I am a little nervous when I cook vegetarian versions of things that should not be vegetarian.... most are not good. At. All. And I am still learning. But, as someone who refuses to substitute with soy (I don't want to grow 4 extra boobs) I can't have any of the over produced vegetarian versions that can be found at the market.... so I have to get in the kitchen and figure it out on my own.
When I first stopped eating meat I tried to make vegetarian paprikash. We ended up ordering dinner that night around 10pm. It was bad... like really, REALLY bad. So, with good reason, Rich is a little bit skeptical when I skip out of the kitchen announcing that "this really wonderful vegetarian dinner is in the oven!" He pretty much has the phone in his hand, ready to order Chinese. Not tonight.
Now, these are just as much work as regular meatballs. Your hands get just as messy, you have to chop a lot of ingredients and you need to prepare to spend an hour or two in the kitchen. But Rome was not built over night and meatballs are Italain... so that all kind of makes sense. Right? Right?.......
This recipe makes about 2 dozen meatballs and they make great leftovers. I served them with walnut pesto capellini which is what babies are probably made to. Good lord, why is pesto not served on EVERYTHING?!
Speaking of making babies- if you have them.... these are a great way to hide some lentils and extra veggies into their food (or your husband's.) Also speaking of babies.... you heard it hear first.... man, do I want one of those! Who wants to start helping me convince my husband? We may have to convince him to stay with me first after he reads this....
2 cups lentils (I always use black 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 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
3 large eggs
1/2 cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
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. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.
Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.
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.
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.
I've been doing some recipe reading lately. A lot of it. I found this recipe in the NY times from The Meatball Shop in Manhattan.