Meatless Monday – Eggplant “Meatballs”

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Sometimes the answer is just meatballs.  These vegetarian beauties, made with eggplant are tasty and perfect as a main dish paired with a salad,  over pasta or even spooned over mashed potatoes or rice.  They also make great game day sliders.  Just add small brioche buns and extra sauce, and maybe a slice of fresh mozzarella .  Or for a simple appetizer, make smaller ‘meatballs’ and serve with toothpicks.  Delish!

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I love eggplant for it’s color, flavor and versatility.  In this recipe, it doesn’t even taste like eggplant, which is a good thing because we’re making ‘meatballs’ not eggplantballs. The combination of sauteed eggplant, bread crumbs, parmesan, garlic and herbs all held together with a beaten egg is surprisingly tasty and ‘meatballish’.  The texture is nice, firm but not hard or soggy.  Eggplant meatballs are not going to have as much protein (or fat) as traditional meatballs but they do have quite a bit of nutrition, including protein. According to http://www.Skinnytaste.com, four of the smaller sized meatballs have 259 calories, 12 grams of fat, 9 grams of protein, 30 grams of carbs and 6 grams of fiber. Eggplant, itself, also adds some good plant based nutrients like, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, fiber and important phytonutrients.

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TIPS:  Serve these meatbals hot right out of the pan or on a serving platter. For a main course serve with pasta, rice or mashed potatoes.  For a cheesier dish, serve with a dollop of fresh riccotta. To boost the nutrition, use whole grain breadcrumbs, if you can find them or make your own.  Sometimes I make my own tomato sauce and sometimes I just pick it up from the grocery store.  There are many good ones availble so don’t feel like you have to make your own.  If you want to try a homemade tomato sauce, I have included an easy recipe below.

Since the eggplant is sauteed, you don’t have to salt it first unless you think your eggplant may be old and slightly bitter.  In that case salting first, may sweeten it up.  Otherwise, the cubed eggplant can go right into the saute pan.

Recipe adapted from http://www.skinnytaste.com/eggplant-meatballs/

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EGGPLANT ‘MEATBALLS’

  • 1 1/4 lbs unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated, plus more for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups tomato sauce(24 oz)
  • part skim ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
  • brioche slider buns (optional)

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  • Cut eggplant into 1 inch cubes.

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  • Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. If eggplant gets too dry, add a bit more water.

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  • Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times, but don’t puree.

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  • Transfer to a bowl and add bread crumbs, beaten egg, cheese, parsley, garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper.

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  • Form the eggplant mixture into balls about and transfer to an oiled baking sheet. Makes about 24 1 oz balls or 12 or more large meatballs.

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  • Bake at 375°F until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes.  You can broil the last five minutes for better browning, if desired.

 

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  • Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet to warm the sauce or make your own using the recipe below. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil and serve with ricotta cheese, slider buns or pasta.

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EASY HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE (Double the recipe if you like lots of sauce as this makes a scant 2 cups)

1 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid (or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or1 Tbsn fresh oregano, minced)
1 Tbsn fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with the juice, oregano and basil and let it cook at a low simmer until it’s thickened.  You can break up the tomatoes with a fork as it softens to make the mixture more sauce like.

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Eggplant Meatballs

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

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  • 1 1/4 lbs unpeeled eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 Tbsn olive oil (or olive oil spray)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
  • 1 1/2 cups Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese, grated
  • 1 Tbsn chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 cups tomato sauce (24 oz)
  • part skim ricotta cheese, for serving (optional)
  • brioche slider buns (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray
  2. Place 1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat. When hot add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook, stirring occasionally until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. If eggplant gets too dry, add a bit more water.
  3. Transfer to the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times, but don’t puree.
  4. Transfer to a bowl and add bread crumbs, beaten egg, cheese, parsley, garlic and chopped basil into the eggplant. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Form the eggplant mixture into balls about and transfer to the prepared baking sheet.
  6. Bake until firm and browned, about 20 to 25 minutes. Makes about 24 1 oz balls or 12 or more large meatballs.
  7. Heat the sauce in a large deep skillet to warm the sauce or make your own using the recipe below. Add the meatballs to the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish the meatballs with basil and serve with ricotta cheese, slider buns or pasta, if desired.

