Meatballs are having a bit of a moment in New York. The Meatball Shop, on the Lower East Side, has dedicated their entire menu to various varieties of these tasty sides. Growing up, I ate meatballs every Sunday—though never with spaghetti—and my mother made them the traditional way with ground meat (usually pork, beef and veal), egg, stale Italian bread that she soaked in water, parsley and salt. Then into the frying pan they went. My grandmother also made a mean meatball, and I’m sure that she would find my healthier version—made with ground turkey and then (cue the shuddering) baked—a sin. But there is only so much fried meat a person can eat.
While I am especially fond of my turkey meatballs, when I was in Connecticut a few weeks ago my father told me that a friend of his makes a vegetarian “meatball” using eggplant. I do love eggplant and it is in season right now, but I was a bit skeptical. I wasn’t sure that the eggplant would hold together the way meat does. My dad made them and raved about how good they were so I decided to try it myself.
Wow. These “meatballs” were fantastic! Though they’re slightly mushier then an actual meatball, they held up really well. I served them with sauce, which I topped them with after I took this picture.
I got about 10 meatballs using a medium sized eggplant. I have another eggplant here, courtesy of our trip to the farmers market in the Berkshires, and I will definitely be making these again. And maybe having last night’s leftovers for lunch.
1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed
1/2 cup of breadcrumb or enough so that the mixture is moist but not runny
A handful of chopped parsley
A pinch of salt
Place cubed eggplant in a pot of water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until the eggplant is fork tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and run the eggplant under cold water. Tranfer the cooled cubes to a large bowl and gently mash. Add egg and breadcrumb, continuing to add breadcrumb until the mixture is thick enough to mold into balls, but still moist. Stir in parsley and salt. Form the mixture into balls and place in a greased Pyrex dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.