Saturday, April 08, 2023

Vegan Chickpea Meatballs

I made these vegan chickpea meatballs with roasted red bell pepper sauce and gluten-free orzo. I feel weird about calling them “meatballs” because there’s clearly no meat, but then again, there isn’t a generic non-meat equivalent term here! Even “matzo balls” encounters the same issue, i.e., these food balls don’t have matzo. Anyway, the Engineer says that these are the best meatballs (including the actual meat ones) that he’s had, and he would prefer these any day! 

A few notes on the making of these vegan meatballs. First, in order to make 2 cups of cooked brown rice, I started with 2/3 cup dry rice and 1 1/3 cups water. Second, if you have a smaller food processor or if the mixture gets too thick for your food processor to handle, remove the nut and rice mixture before blending up the chickpeas, then mix everything together with a fork or a potato masher. Note also that I didn’t have quite enough roasted bell peppers for the sauce (I only had 1 jar), so I topped it off with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and half a jar of leftover pizza sauce. 

For the chickpea meatballs (makes about 24 meatballs – I got 30) 
2 cups cooked brown rice or other grain, cold or at room temperature 
1 cup pecans 
4 cloves garlic, peeled 
30-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (3 cups cooked) 
½ cup nutritional yeast 
2 Tbsp. tomato paste 
2 Tbsp. olive oil 
2 tsp. dried basil 
2 tsp. salt 
freshly ground black pepper 
¼ cup bread crumbs (can substitute gluten free), if needed (I didn’t use them) 

For the roasted red pepper sauce 
2 roasted red peppers (about 1 ½ cups) 
15-oz can coconut milk 
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled 
2 Tbsp. olive oil 
1 tsp. salt 
lots of freshly ground black pepper 
1 tsp. dried basil 
1 tsp. dried oregano 
½ tsp. dried thyme 
1 pinch of crushed red pepper 
basil or parsley to garnish 

In a food processor, add the cooked brown rice, pecans, and garlic and pulse until finely ground. Add most of the chickpeas (reserve about ½ cup), nutritional yeast, tomato paste, olive oil, basil, salt, and black pepper. Process until ground into a thick mixture that can be pressed into a meatball and hold its shape. Add the breadcrumbs if the mixture is soft and needs help holding together. Add the rest of the chickpeas and pulse until they are coarsely chopped. 

Preheat the oven to 375 °F, and shape the mixture into balls using about 2 to 2 ½ Tbsp. per ball. A cookie scoop makes quick work of this. Press the mixture together as you roll them to help them hold together. 

Grease a baking tray and place the meatballs on the tray. Spray or drizzle with oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping halfway through for more even baking (I baked them 15 minutes, flipped them, then baked them 15 minutes longer). Let cool slightly before using, or make in advance and refrigerate. 

In a blender, combine all of the ingredients for the roasted red pepper sauce. Blend until smooth. 

Heat the sauce over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Add the chickpea meatballs and cook until heated through, about 5 minutes (or 10 minutes if cold from the refrigerator). Garnish with fresh herbs, black pepper, and some vegan parmesan (optional) and serve warm.

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