Oh, I know. It's the time of year when I should be thinking about tofurky, and sweet potatoes, and stuffing, and... pie, I guess. But, all I can think about is creating the perfect bean balls!
Okay, everyone loves spaghetti and meatballs, right? Great, filling, easy meal. Of course, if you don't eat meat, you go with meatless meatballs. There are some great ones out there! Nate's Meatless Meatballs are our favorites. However, they aren't exactly cheap, and when you are feeding a family of 5, including 2 teens and 1 pre-teen, you definitely need more than one bag for a hearty, filling meal. I just knew this was something I could make at home. They would be fresher, tastier, healthier and cheaper!
My first attempts involved using veggie ground round, a vegetarian ground beef substitute. Honestly, they weren't that good. And, the veggie ground round cost almost as much as the meatballs. Plus, they were sort of a pain in the neck to make.
Next, I tried tofu balls. I really liked them, but Mike did not. He thinks he doesn't like tofu. In reality, he only doesn't like tofu that he can see or taste. Or, if he knows it's in there. I have to be sneaky about tofu use:-)
My latest spark of genius was to try bean balls! I was completely inspired by a recipe I found in "How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" by Mark Bittman. Have you seen this book? Nearly 1000 pages of, literally, how to cook everything. How to peel it, how to cut it, how to cook it in many different ways, how to change it, how to serve it. I borrowed it from the library and I don't want to give it back. It definitely requires a renewal or two, just to get through it all.
So... I took the recipe for "The Simplest Bean Burgers." I changed it a little bit, to make it more compatible with Italian marinara sauce; shaped it into little balls, and baked them up. They were very, very good!! Here's the adapted recipe:
2 C cooked chickpeas, or 1 can, rinsed and drained (if they are homemade, reserve a bit of the bean-cooking liquid)
1 medium onion, quartered
1/2 C rolled oats (not instant)
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp garlic powder, or granulated garlic, or 1-2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
1 egg (I did use a real egg)
bean-cooking liquid or stock, if necessary
Combine everything in the food processor and pulse until chunky (not pureed). Add a little bit of liquid, if necessary, to make a nice moist mixture that holds together well. (I think I added too much liquid, so be judicious.)
Let mixture rest a few minutes. In the fridge if possible. Even better, if you have time, make the mixture well ahead of time and let it chill in the fridge for a while. I did this and it makes the mixture much easier to handle.
Next, make the balls. I used a small cookie scoop, about 1 Tbs size. Smaller is better. (!)
Place the bean balls on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake at 425 for about 15-20 minutes, until lightly browned.
The bean balls were very tasty; everyone loved them. They seemed a little bit fragile, so I just piled them onto plates and then ladled sauce on top, instead of actually cooking them in the sauce. Very good!
However.... not perfect. Yet. Next, I was reading some recipes in "Veganomicon" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero... have you checked out this cookbook? Oh, my. You really, really should. But, let's stick to bean balls, for now. They have a recipe for chickpea cutlets, which I simply had to try. They are sort of similar to the bean balls with one major exception: they use vital wheat gluten, which gives them a very firm texture, like seitan. They were delicious, though I might have made mine a bit too thin, so they were perhaps a bit too firm. Easily remedied with lots of gravy:-)
So... my next experiment will be to try to merge the two recipes into the absolutely most perfect bean balls!! I'll keep you posted. In the meantime, do try the bean balls! They are delicious and you won't be disappointed.
Oh~ have a wonderful Thanksgiving!
With many thanks~