Monday, November 21, 2011

Veggie Balls with Spinach-Basil Pesto

Yes, I'm sure the vegetarians in your life can eat only the usual side dishes and still enjoy Thanksgiving (unless of course you're one of those people that manages to slip bacon and sausage into absolutely everything and turn even Brussels sprouts into a meat-lover's vegetable). But if you love a vegetarian or just want to explore how the other half lives (actually, I'm sure it's more like the other 10% at best), then consider making these hearty little veggie balls. They're full of lentils, which means they're high in protein. In fact, they should be called lentil-veggie balls, since they're about a 50/50 mix by the time all the vegetables cook down.

Now, I know this photo probably hasn't sold you...they definitely don't look moist and juicy like an actual meatball. But they're not meatballs, so stop comparing them. I like them as a snack because I think they're even better cold. You can easily pop one or two between meals and feel satisfied and they're actually healthy (when I put it that way, it might be un-American to have them for Thanksgiving). And if you don't like them, you can always use them to get a rousing game of miniature bocce ball going in the backyard.

Yield: about 2 dozen (1 1/2-inch) “meatballs”

2 cups lentils
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons tomato paste
8 oz. button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1.      Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.
2.      Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium- high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature.
3.      Add the cooled lentils, eggs, parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
4.      Preheat oven to 400º F. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9- x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
5.      Roll the mixture into round, golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4-inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.
6.      Roast for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.

from "The Meatball Shop Cookbook" by Daniel Holzman, Michael Chernow & Lauren Deen

raw lentils up close
cooked lentils
onions, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme
adding tomato paste
adding mushrooms
vegetables ready
(all the liquid has been absorbed)
adding walnuts, breadcrumbs, parsley, eggs and parmesan cheese
mixing in lentils
ready to refrigerate
rolling a veggie ball
ready to bake

I actually baked a second dish too. Somehow I ended up
with 43 (instead of the recipe's prediction of 24). I
don't think I made them too small, so I'm still not sure why.
close up of baked veggie ball
- - - - - - - - 

Yield: 4 cups

1/4 cup roughly chopped walnuts
4 cups baby spinach leaves
2 cups fresh basil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1.      Preheat oven to 350º F. Spread out the walnuts on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in oven for about 12 minutes, giving them a shake after 6 minutes. Continue roasting until golden brown and toasted. Set aside and allow to cool thoroughly.
2.      Fill a large stockpot three-quarters full with water, and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl half way up with ice and water and set close to the sink.
3.      Dump the spinach and basil into the boiling water and stir. After 1 minute, strain the greens, and plunge them into the bowl with ice water. Drain the greens again and squeeze them tightly to get as much water out as possible. Chop the greens roughly.
4.      Combine the greens and walnuts with the salt, olive oil and Parmesan in a food processor and process until a smooth consistency is reached. Taste and season with additional salt, if desired.

from "The Meatball Shop Cookbook" by Daniel Holzman, Michael Chernow & Lauren Deen
all the pesto ingredients in the food processor

I didn't blanch the spinach and basil, so it's hard for me to give an
accurate assessment of this recipe. The authors of "The Meatball
Shop Cookbook" picked this as their favorite topping for these
veggie balls. I think a nice mushroom sauce would be great too. I did
enjoy this raw, except I would probably add a clove of garlic next time.
spinach-basil pesto

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

spectacular! Thanks for adding photos to the steps in this recipe. making it right now.

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