10 June 2011

Balls for vegetarians


I love meatballs.  They are tasty, but more importantly, they are also ball-shaped, which is oddly satisfying to me.  I do not love handling ground beef, which is just nas-TAY and bad for you (especially given the lack of oversight exercised in America's slaughterhouses), so I have been experimenting with other ball materials.  Are you enjoying this childish prose?

Both recipes rely on the magic of soy products.  If you've got a problem with soy, I can't help you.

Tofu Meatballs

Serves 4

1 (14-oz.) package firm tofu
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/3 cup bread crumbs
½ small onion, minced
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
1 ½ teaspoons chopped fresh oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
4 cups cooked pasta or rice

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Remove tofu from package, wrap in some paper towels, and press between flat, heavy surfaces for about 30 minutes to release liquid.

Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, combine egg, bread crumbs, onion, herbs, and spices.  Add the drained, crumbled tofu and combine thoroughly with hands.  Form mixture into balls about the size of golf balls and arrange in a single layer in a lightly greased baking dish.  Bake in oven for 20 minutes.

Remove the dish from the oven and increase heat to 450°F (or preheat your broiler if you have one).  Spoon the tomato sauce over the top of the balls and sprinkle with Parmesan.  Place the dish in the oven and cook until the cheese is melted and lightly browned, about 3 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve with rice or pasta.

*          *           *           *           *           *          *          *

Greek-Style Meat-ish balls with Tzatziki 

2 packages Morningstar Farms Soy Crumbles, thawed (just put the bag in the 'fridge for a couple hours)
1/2 red onion, minced (keep the other half for the rest of the recipe)
1/2 cup very finely crumbled feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large egg
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus more for baking dish
1 tablespoon dried oregano
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
½  teaspoon salt
½  teaspoon black pepper

And also:
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
2 roasted red bell peppers, cut into strips
½ cup kalamata olives
½ red onion, sliced into thin strips
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
4 cups cooked orzo 

To make meatballs: Combine all ingredients in a bowl, then use your hands to mix ingredients. Lightly oil a 9 x 13 baking dish. Shape meat into 1 tablespoon size meatballs and place on baking sheet. Bake 20 minutes. Turn meatballs and bake 10 more minutes. Turn again, and bake 5-10 more minutes, until meatballs are well-browned and a little crisp on the outside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying or sauté pan over medium heat.  When it shimmers, add the onion and sauté 20 minutes, so that they start to carmelize.  After you have turned your meatballs, add roasted red pepper, olives, oregano, and about a ½ teaspoon of salt.  Lower the heat to medium-low.  Stir well and continue to sauté another 10 minutes.  Add the lemon juice and crushed red pepper, stir again, and cover.  When the meatballs are cooked, add them to the pan and combine ingredients, and cover so that the flavors get a chance to mingle a little.  Serve with orzo.

1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeds removed, and roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
1 cup Greek-style* yogurt 
Salt and black pepper to taste

Place garlic and cucumber in a food processor and run until garlic seems well-chopped and cucumber is all broken down.  Place in a bowl, stir in yogurt, and season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Serve alongside meatballs as a dipping sauce.  (Leftover meatballs an tzatziki can also be stuffed in pita bread for great warm or cold sandwiches later in the week).  

*Too cheap for the Greek stuff?  You can substitute 2 cups regular plain yogurt and drain: place a colander inside a larger bowl, then pour 2 cups yogurt into a paper coffee filter.  Lay this inside the colander and allow to drain, refrigerated, at least 2 hours up to overnight.  (Thank you, Amy Sedaris, for that tip.)