I feel like I’ve been seeing meatballs everywhere lately. All the internets and newspapers and magazines are brimming over with them. Is this a “food trend” that we have before us? Perhaps, subconsciously, that’s where I got the idea for these. We obviously need a vegetarian version! I’m fascinated that different cultures seem to have their own take on the notion of little balls of meat and grains and veg and spices. My son’s favorite dish to order from an Indian restaurant is malai kofta, which is one variation on the idea. Decades ago, I saw pumpkin kibbeh listed on a menu at a Lebanese restaurant. I’ve been intrigued by the idea for years! This is sort of my imagining of a vegetarian meatball/kibbeh/kofta. It combines roasted butternut squash, smashed black beans, bulgar, bread crumbs, a bit of cheese and an egg. These are seasoned with oregano, basil, sage, smoked paprika, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. Flavorful little bundles! I thought about frying them on top of the stove, but in the end I coated them in olive oil and then baked them in a hot oven instead. They still came out quite crispy, but soft in the middle. I made a spicy chipotle tamarind sauce to go with them, and we ate them with lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and warm pita bread. Plus oven roasted rosemary french fries. But I have different plans for them tonight! I’m having trouble concentrating on this! My little son is home (not very) sick from school, and I’m getting a tutorial on the shades of difference between his two Luke Skywalker toys!
Here’s Josh White’s One Meatball.
1 1/2 cups packed roasted butternut squash (Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Place cut-side down on a baking tray, with garlic cloves tucked into the hollows where the seeds used to be. Roast at 425 for about 40 minutes, till the skin is brown and the flesh is soft)
2 plump cloves roasted garlic
1 cup black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup bulgar wheat
1 piece of whole wheat bread, processed into crumbs
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar
1/2 t. sage
1/2 t. oregano
1 t. basil
1/2 t. smoked paprika
pinch each nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon
salt & pepper
Olive oil for baking.
Combine the butternut squash flesh, the black beans, the bulgar, the bread crumbs, the spices, the herbs, the cheese, the egg, the salt the pepper. Mix with a fork or a potato masher, and smush it together. You want it to be fairly well-mashed, but larger pieces of black bean are pleasant and acceptable.
Let it sit for about 20 minutes, so that the bulgar absorbs moisture and softens up.
Roll into small balls, about an inch across. Fill a small bowl with olive oil. Using a fork, dip each ball in olive oil so it’s lightly coated all the way around. Place on a baking sheet.
Bake in a preheated 425 degree oven for 20 minutes or half an hour, till they’re brown and crispy on the outside. Turn them carefully every 5 minutes or so, to make sure the brown evenly.
1 T olive oil
1 clove garlic-minced
1/4 t. tamarind concentrate
1 t. brown sugar
1 t chipotle puree (or to taste)
1 t balsamic
1/2 t. basil
1/2 cup diced roasted tomatoes
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan, and cook till they’re heated through, the garlic starts to brown and the sugar is melted. Put in a processor and process till smooth.