Lentil-Veggie “Meat”balls

14 Feb

Veggie Lentil Meatballs in panI’m running this recipe — which was featured as one of the best vegetarian recipes of 2012 by Huffington Post — on Valentine’s Day, because  it’s a good one to make to show someone how much you truly care! It’s not that it’s particularly difficult to make, but there are a lot of ingredients and a lot of cooking and then cooling, so it takes a lot of time and some effort — and dirties a lot of pots and bowls in the process.

It also makes an enormous amount, something I didn’t consider when I made it for the first time. We ate our fill and froze the rest. Freeze them in a single layer, and after they’re frozen, you can pop them into a quart-sized freezer bag. Thaw and serve at room temperature or reheat in the oven or microwave.

These tasty veggie balls are good plain or with a sauce. I served them with a dab of store-bought pesto and oven-roasted sweet potatoes.

Ingredients:

2 cups lentils
¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. fresh thyme (or 1 tsp. dried)
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbs. tomato paste
8 oz. mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped
3 large eggs
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup fresh parsley (or 2 Tbs. dried)
¼ cup finely chopped walnuts

Directions:

Combine the lentils and 2 quarts of water in a medium stockpot and bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not mushy, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow them to cool.

Add ¼ cup olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 minutes more, until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and cool to room temperature. When the mixture is cool, add the lentils, eggs, Parmesan cheese, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts. Mix thoroughly until everything is incorporated. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Veggie Lentil Meatballs with pestoDrizzle the remaining 1 Tbs. olive oil into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the surface. Roll the lentil-veggie mixture into round golf-ball sized balls, packing the mixture firmly. You may need to periodically wet your hands. Place the balls in the prepared dish, leaving ¼-inch of space between them. Roast the balls for 30 minutes, turning after 15 minutes, until they are firm and cooked through. Allow the balls to cool in the dish for 5 minutes before serving.

Serves 8 or more

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