Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Balls without Meat?!?

“You can’t call them meatballs—there isn’t any meat in them!” Dave was firm, but I was firmer, and shook my head.

“What should I call them- eggplant balls?" I raised a skeptical eyebrow. "That’s just not appetizing-- no way, dude.

There you have it, folks. These eggplant “meat” balls, if you will, haven’t a smidgeon of flesh contained within. Rejoice vegetarians! And carnivores, be prepared to step outside your comfort zone: both parties could agreeably break bread over these.

I first came upon this recipe shortly after meeting my husband. He’s unabashedly fond of just about anything involving pasta, meat and cheese. While I certainly don’t mind such dishes from time to time, the thought of yet another heavy dish of spaghetti and meatballs sent me scrambling for alternatives.

The source has long since been lost, but my little clipping has become tattered and stained over the years. The ingredient list is familiar, as are the scents coming from the pan. Eggplant is sautéed with garlic and onion, then processed smooth with herbs, egg and breadcrumbs.

As your eggplant may vary in size and moisture content, the egg/breadcrumb ratio may have to be adjusted up or down. In the end, the mixture should still be fairly sticky, and you may need to wet your hands to properly form the balls.

These cook in the oven for just over thirty minutes, more than ample time to simmer your sauce and begin prepping the pasta. When the eggplant balls have turned golden brown, I like to pull them out and let them simmer in the sauce for 5- 10 minutes.
Once the pasta is plated up with tomato sauce and cheese, it’s not easy to tell that these meatballs are entirely meat-free.

Eggplant "Meat" Balls

1 large eggplant
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 small red onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 cup red wine
1-2 beaten eggs
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/8 cup freshly chopped, mixed Italian herbs (I use oregano, thyme and parsley)
salt and pepper, to taste
1-2 cups breadcrumbs

Slice eggplant and sprinkle with salt. Let sit 10 minutes to draw out water. Rinse, pat dry and coarsely chop.
In a pan over medium high heat, add a splash of olive oil. Once warmed, add the eggplant, minced garlic, minced onion and red pepper flakes. As the mixture continues to cook and soften, add the wine, and cook until eggplant is completely soft.
Meanwhile, mix together the egg, cheese, herbs and salt and pepper in a bowl, and set aside.
Remove the eggplant mixture from the stovetop, and allow to cool slightly. Place in food processor with metal blade and process until smooth. Add in the egg mixture, and process again. Finally, add in the breadcrumbs until desired texture is achieved-- you may need to add an additional egg if too stiff, or breadcrumbs if too moist.
Form the mixture into about 2-inch balls, and place one inch apart on oiled baking tray.
Bake at 400 degrees until golden brown, flipping once, about 30-40 minutes.
Note: Simmer for just a few minutes in tomato sauce, and serve in place of meatballs with pasta. These are also great by themselves.
4 servings


Blogger ann said...

whooooa s'kat! Those sound awesome! what's the texture like? are they, uhm, mucilaginous in anyway? Maybe I'll try to sneak them past isaac someday!

5:49 PM  
Blogger s'kat said...

Mucilaginous?!? hee.. not so much so! Imagine smooshing eggplant parmesan into a ball shape, and you're pretty close to getting the texture.

5:46 AM  
Blogger iamchanelle said...

mmmm, what a GREAT idea. those meatplant balls look tasty!
i am not such a fan of the ball o'meat, the loaf o'meat, the hunk o'meat...what a schnazzy alternative!

8:41 AM  
Blogger Deborah Dowd said...

I would not have thought of "meatplant" balls but we are recent converts to eggplant, so I will give these a try!

1:42 PM  
Blogger wheresmymind said...

I'd cover these in panko then pan fry 'em! I could see making these for Steph this weekend!

6:40 AM  
Blogger Tania said...

Oooh, these look good. Eggplanty comfort food, perfect for winter!

9:58 PM  
Blogger Abby said...

i'm gonna have to try these - great idea s'kat, thanks.

12:36 AM  

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