Veggie balls even a meat eater can love
Several nights ago, we both had a nervana experience that brought us one step closer to near red-meatless diet: vegie meatballs. Sounds lame, and that’s what I thought when I bought a pack at Costco. Lured in as I was by the “organic and natural” packaging, and oxymoron for most items sold at the big box chain, I figured the five bucks was going to save a cow, reduce Rog’s cholesteral and help me lose weight in one.
Tired of my day old lasagna (my favorite actually), Rog tore in to the package, cleaned up one plate without offering me so much as a bite, and proceeding on his second. I think he had about 20 of the poppers. Shocked, I stole on, ignoring his screech of dismay. In two chomps it was gone and I knew we had a winner. No sauce, only salt and pepper. We then went on to dissect the ingredients–all commonly found vegies.
The next step was seeing if I could replicate the experienced. Five bucks is cheap for 30, but I thought I’d be able to improve on the health factor a tad. The on line recipes were/are awful, in my opinion, since they all want some type of grain. The only one I went for was brown rice, though this gave the balls an odd aftertaste. I don’t like oats in anything other than my cereal or chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, so that was out. I settled on old fashioned bread crumbs. The rest of my experiment included celery, carrots, potatoes (a wonderful, though starchy addition), onions–always sauteed in butter, though purists can go for oil), and then whatever else I wanted to throw in (a bit of colored peppers gave it a zing, not unlike my crab cakes).
I went French on this recipe, going by feel and texture than a singular recipe. When it came time to roll it all together, I added in an egg balanced this with the bread crumbs. (always do these last two at the end). You know what? The recipe was near identical to crab cakes, save for the spices and oils I put in both. The wettish mixture is dry and formable (my donkingism for the day), awaiting my glad-handing shake of the salt and pepper bottle, some Hungarian Paprika, oregano, thyme and a few other mish mash items that sound good at the time (e.g. celery salt).
Raw, the mixture was good (yes, I always taste it raw. I’m not a nut about the whole avoiding-raw-egg thing). Sauteed the balls in a pan covered with a thin layer of oil. The next time I make these, I’ll add some pics or something. Verdict? Rog ate more of my homemade than he did of the store bought. AND, without the butter (and depending on the crumbs, if vegan) the entire dish can be vegan as well. (My mom is going to vomit now), but I’m quite proud of myself.
Here is the recipe, as best I can remember.
Prep time: 15
Start to finish: @45
Makes: @30 veggie balls
1/4 butter (salted)
3/4-1 cup bread crumbs
cheese (if desired)
1/2 of a red, yellow and/or orange bell pepper (you can sub w/green if you prefer)
3 celery stalks
1-2 potatos (cooked, w/or without skin, depending on preference)
choice of herbs, such as oregano, thyme, celery salt, hungarian paprika
- Boil the potato.
- Sautee the onion in the butter, adding the carrots and half way.
- Remove and drain the potato, chop fine, or mash and add to the onion mixture (add more butter or oil if necessary).
- Blend with salt and pepper, hungarian paprika and other dried herbs. Mix well (the aroma is divine)
- Finely chop the peppers. (If you want a bit of zing, throw in a jalepeno, Rog loved this variation)
- Remove the onion mixture, and add the peppers. Conduct a taste test for blandness, a common issue with vegie balls. if you want more zing, douse it with some cayenne pepper and/or tobasco. I use both and they are awesome (you can get vegetarian-friendly equivalent for hot sauce, though Rog, the purist he, refuses to use them).
- Add the egg, mix well, then add the bread crumbs bit by bit. Test the consistency for molding, and add the other egg, and or more bread crumbs as necessary.
- Heat the oil on the stove over medium heat, or if you have an old-school pan set at 300 degrees. (I have this huge, Italian metal frying pan with a temperature gauge that is perfect for all things meatball).
- It takes about a minute to cook on each side, and I’ll use tongs and/or forks to turn and cook. Another cooking technique is to use a cast iron bacon press and make the balls more like pancakes. It makes for a more even cooking job, and great for adding a topping but not technically, ‘balls.’
I’ve tried a whole lotta sauces, from aeoli to dipping sauces ideal for vegies, and then some savory, though meat-verboten ones–like spicy teriyaki. Not bad. I’ve not settled on one perfect one, although I did whip up a cream cheese, roasted red pepper thing that some guests loved. That is probably my favorite thus far…
I used (these are rough measurements, as I’m becoming more French by the day-as in-winging it)…
- 1 8 oz package of full-fat (eg original)
- Red pepper, in the oven–convection or broil for a few minutes, until soft and quasi brown/black. remove and let cool.
- Put both in the blender (Cuisinart) and pulse a few times until just blended.
- Add salt and pepper to taste and wala!
PS–this sauce is meant to be a little bland–to cut the spiciness of the vegie balls.