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Saturday, January 30, 2016

Crispy Vegan Meatballs with Smokey Roasted Yellow Pepper Sauce

Inspiration:  My mom's Sweet and Sour Meatballs (always a huge hit)!

These are great as a bite on their own, with your choice of sauce or with this smokey roasted yellow pepper sauce.    Keep in mind that they are more fragile than regular meatballs as they do not benefit from the binding of the cooked meat and eggs.  Handle them delicately.  You will be surprised at how truly delicious they are.  They can also be made ahead of time and frozen.  Gently reheat thawed "meatballs" in a 350°F (175°C) oven when you are ready to serve them.

Garnish with some diced lebanese pickled radish for colour and micro greens - this makes a delicious and impressive appetizer.

Vegan Meatballs: Makes about 21 meatballs (about 2 inches in diameter each)

  • 3T (45ml) of oil, divided
  • 1 large onion (one cup) diced and divided in two separate portions - 1/2 cup each
  • 1/2 cup (90g) of brown lentils
  • 1 1/2 cups (350ml) of water 
  • 1/4 cup (48g) of white rice
  • 1 cube of vegetable stock, crumbled
  • 10 medium cremini mushrooms, cleaned and end tip trimmed
  • 2T of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 6 Stacy's fire roasted Pita chips, crushed or 4T (about 40g) of breadcrumbs
  • 2T (30ml) of silken tofu or vegan mayonnaise (acts as a binder)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 cup (75g) of panko breadcrumbs
  • 1T of dried parsley
  • Oil for frying

How to make them: 

Start by dicing the onion (1 medium/large - about 1 cup) and separate it into two portions - half to cook with the lentils and half to caramelize and add later with the mushrooms to the cooked lentils and rice for extra for flavour.

Place 1T (15ml)  of oil in a deep pan or medium pot over medium heat.  Cook the first portion of the diced onion (1/2 cup) for about 5 minutes to soften, while stirring it regularly - it should begin to lightly colour.   Add the lentils (1/2 cup -90g) and stir to evenly cover them in oil.

Add the water (1 1/2 cups -350ml) and the crumbled cube of vegetable stock and whisk to combine.  Cover the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.

After 10 minutes of cooking the lentils, add the rice (1/4 cup -48g) and stir to combine and immerse in the liquid.  Lower the heat to a medium-low setting, cover and simmer for another 15 minutes.  Turn off the heat and allow to sit, covered, for another 15 minutes.  Taste, to make sure the lentils are cooked and tender.

While the lentil rice mixture is cooking, caramelize the second portion of the diced onions (1/2 cup):  Place 1T (15ml)  of oil in a pan and cook the onions, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes over medium heat until they colour.  Set aside.

After you have caramelized the onions, roughly chop the cremini mushrooms and add them to the pan with 1T (15ml) of oil and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper and set aside with the caramelized onions.

If you are using Stacy's Fire Roasted Jalapeño Pita Chips, place about 6 chips in a food processor and pulse until they are crushed and resemble bread crumbs.  Alternately, if you do not have a food processor, you can also place them in a freezer bag and roll with a rolling pin to crush them.  These chips are so good and add great flavour but,  if you can't find them, you can use your favourite vegan cracker or regular bread crumbs.  You will need 4 tablespoons.

Add the crushed pita chips, the sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onion and chopped parsley (2T) to the pan with the lentil and rice mixture.  Stir to combine and transfer to the food processor.  Pulse to gently crumble and blend.  Do not over purée - it should keep some texture.  If you don't have a food processor, do this with a fork or potato masher.

Place in a bowl and add the silken tofu or vegan mayo and stir to combine.  Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper.  Allow the "meatball" mixture to cool completely.

Scoop about one tablespoon of the mixture in the palm of your hand and transfer from hand to hand to form a rough ball. Roll between your palms to form an even round ball and set aside (see the video below). Continue with the remaining mixture.  The meatballs should be about 2 inches in diameter and you will end up with about 21 "meatballs".

Once the meatballs are ready, place the panko bread crumbs (1 cup 75g) and the dried parsley (1T) in a shallow bowl and stir to combine.  Place each "meatball" in the breadcrumbs and gently press the breadcrumbs into the balls to evenly cover.

 Place, covered, in the refrigerator for 1 hour or in the freezer for 1/2 hour to set.  They should feel firm when you are ready to fry them.

Place 1 1/2 inches of oil in a deep pot and heat over medium high to a temperature of 350°F (175°C).  Gently place the meatballs in the oil and allow to fry for 2 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel lined plate to absorb extra oil.  Gently reheat the "meatballs" when you are ready to serve.   Eat them as is - with your choice of sauce or with the Smokey Roasted Yellow Pepper Sauce I used here.  Enjoy!

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