lentil-walnut meatballs (aka “amazeballs”!)

4 01 2013

lentil meatballs text revised

earlier this year for a date night, the hubby and i walked over the williamsburg bridge (which is pretty close to our apartment) and headed into the lower east side for dinner at the meatball shop.  the concept of this restaurant is that you order whatever kind of meatballs you want (beef, pork, chicken, veggie, and a variety of often-kooky daily specials, like a reuben-sandwich-flavored ball), and then get to choose from a variety of “bases” (mashed potatoes, greens, etc.) and sauces (tomato, pesto, etc.) to build your own dish.  i had the “vegetable meatballs,” and at the time, i was doing the #plantPOWER challenge — so after a long discussion with my server, we agreed that my dish would be prepped without the standard shower of parmesan cheese that normally tops the balls, in order to keep it plant-based.  i should have realized, but did not at the time, that the mixture for the balls also had an animal-based ingredient: eggs.  oopsie.  my #plantPOWER intentions were good and i thought i was covered!  but then i found a new york times article publishing the recipe, and i realized i had gone astray.

last night, in the face of the unbelievably cold weather we’ve been having in NYC, i was in the mood for some plant-based comfort food, and i decided to modify the meatball shop recipe so that it would be completely plant-based.  click through for the modified recipe!

the meatball shop’s lentil-walnut meatballs, veganized – adapted from chef daniel holzman’s recipe, as published in the new york times – makes 12 golf-ball-sized pieces (serving size is 3-4 balls, depending on the meal!)

  • 1/4 cup sprouted green lentils (i like truroots brand), plus 1 cup of water
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus cooking spray
  • about half of a medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chopped carrot
  • 2 medium-sized celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 tsp. chopped garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme, 2 tsp. garlic powder (plus any other spices you choose — oregano or marjoram would be lovely!)
  • 8 oz. baby bella (cremini) mushrooms, chopped
  • 2 tbsp. tomato paste (i like amore brand in the metal tube)
  • 1/3 cup panko (i like edward & sons organic)
  • 2 tbsp. chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tbsp. ener-g egg replacer, plus 4 tbsp. water (alternatively, you could make a flax or chia seed egg, using a 1:3/seed:H20 ratio)
  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (i love cucina antica’s tomato-basil cooking sauce — it’s has a great basic flavor that works well layered in other dishes)
  1. in a small pot, bring the lentils and water to a boil, and then reduce to simmer.  cook with lid on for about 40 minutes or until most of the water is absorbed. it’s ok for the lentils here to get mushy, and we want to bulk them up as much as possible. when they are starting to fall apart (but not complete mush), turn the flame off, drain and cool.
  2. in a sautee pan, add the olive oil, onions, carrots, celery, and salt, and cook until the vegetables are tender and the onions are translucent. add the tomato paste and mix until evenly distributed throughout the cooked vegetables; add the garlic and mushrooms, and continue cooking until the mushrooms have reduced in volume by about half, and the liquid they give off has been cooked away.  cool this mixture as well — it doesn’t have to be cold, but you need to be able to touch it with your hands to form the balls (omg i can’t believe how much this post talks about touching balls).
  3. in a ramekin or small mixing bowl, add the 4 tablespoons of hot water to the 1 tablespoon of egg replacer and whisk with a fork until the powder is all combined.  let this mixture rest for a moment; it will form a gel-like substance.
  4. in a large mixing bowl, add the drained lentils, the cooked vegetable/tomato paste mixture, the dried herbs/spices, the fresh parsley, the chopped walnuts, and the egg replacer gel.  mix once roughly, then add the remaining dry ingredients (panko and nutritional yeast) mix again.
  5. using slightly wet hands (it helps to keep a small bowl of water to the side for this purpose), form the mixture into compact, golf-ball-sized balls. press them as firmly as you can, but the mixture has some give to it because of the squishy nature of the ingredients.  you should get 12 balls from this mixture.
  6. lightly spray a 8×8″ or 9×9″ pyrex baking dish with cooking spray, and line the balls up in rows.  top each with about a tablespoon of the tomato sauce, and then pour the remaining sauce between the rows.
  7. bake at 400 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes or until the tops of the balls have browned slightly.

