Nov 24, 2012

Cranberry Bean Meatballs with Garlic and Allspice

When I was stuck at the airport in Burbank, trying to get home to the vegetarian after Hurricane Sandy,  I stopped into a 24-hour bar to get some dinner before my red-eye. It was the only place still open at the airport and I figured I could get a salad. But once I looked at the menu, the one thing that kept jumping out at me was spaghetti with meatballs. It wasn't gluten-free and it was overly rich and not very good but it was comforting, warming and perfect.

Since then, I've been thinking about how I can recreate spaghetti and meatballs for our gluten-free and vegetarian kitchen. The spaghetti part is the easiest -- we've become big fans of quinoa spaghetti and I'm (almost) starting to prefer it to some "regular" spaghetti. But meatballs? Neither of us likes using fake meat (although the idea of crumbled veggie burgers is one we still may try) and, anyway, I wanted these to be just as good (or better) than their meat counterparts -- not merely a substitute.

I made these with 2 cans of cranberry beans that I drained well and ground in the food processor. Unfortunately, they were softer than I had hoped and the food processor reduced them to more of a puree than a crumble. So next time I would use a harder bean (perhaps cannellini). So, even though these didn't stay together as well as we would have liked, the flavors were delicious. Serve over pasta with the Nero d'Avola you used in the sauce. Enjoy!

Cranberry Bean Meatballs with Garlic and Allspice
inspired by

In a large bowl, mix together carrots, salt, cornflake crumbs, crushed rice cake, parsley, basil, lemon zest, allspice, chili powder, black pepper, cranberry beans and garlic. Using your hands, mix until very well combined. Shape into ping-pong sized "meatballs", packing them tightly together.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add olive oil and heat until it moves like water in the pan. Add "meatballs" and cook 1-2 minutes each side, until browned.

Add tomatoes, onions and garlic and cook 2 minutes. Add carrot, celery, red pepper flakes, Nero d'Avola, kosher salt and black pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, covered, 6 minutes. Remove from heat and serve, garnished with basil and Italian parsley. Bon appetit!


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