I'm not a cook. I like to cook. I obsess over countless cooking blogs daily and dream of cooking all those delicious beautiful meals. SoI think it's fitting that this blogs first post chronicles us making a meal.
We don't usually make meals that are so...meatless.
Recipe: Seen on Joanne Eats Well With Others, Eggplant meatballs adapted from My Calabria via Big Flavors From a Tiny Kitchen
First step, cube one large unpeeled eggplant...annnnd I've already neglected to follow directions.
Eggplant peeled. Oops. I don't know if keeping the peel on would have made any difference. In fact, with all the squishing we have to do to get the water out in the next steps, I think the peel might have gotten in the way. I thought the final product turned out fine without the peel.
Next, you want to squish as much water out of the eggplant as you can. If you have a potato ricer or other contraption to help you do this, then go ahead and use it. I used this slotted spoon and pushed it up against the side of the strainer. I switched over to a wooden spoon after a while to get a little more leverage. Then, I dumped out the eggplant onto a paper towel and pushed down with a few more paper towels until I felt that I had gotten enough water out.
Then you're left with a small pile of squished eggplant pieces. Not very appetizing, but I promise you, the final form will be worth it.
Next, you want to chop, chop, chop that pile of eggplant until you have smaller little pieces. That'll make it easier to mix in with the other ingredients and form the "meat"balls.
When the consistency is sort of like ground beef, throw it in a bowl with the breadcrumbs, seasoning, cheese and egg. The original recipe called for manchego.. I didn't have that on hand, so I finely grated some Monterrey jack, a.k.a. the most delicious cheese ever. While the final flavors of the cheese went well with everything else, this recipe definitely counts on the creamy consistency of the manchego to help the balls stay together. So, I added TWO eggs instead of one. Two seemed to be exactly what it needed.
After giving the ingredients a mix with my hands, I start forming it into 1" balls and put them aside until I was ready to fry 'em up.
At this point, I was very surprised with how meaty they seemed. They looked like meatballs. And now that they were mixed with breadcrumbs and seasoning, they smelled like meatballs.
Here they all are, waiting to be thrown into some hot oil.
This recipe made exactly nine balls. They were a good size, and they could probably feed 3 or 4 people when served with rice. Since there were only two of us, and they were delicious, we ate them all. ALL OF THEM.
Fill the bottom of a skillet with about 1/2" oil. The recipe says olive oil, but I didn't have a lot of that in my pantry at the moment so I used canola oil. It worked very well. You want to make sure the oil is really hot before you put the eggplant meatballs in or else you'll end up with some soggy meat-a-balls!
Use one to test it - the oil should start sizzling immediately when the meatball hits it. Then get em' all in there! If you are using a smaller skillet, or making more meatballs, it's better to do the frying in batches.
LOOK AT ALL OF THEM. They smell so good.
They fry up pretty quick, even on medium heat. You definitely want to keep moving them around so they get some nice color on all sides.
Here I think they were looking meatier than ever! My fiance, Rob, came in at this point, and he wasn't understanding that what he was looking at was meatless.
The recipe from Joanna Eats Well uses a premade sesame, garlic, ginger sauce. I didn't have any of that sauce but I did have a very infrequently used bottle of sesame oil that I've been looking to get rid of, along with minced garlic, ginger powder, low sodium soy sauce, and a lil' sriracha sauce because, what the hell.
I also added in the dark part of some green onions finely chopped.
NOTE: a little of this stuff goes a long way. All the ingredients have powerful flavors. The amount shown was plenty to go over the meatball, snap peas and even a little left over for the rice that I served with it. So be gentle.
When they are all cooked up, remove them from the skillet with a slotted spatula, or very carefully with some tongs, and put them on a paper towel. They seemed to hold together pretty well.
Trying to minimize the amount of dishes we'd have to clean, I poured the excess oil out of the skillet, poured in the sesame/garlic/ginger sauce I threw together, and let that heat for a few seconds.
I had a bag of frozen snap peas in the freezer, so I just poured them into the sauce, still frozen and let the heat warm them through. Toss them around a bit to get them coated in the sauce.
Once the snap peas are warmed through, put the eggplant balls in with them and toss them around a bit to get a little sauce on them too.
I made some basmati rice on the side. Went well with the meatballs and peas.
Next time I make these, I'm planning on going the italian route instead of asian. Serve these with red sauce and parmesan and mozzarella and it's a nice alternative to eggplant Parm. Or as my mom says, 'eggplant Pahm."
Oh Rhode Island.
So to sum up, this recipe is definitely not a quick fix on a busy weeknight. There's many steps and it can be a little physical pushing the water out of the eggplant and chopping it up. However, if you're looking to try something new with ingredients that are easy to find and create a delicious meal, this would be fun weekend dinner project for you.