EASY HOMEMADE TOMATO SAUCE (Double the recipe if you like lots of sauce as this makes a scant 2 cups)

1 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid (or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or1 Tbsn fresh oregano, minced)
1 Tbsn fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • Saute the garlic in olive oil until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with the juice, oregano and basil and let it cook at a low simmer until it’s thickened.  You can break up the tomatoes with a fork as it softens to make the mixture more sauce like.

Meatless Monday – Eggplant Parm Minis

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“I enjoy cooking with wine and sometimes I put it in the food.” – Julia Child.

I’m not sure Julia Child would have appreciated Good Mother Diet as she was quite the meat lover and on her cooking show she was always throwing raw meat around or making raw chickens dance, but I can like her anyway as she was ground breaking in her approach to cooking.  She had a no nonsense approach in the kitchen and a great sense of humor.  In response to critics who thought she used too much butter,  she said “We should enjoy food and have fun. It is one of the simplest and nicest pleasures in life.”  I can certainly agree with her on that!

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Eggplant is considered one of the worlds healthiest foods and it has a meaty texture that makes it a good substitute for meat.  Globe eggplants, in particular, are best if they are salted and drained (known as “degorging”) before cooking, to soften them and to reduce the amount of fat absorbed during cooking.  Raw eggplant can absorb an incredible amount of oil which adds unnecessary calories and fat.  Eggplant is naturally low fat and low carb.   Salting also removes any bitterness from the eggplant.

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I spotted this eggplant recipe on Kalyns Kitchen and loved the simplicity.  It is inspired by Julia’s original recipe for what she calls Eggplant Pizza in her cookbook,  From Julia Child’s Kitchen.  Rather than making a traditional Eggplant Parmesan where the eggplant is breaded and fried before baking with layers of sauce and cheese, this version is grain free and brushed with olive oil and herbs before baking.  Slicing the eggplant into thick circles and making individual portions makes it very easy to serve.  I made this dish for a potluck where we needed to serve a lot of people, so I doubled the recipe. Needless to say, I came home with an empty platter!  I love a homemade sauce (and not just because it makes my kitchen smell divine) but you can skip that step and use any sauce you like from a jar as a shortcut.  I loved this recipe, which is not fussy but really delicious, and I will definitely make it again. Next time I’m hoping for leftovers!   Thanks Julia!

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Photo Credit:  http://www.werecommend.com

Eggplant Parm Minis

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

1 globe eggplant
1 T salt
2 T olive oil
2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
10 large basil leaves, cut in chiffonade strips
1/2 cup freshly Parmesan
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
red pepper flakes(optional)

Sauce:
1 Tbsn extra-virgin olive oil
3-4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (14.5 oz.) diced tomatoes with liquid (or 2 cups peeled and diced fresh tomatoes)
1/4 tsp. dried oregano (or1 Tbsn fresh oregano, minced)
1 Tbsn fresh basil, minced
salt and pepper to taste

  • Slice eggplant into 3/4 inch thick slices (trying to make them the same thickness to insure even cooking.) Put the eggplant pieces on a double layer of paper towels and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Let the eggplant sit with the salt on it for 20- 30 minutes to draw out the liquid.

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  • While the eggplant sits, make the sauce. Saute the garlic in olive oil until it becomes fragrant.  Add the tomatoes with the juice, oregano and basil and let it cook at a low simmer until it’s thickened.  You can break up the tomatoes with a fork as it softens to make the mixture more sauce like.

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  • After 20- 30 minutes, the eggplant slices should be dotted with drops of water and the paper towels wet.  Wipe the slices  dry with paper towels, which also removes most of the salt.

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  •  Coat the bottom of a baking pan with olive oil and arrange the eggplant slices in a single layer. Brush the tops of the eggplant with olive oil, and sprinkle with oregano, salt and pepper.

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  • Roast the eggplant about 25 minutes in a 375 degree oven.

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  • Thinly slice the fresh basil into chiffonade strips.  This is easily done by stacking the leaves and slicing into thin strips.

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  •  Combine Parmesan and mozzarella. After 25 minutes remove eggplant from the oven. Spread a few tablespoons of sauce on the top of each eggplant slice.

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  • Place several slices of basil on each slice.

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  • Top with a generous amount of cheese and sprinkle with red pepper flakes, if using.

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  • Turn oven to broil and cook until cheese melts and is slightly browned.

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  • Remove from oven and sprinkle with more fresh basil, if desired

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