Saturday, February 11, 2012

Spaghetti and Wheatballs

Although I lead a very ordinary life, sometimes the accumulation of daily events makes me want to pack a bag and head to a tropical island. Alone. Yesterday was one of those days.

When dinner time rolled around, I was ready to kick back and enjoy a quiet evening without the kids. But faster than you could say, "Ski club's been cancelled," I had a houseful of hungry peeps and no plan. I offered up Meatball Subs* to the masses - they've never turned them down and I knew I could pull them off with little effort. Now what to feed the vegetarian? My little friend asked if I could make a "meatball" out of chick peas, one of her favorite legumes. My body (silently) screamed "no" but my racing heart (thank you Starbucks) said, "sure."

I'm glad I took on the challenge, because we absolutely loved these 'Wheatballs,' which came together in no time and baked up crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. I'm new to vital wheat gluten, an ingredient used in some vegetarian recipes to provide a meaty texture. I've used it in Black Bean Burgers and tonight's Wheatballs. It seems that the key to success is kneading the mixture well, forming a small burger or ball, and baking or sauteeing until most of the moisture has cooked off.

To ensure the Wheatballs tasted Italian and not like they belonged in a falafel wrap, I seasoned them with Parmesan cheese, Italian-style breadcrumbs and Italian seasoning. If the leftovers are just as tasty, I will consider postponing my tropical vacation for a while.

*Meatball Sub recipe will be shared in a future post - it's embarrassingly simple.

Makes about 20 little balls

1 15-ounce can of chick peas, drained and rinsed
2 T. olive oil, plus more for baking
1/4 cup Italian-style breadcrumbs
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic, pressed
splash of soy sauce (optional)
pinch each of Italian seasoning, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Pour the drained chick peas into a 9x9 glass baking dish and mash with a potato masher until broken up (no whole chick peas remain). Add 1 - 2 T. oil and mash until the oil is incorporated into the chick peas. Stir in remaining ingredients, using a spoon, spatula or your hands. Begin kneading the mixture to form a thick "dough". If it is very dry, drizzle some warm water on it. Knead the mixture for a minute or two, until everything is combined and the "dough" feels well mixed. Taste a little bit at this point - if you think it's bland, add more garlic, seasonings or even lemon zest or juice.

Form the dough into walnut-size (or smaller) balls and place on oiled baking sheet. Drizzle with a little more oil and roll them all around to coat. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove sheet from oven and turn the balls over. Bake for 15 more minutes, or until the balls are medium brown and not mushy. Serve with your favorite marinara sauce.

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