these balls (hehe) came out delicious… next time i will compress them a little bit more firmly before baking (they are a bit fragile, tending to break apart if you don’t transfer them delicately from the serving dish to the plate, but then again, i think that’s better than a tough ball that requires a knife to get it into bite-sized pieces), but the flavor was amazing: hearty, earthy, nuanced, and most of all, comforting. just what the doctor ordered for a freezing january night.

my pyrex baking dish has a plastic lid, so i am able to store this whole 3-to-4-serving batch in the fridge without even transferring to another container.  i may or may not have eaten one straight from the fridge this morning, but let’s just say i suspect they are just as good cold as they are hot.  i plan on crumbling over salad with still-warm roasted eggplant and root veggies, and crumbling into a bowl of quinoa pasta as well.

and, recalling the origin of this blog (which i started to document my bring-to-work lunches, lovingly prepared at home), i note that these are perfectly-sized/portioned for lunch bento as well — if i manage to make it through the weekend without devouring the whole batch, i’ll pack a meatball bento for monday’s lunch at work!

wishing you all a wonderful weekend… hope you are recovering from the holiday madness, and back on track with your commitments to healthy choices (that is, if you got off track, as i did with all the cookies and treats!).  here’s a picture from the meatball shop date night — walking to a restaurant is one of the easy opportunities for low-impact exercise that the hub and i will be doing together more often in 2013.  little changes add up!

wburg bridge


nutritional information (per 4-ball serving):

  • 280 calories
  • 10.3 g. fat (1 g. sat, 3 g. poly, 4.4 g. mono)
  • 658.1 mg. sodium — a little high, but you could reduce by omitting the sea salt from the sauteed vegetable mixture, or by using a lower-sodium prepared tomato sauce — i just happen to really like the taste of this brand, and i watch my sodium intake in general so it’s OK to get all sally mcsalty once in a while
  • 518.4 mg. potassium
  • 33.3 g. carbs (8.7 g. fiber, 7.2 g. sugar)
  • 13.7 g. protein
  • 56.7% daily value of vitamin A, 40.4% vitamin C, 10.3% calcium, 16.2% iron



9 responses

4 01 2013

I love meatball shop and this recipe looks even better than their version. I think the addition of walnuts is unexpected yet awesome.

happy new year to you!! 🙂

4 01 2013

thanks so much esther! hope you are having a wonderful new year as well… first new years as a married couple, no? (bet it was fun to do seh beh and eat dukk guk together… i loved the first time i got to celebrate any holiday with derrick being my *husband*, everything was new again!)

4 01 2013

The recipe just sings with flavor, megan! Meatballs of whatever persuasion are such comfort food–hubby and I tucked into savory turkey meatballs in marinara the other night and felt so cozily satisfied. Wishing you a wonderful, creative and joyful 2013!!

4 01 2013

best to you and J too, jenn! meatballs all around, cheers! (can you cheers a meatball?) always appreciate your lovely words xoxo

14 02 2013
Carolyn Jung

Those are some bodacious meatballs. I happen to have some lentils in the cupboard, too. Here I was going to make boring ol’ soup with them. Not anymore. 😉

26 03 2013

this looks wonderful ! I would love to try it.

19 04 2013
Cobi @Veggietorials

Wow, these look dee-licious! I love a good lentil-walnut pate but all that flavor in a vegan meatball sounds over the top YUM

31 08 2013

I just made else tonight. I think my mixture was a little too mushy as they didn’t bake we’ll, but I just scooped them in with some pasta and the taste was just like spaghetti with “meat” sauce…delicious!

11 09 2013
bento lunch box

Nice expression of meatballs recipe dish & my first opportunity to made in our home.I think Japanise are so good in making creative things.

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