grow as plentifully as onions, so there are many leek dishes from this region. In particular, Jews from Macedonia wax nostalgic about leek kofta, as these patties are known locally, made with lamb, beef, or potatoes and cheese.
As I was researching recipes for my forthcoming book King Solomon’s Table, Tablet’s editor in chief, Alana Newhouse, gave me permission to tamper with the traditional recipe for “kiftes” or “kiftes de prasa” made by her maternal grandmother, who came from Monastir (now Bitola), Macedonia. I didn’t have to change much. Roasting the leeks at a high heat instead of boiling them, as Alana’s grandmother would have done, and adding a bit of spice made all the difference in bringing out the flavor.
For Jews from this part of the former Ottoman Empire, this recipe is a staple for the holidays—including Hanukkah, when they are fried in olive oil. Alana’s grandmother made them with lamb and served them accompanied by salad as an appetizer. I like them served the same way, but as a main course, accompanied with a spicy chutney or, at Hanukkah, with applesauce and potato latkes.
Joan Nathan is Tablet Magazine’s food columnist and the author of 10 cookbooks including King Solomon’s Table: a Culinary Exploration of Jewish Cooking from Around the World.