It’s funny how a recipe morphs right in front of your eyes, yielding a product that you like but maybe didn’t intend. That’s how I ended up making vegetarian meatballs on Sunday morning.
P.s. As you may have realized from my accounts as a foodie, I like to cook in the morning when an idea is fresh on my brain and I’m a little hungry.
So I’ve been dreaming about pakora lately, a heavily spiced Indian vegetable fritter. It’s typically fried, which maybe adds to the delicious part, but it’s essentially potatoes, peas, carrots and a flour of some type. “Ok”, I thought, “but I don’t really want to fry it, so what if I baked it…” I was hoping to take the flavor profile down a Greek path and use up an eggplant I had lying around. Continue the idea morphing and it ended in a moist, flavorful, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink vegetarian meatball. I served this with marinara sauce and feta, but later tried it with a dollop of hummus. Both were great!
Now I’m slightly addicted. Make a batch of green lentils (about 1 cup dry) and keep them in the freezer. When you’re ready to make these guys, defrost, drain remaining moisture and get creative. I have a list of ideas for the next batch.
Makes 30 meatballs:
1 1/2 cups cooked lentils (=about 1 cup dry)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove
1 onion, cut in 1/4 sized wedges
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups eggplant
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
4 crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 cup red pepper (=2 small or 1 large)
1/2 cup zucchini
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmesan cheese, freshly grated and loosely packed
1/4 cup walnuts, toasted
Marinara sauce and 1/4 cup feta cheese
Cook lentils according to package. Let cool.
In a food processor, blend toasted walnuts until they are powdery. Set aside. Then blend onion and garlic until pureed.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large skillet or dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium high heat. Add onion/garlic puree and cook until slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste, stirring to coat mixture, about 2 minutes. Add eggplant, carrots and mushrooms, cook about 7-10 minutes until vegetables are softened; season with 1/2 teaspoon sea salt and a few cracks of pepper. Add red pepper, zucchini, nutmeg, oregano and parsley, cook until softened, about 5 minutes; season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Take off heat, spoon mixture into a large bowl to cool. Taste and season with salt/pepper as needed.
Line two baking sheets with foil, coat with non-stick spray.
In a small bowl whip eggs, bread crumbs, parmesan and walnuts. Add to vegetable batter and mix. Using a spoon, scoop mixture into tablespoon sized portions (the size of a golf ball), roll balls with your hands until they feel packed together. Repeat.
Bake in the center of the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from oven, let cool. Gently use a spatula to remove from baking sheets, transfer to serving dish. Serve with warm marinara sauce and crumbled feta.
Keywords: vegetarian, feta, meatless, appetizers, marinara, party ideas