As a vegetarian of the BWFE* (Before Whole Foods Era), I can tell you that I have been eating chik’n nuggets and marbled tofu bacon since before it was cool. Fake meat has made huge improvements since then, but the health food craze has also led to us to fear (and probably for valid reasons) the ol’ slab of chemically-altered soy.
You see, soy was cool until someone decided to reveal that it was in – well – everything. These days, I find the world of fake meat much more exciting, because restaurants can no longer get away with putting tofu in every dish. And as ridiculous as it sounds, there is something to eating pretend meat. I always say this, but if I really wanted a burger, I’d eat one. I much prefer a patty made from an interesting combo of veggies and herbs that won’t leave me feeling weighed down.
Maybe it’s because I’ve been trained to relate to such classics as hot dogs, burgers, nuggets and meatballs – but I find it so fun creating meatless alternatives! This week, rather than simply adding protein to my red sauce, I baked up meatless balls…and they are a highly addictive drug. Seriously. These things are super flavorful and savory and complement the fresh tangy red sauce and zucchini noodles perfectly. I cannot stop eating them – so cook with caution!
*Okay, so Whole Foods was founded in the 80’s, but it certainly wasn’t “in” until at least 2006 – which is when I mark the beginning of the Whole Foods Era.
1 cup of red lentils (dry)
1 cup of vegetable broth
1 small sweet potato, peeled
1 cup of raw walnuts
1.5 cups of lightly chopped or torn basil
1 can of diced tomatoes
Zoodles (noodles made from zucchini or yellow squash using a spiralizer or vegetti – or even a vegetable peeler)
Salt, oil, pepper, water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Cook the lentils according to the directions – subbing one cup of water with one cup of vegetable broth. Set aside to cool.
In a large pot of water, boil the sweet potato until easily pierced by a fork. You want the potato to be pretty soft so that, if blended, it would take on a baby food consistency. Drain and set aside to cool.
If you have an immersion blender, use a large bowl to combine the following ingredients: boiled potato, lentils, a cup of walnuts, the egg yolk, and one cup of basil (save the other 1/2 cup for your sauce).
Add in about two tbsp of olive oil and a 1/2 tsp of sea salt and mix thoroughly. If using a food processor or blender, combine and blend until smooth.
Spray a baking tray with oil and use a tbsp to scoop out globs of meatball batter, then arranged them on the tray. Mine didn’t spread when baking, so just make sure they’re not touching – but no need to leave an inch for growth.
Bake for roughly 30 minutes but remove after 20 and use a spatula to carefully flip the balls so they don’t burn on the bottom.
While your meatballs are cooking, make a quick raw sauce by blending up your diced tomatoes, remaining 1/2 cup of basil, and two tbsp of olive oil. Add in salt and pepper to taste.
Serve the zoodles raw or slightly steamed, with the sauce and warm meatballs as a topping!