Monday, December 22, 2014

Lentil "Meatballs" with Lemon Pesto

I don’t talk about every recipe I attempt, mainly because they don’t always turn out nicely. I tried making pita bread, for example, but it was not really fit for human consumption once it had cooled to room temperature. I tried troubleshooting as I was baking it and gave up. Luckily for me, stores around here actually started carrying pita bread (saints be praised!), so I’ll be able to buy it when I want it.

These lentil “meatballs” from Sprouted Kitchen, though, are really something. The recipe had been making the rounds (see Christelle is Flabbergasting for a French version), but I had bookmarked it when I was flipping through The Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. So I finally got around to making them, and they were worth the wait. We all really liked them, even the Little Prince, who generally dislikes legumes. These “meatballs” have a good consistency, they are seasoned well, and the pesto complements them nicely. While they are light, they are also hearty enough to be the focus of the dish – I served them with couscous, though I imagine quinoa or pasta would be really nice, too. I got a total of 25 meatballs, enough for two meals.

For the meatballs
2 cups cooked lentils
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
¾ cup lactose-free ricotta
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced (I grated mine)
½ tsp. fennel seeds
2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
1 hefty pinch of dried or fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2/3 cup breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably, though I used store-bought whole grain)

For the lemon pesto sauce
1 clove garlic
¼ cup pine nuts
grated zest and juice of one Meyer lemon (I used a regular lemon)
½ pinch sea salt
1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
¼ to 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp. water, to thin (optional)

In a food processor, pulse the lentils into a chunky purée. Put them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the beaten eggs, olive oil, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seeds, parsley, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.

Preheat the oven to 400 °F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or tin foil.

In the meantime, make the pesto. Put the garlic, pine nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add the basil, ¼ cup of the olive oil and the parmesan and pulse again until smooth, adding more olive oil as needed to smooth it out and a bit of water as needed to get a thinner, sauce-like consistency (this all depends on how you like you pesto, and if you like it on the thicker side, you could decide to forgo the water altogether). The sauce will keep, covered in the fridge, for about a week.

Check the lentil mixture by rolling a 1-inch round ball between your palms; it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs to the mixture until the balls with stay together. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.

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