Meatless Monday: Lentil meatballs


Well, it's happened. M is officially in preschool. He's officially potty trained. He's officially a kid and not a baby. I'm officially unsure of how I feel. On the one hand, I'm so happy! I'm writing a post without a child hanging on my leg! I'm staring down the gaping maw of 4 whole hours to myself every day!


On the other hand, it's the end of a really sweet time in our lives. Being home with M all day every day was exhausting and sometimes unfulfilling, but more often it was pretty magical. I was there every time he learned something new or said something hilarious. We had adventures and figured out our new town together and made some friends. Not that those things are over, but it's definitely going to be different. Different in a good way, I hope. We'll see.


You know what else is different in a good way? Meatless meatballs. (See what I did there?) Seriously though, we've been trying to cut out meat once a week, but not skimp on taste and IT. IS. POSSIBLE. These meatballs are delicious.


They're tender, but don't fall apart. The garlic and onion powder load them with flavor and the Parmesan gives them a toasty crust when lightly sauteed. And a couple of eggs and some panko bind them together without drying them out.


A couple of notes:
- You want the lentils to overcook a little, so I cut back on the water and cook them a tiny bit longer than is necessary. The slight mushiness helps to bind the meatball mixture together.

- I've also tried cooking these in a few ways: Roasting keeps the balls very circular, but I miss the slight crunch that comes with sauteeing. And cooking these right in the sauce makes them fall apart a bit. So, sauteeing is the way to go.


Lentil meatballs

1.5 cup green or brown lentils (makes 3 cups cooked) 
3.5-4.5 cups water* (see notes below)
Large pinch of salt
¾ tsp onion powder
2-4 large cloves garlic, minced
¾-1 cup panko
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan
2 large eggs
½ tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp of olive oil

Combine water and lentils* (see notes below) and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn heat down to low and simmer, partially covered, for the times noted below. Our goal here is a slightly mushy lentil, which will help the meatballs stick together.

When all the water has evaporated and the lentils are cooked, drain well over a fine mesh sieve while they cool slightly, about 5 minutes.

Combine the lentils and the rest of the ingredients (start with ¾ of the panko and add more later if needed) in a bowl and mix well. The mixture will be sticky and ever-so-slightly slack at this stage, but should be easy to roll into balls. If the mixture feels very slack, sticky, or is hard to form into balls, add the other ¼ cup of panko to the mixture and try again.

Form into balls and chill in the fridge for at 30 minutes.

Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Turn the heat down to medium low and add the meatballs. Let a crust form on one side. Flip the meatballs over and crust the other side. The process should take about 12-15 minutes.

Yield: 12-20 meatballs (1/4 cup to 1/8 cup)

*If using large brown or green lentils, use 4.5 cups of water for 1.5 cups lentils and cook until water has evaporated entirely, about 30-35 minutes. If using small green or brown lentils, use 3.5 cups of water for 1.5 cups lentils and check after 20-25 minutes. If the lentils have too much bite left, but are dry, add 1/4 cup of water, cover partially, and continue cooking, checking every 3 minutes until water has evaporated or the lentils are mushy enough.