Eggplant Polpette!

Happy Thursday, my loves!

I’ve been fully vegetarian (with the exception of fish occasionally) for over a year. I honestly don’t ever find myself missing meat.

Except meatballs. I could wax poetic about the joys of meatballs. The thought of a life without them makes me sad. Partly, because they taste so amazingly delicious. But mostly because my grandmother made the world’s most amazing meatballs and just the smell alone can transport me to her kitchen, where she’d be frying meatballs while I played at the table and my grandfather yelled in from the living room in broken English. They’re pretty much the taste of happiness.

20130313-140928.jpgThere’s Grandma, frying up meatballs!

Grandma used ground beef/pork/veal, eggs, and bread as her base. Then she mixed in copious amounts of sultanas (or raisins) and pignoli (or pine nuts), and fried them in a cast iron pan half full of olive oil.

I became resigned to the fact that I would never again taste the deliciousness that is a meatball. I’ve tried a few frozen vegetarian meatballs, but they all taste like, well, frozen meatballs. Ick. And I’ve been hesitant to try a veggie meatball recipe since all that I’ve seen look like they would taste very different than the meatballs in my head.

So imagine the joy I felt when my mother mentioned seeing a cute little Italian grandmother on The Chew making vegetarian meatballs (the link is right here. Click it. Watch the video, then read the recipe and come right back!).

Isn’t Mama T adorbs? I made a few modifications* to the recipe (doubled it, made it gluten free, added sultanas).

Here is my modified version, complete with a photos and nutritional information for both baked and fried versions.** (This made 32 meatballs. The calorie count is per meatball.)

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You’ll need:
2 eggplants
1 1/2 cups (more or less, depending on humidity in the air and moisture level of eggplant) of seasoned gluten free breadcrumbs***
2 cups of finely grated pecorino
A few handfuls of sultanas
Gluten free all purpose flour for dusting
Olive oil for frying (unless you’re baking)****

Cut eggplants in half, place skin side down in a pan half full of water. Simmer, covered, until soft (maybe 20 minutes). (If you watched the video, like I told you to, you already know this.) remove from pan, and place in colander, flesh side down. Let drain for one hour (or longer– eggplant absorbs a lot of water).

Once drained, chop the eggplant up (skin and all) and dump in bowl. Also dump in cheese and breadcrumbs. Mix it all up really well, them add sultanas. Form the mixture into balls and coat lightly in gf flour.

If frying: heat about a half an inch of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, and fry meatballs until dark golden brown, turning to get all sides (frying meatballs is really a labor or love). Drain on plenty on paper towels.

If baking: preheat oven to 400. Place meatballs on a parchment lined baking sheet, and spray with a tiny bit of olive oil. Bake until done (seriously, that’s what my grandmother would tell you). About 15 minutes should do it.

Serve with your favorite sauce, with or without pasta! Enjoy!

xoxo,
Elle

*Why modifications? Two reasons. One, I’m gluten free. Two, as the descendant of many Italian cooks, I can’t follow a recipe to the letter. Or won’t. Whatever. Cooking is personal and I truly believe that you should put your own spin on anything you make.

**I cook for health probably 90% of the time. This time I was cooking for nostalgia, so I fried.

***All of the gluten free breadcrumbs I’ve tried are pasty and weird, so I’ve started making my own. Just toast sliced gf bread, blitz it in the food processor, season to taste (I use granulated garlic, dried oregano, dried basil, sea salt and pepper), then dry them in the oven at 350 for 10 minutes.

****I don’t care who says you shouldn’t fry in olive oil, I do it and I’m not stopping. It’s healthier than vegetable, canola, or corn oil. Yeah, it smokes so you man up and open a window.

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Elle’s Favorite Snacks

My criteria for snacks are pretty simple: they must be delicious, healthy, convenient, and as minimally processed as possible. Oh and they must be vegetarian. Preferably vegan. And I’m conducting a gluten free experiment (partly for health and partly for Lent– whatup my Catholic peeps!), so they’ve also got to be gluten free. Simple, right?

Remember that scene in When Harry Met Sally where Harry explains that Sally is the worst kind of girl? A high maintenance girl who thinks she’s low maintenance. Just popped into my head for some reason. Weird.

Back to snacks…

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I do most of my shopping in Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods, but I’m fairly certain that all of the snacks I’ve mentioned are available everywhere now. With the exception of the 50% less salt almonds. Why is Trader Joe’s the only store that realizes we want an option in between salted and unsalted? I want a little salt sometimes, please!

(And I know you can make your own kale chips, but let’s be real here. Ain’t nobody got time for that!)

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Sadly missing from the above photo is hummus and red pepper strips since the worst has happened and I ran out of both.

(Hint– life is easier if you cut a crapload of celery, carrots, and pepper strips when you come home from the store. There are many days a week when it’s so easy to grab a sandwich bag full of those veggies and a little container of hummus or nut butter, throw it in my purse and lunch is done!)

What are your favorite snacks?

xo,
Elle

Elle’s Incredible Orzo Salad

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People rave about this orzo. It is a guaranteed crowd pleaser and the best dish to bring to a potluck, holiday meal, or barbecue. (I’ve brought it to all three, and served it at home as a simple side with a piece of grilled fish or tempeh.)

Here is the recipe, which doubles well if necessary.

1 pound regular or whole wheat orzo, cooked according to package directions, run under cold water, and cooled a bit
8 ounces of feta, crumbled*
An 8ounce bag of arugula (If baby variety, leave as is. If leaves are large, tear ’em up.)
1 bag dried cranberries, orange or regular (5 or 6 oz)
About 1/2-3/4 cup any of these: pine nuts, sunflower seeds, or pumpkin seeds
Juice of four lemons
Extra virgin olive oil (maybe 1/4 cup? More if it seems dry.)
Sea salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste (I like Trader Joe’s Flower Pepper for this.)

Dump everything in a bowl. Mix. Serve, or chill to serve later. If you refrigerate for a while, I recommend adding more olive oil and lemon juice before serving.

*This can easily be made vegan by leaving out the cheese or substituting either finely grated vegan mozz, or firm tofu that has been pressed and soaked in olive juice.

Enjoy!

xo,
Elle

Vegetarian Dinner Party

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Here is the full menu:

Antipasti:

Focaccia and Broccoli Bread
Fresh Mozzarella (served with extra virgin olive oil to drizzle)
Zucchini a Scapace*
Pickled Radish and Cucumber
Caponata (Which I stole from my mom. Doesn’t everyone do that?)
Various peppers and olives from Whole Foods’ Olive Bar

Entree:

Pineapple Fried Red Rice*
Sweet and Sour Meatless Balls*

Dessert:

Summer Fruit Pudding*

[Quick aside: I am lucky that the neighborhood I work in has a weekly farmers’ market. I am even luckier that there is a new addition to the vendors there. Vito, who sells awesome fresh mozzarella (and I am quite the critic), great breads, and a million kinds of homemade ravioli. He has won a loyal customer in me for the entirety of the farmers’ market. I got the fresh mozz, broccoli bread, and focaccia from him.]

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As you can tell, I like a lot of little dishes for antipasti. I think it’s nice to have a plate full of a bite of this and a bite of that. As far as entrees, I figure (as long as it’s good) one is enough.

Isn’t casual entertaining the best in the summer?

xo,
Elle

*I’ll post these recipes over the next two weeks.