Eggplant “Meatballs”

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.

Eggplant Meatballs

1 medium eggplant, peeled and cubed

1 egg

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.

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Baked Eggplant Parm With Panko Breadcrumbs

Eggplant parmigiana is a staple in Italian-American cooking and it’s one of my favorite dishes. I can still taste my mother’s version. She favored rolling the eggplant in flour, followed by egg and then frying it to a crisp golden brown before topping the slices with meat sauce and mozzarella. While I do enjoy fried eggplant, my baked parm is healthier and almost as tasty. Part of the reason is that I forgo the flour and coat my eggplant in panko, or japanese, breadcrumb which gives it a delightfully crisp texture without the vat of oil. To start, I peeled and sliced an eggplant into disc-shaped slices.

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Is It a Veggie Burger Or a Falafel?

My husband is a big fan of veggie burgers. Me? Not so much. If I’m going to eat a burger, I want the real thing, though I do enjoy a good turkey burger. Anyway, Johnny asked me if I would make veggie burgers for dinner sometime, so I consulted my go to online recipe source, Epicurious.com, for help. I found this recipe for Bulgur Veggie Burgers with Lime Mayonnaise last year, and have made them several times, much to Johnny’s—and my—delight. The end result is more falafel than burger, so I usually roll with the Middle Eastern theme and serve them in mini pitas for an incredibly tasty, protein packed meal. I won’t lie: this is not a quick and easy dinner. Making the patty mixture is kind of time consuming and calls for advanced planning since the burgers need to chill for at least an hour before cooking. Otherwise they tend to fall apart. I’d recommend making these burgers on a weekend and then refrigerating or even freezing the patties until you’re ready to eat them. Though the recipe says it yields four, I easily get double that amount. The mixture is often really sticky, so I usually add whole wheat panko breadcrumb to the mix (plain bread crumb would work too). I usually substitute the pinto beans for lentils, though for tonight’s batch, I used black beans, which promises to be pretty tasty. (Since there’s nothing raw in the patty mixture I sampled it and am very excited to eat the burgers later tonight!) Also, don’t skip the lime mayo. It adds A TON of flavor to the burgers. Johnny hates mayonnaise, but he’ll eat it with lime, probably because the tart sweetness  masks the taste of the mayo. The patties are in the fridge as I type this and I think I’ll cook them in my cast iron skillet tonight. I usually use a grill pan, but I love any excuse to fire up my skillet. A salad and some steamed broccoli will round out the meal. Yum!

 

 

Beautiful Beets

I stopped into the market today on my way home from a meeting, and to my delight, there was a display of organic loose beets for the buying. (I love loose beets. Much easier to carry home when they’re sans chard.)  The beets are roasting in the oven now. After I peel and slice the cooked beets, I’ll refrigerate them for a couple of hours before adding them to a salad of baby romaine, crumbled feta, red onion, and homemade croutons, lightly dressed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This is one of my favorite salad combos. We eat salad pretty regularly in our house, but as the weather gets warmer I find myself craving hearty salads and am always looking for new ideas. What’s your favorite salad combination?

Oh and lest I sound like someone who survives on lettuce for dinner, that delightful aforementioned salad will be served with an equally delicious pizza since I’ve got an extra crust in the fridge. Tonight I’ll top it with fresh mozzarella, pesto, grilled chicken and roasted red peppers, a pairing I adapted from Lunasa, a bar in our neighborhood. A quick and easy meal—just one of the many reasons I love pizza night!

Photo courtesy of Nashville Scene

The Artichoke Affair

For as long as I can remember, I have been a fan of artichokes. Growing up, they had an almost mythical quality, probably because their appearance at our dinner table was usually confined to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and possibly Easter, if the price was right at the grocery store. Yes, artichokes were even a course unto themselves, though this was often unintentional. Holiday dinners in an Italian family consist of four courses (at least) and sometimes, amid the sheer amount of food, the artichokes were almost forgotten about. That is, until someone would inevitably ask (at times right before dessert) “Did you make artichokes?” prompting the hostess to dash into the kitchen and emerge with an overflowing bowl of the exotic veggies, seasoned to perfection with olive oil, parsley and garlic.

But since artichokes are so tasty—and healthy to boot—I don’t wait for a holiday to come around to make them. Instead, if I see a hearty display in the produce aisle, I will usually pick up a couple for Johnny and I. (Since there’s only two of us, if they’re $2 each, it’s not as big a deal.) I usually cook them in chicken broth, because they taste more flavorful then when they’re boiled in water, and season them liberally with chopped garlic and parsley. Artichokes take a while to cook—at least 45 minutes to an hour—but you know they’re done when they’ve turned dark green and are fork tender. I usually douse them with a few swirls of olive oil before serving. I’ll be stopping into Whole Foods later this afternoon, and if they’ve got artichokes, I think I will buy some to eat tonight with the turkey burgers we’re having. (Check back later for pictures and a recipe.) If not, I may have to settle for some artichoke hearts in a salad. Never quite as good as the “culi” of a freshly steamed artie, but alas, it’ll do.

Photo courtesy of Life Begins At 30.