Anup and I love change, and it reflects in our past addresses. We have lived in three different countries, and seven different states over the last ten years, and I think we are just getting started. It has been a little over two years since we moved to Vancouver, and we are already itching to go somewhere new. For a while, we questioned whether something was wrong with us, as we saw many of our friends buy houses and settling down. But now, we have made our peace with it. We are wanderers!
All this moving around and traveling has influenced the way I cook. I love cooking with Indian spices, but being a classically trained chef shows up in some of the french cooking techniques I use. I was a vegetarian while growing up in India, and I aced the butchery class at the culinary school! I am a personification of contradictions!
So here is a recipe that is full of contradictions like meyself – meatless Italian meatballs seasoned with Indian spices served with Spaghetti made from Squash. After watching the documentary “Forks over Knives” last year, I was a vegetarian for about 6 months straight, and Anup had to gingerly join me as well. During these months, I experimented with recreating some of my favorite meat dishes as vegetarian dishes. This vegetarian meatball recipe is one of my favorites, and it goes well with anything that you can pair meatballs with – tomato sauce, pesto or even on its own as finger food. The eggplant in the recipe acts as a binder replacing eggs in the traditional meatball recipe, and also gives a meaty flavor. This is a light and healthy recipe while the warm spices like cinnamon and cumin make the dish taste like a real hearty meatball dish.
I really hope you try out this recipe! Buon appetito!
French Lentil and Eggplant Meatballs
(makes about 20 golf size meatballs)
2 cup cooked french lentils (1 cup dry lentils = 2 to 2-1/2 cups cooked)
4 eggplants (or 1 cup of cooked eggplant)
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup walnuts crushed
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese *
1/2 cup fresh oregano leaves
1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
1 tablespoon sea salt
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
Chop the eggplants in small pieces. Put a large pan on high heat, pour in 3 tbsp olive oil. Add eggplant pieces and season with sea salt and pepper. Cook for 5-8minutes. Feel free to add a little more oil to the pan if it is getting too dry. Cook until eggplants are golden on all sides. Let it cool down.
In a food processor, pulverize the cooked lentils, eggplant mixture, garlic cloves, crushed walnuts, parmesan cheese, fresh oregano leaves, breadcrumbs, cinnamon powder, black pepper, cumin powder and salt. Roll the mixture in round balls between your palms. The balls should not fall apart. If the mixture is too sticky, you can add some more breadcrumbs. Put them in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Line meatballs on a baking sheet with parchment paper and back for 15 -20 minutes until golden brown. Alternatively, you can also cook these meatballs in a pan with a little olive oil until golden brown. Serve with pesto, tomato sauce or spaghetti.
Basil and Almond Pesto:
1/2 cup of raw almonds
2 cups of basil leaves
1 clove of garlic
1/2 cup parmesan cheese *
1/4 cup of olive oil
Salt and pepper
Put all the ingredients in blender, mix them until smooth.
Preheat the oven to 375 °F.Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle with olive oil and put face side down on a baking sheet. Cook for 60-90 minutes, until tender. Let it cool to handle. Scrape squash with a fork to remove flesh in long spaghetti-like strands.
Place strands of squash in a large bowl. Add olive oil, parmesan, oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Mix it well and serve with meatballs.
* One of the visitors of this site pointed out that vegetarians do not use Parmesan Cheese. You can substitute parmesan with cottage cheese or paneer in the same quantity.