Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto

Happy belated Thanksgiving, y'all! I hope everyone enjoyed the holiday and the subsequent food coma. I spent several days at home, visiting with my family and my adorable pups (see below). There was a bit of shopping, a bit more football and a whole lot of food. After the holiday weekend I had, I'll definitely be turning to some lighter fare this week to recover. If you're on the same page, definitely give these lentil meatballs a try. Technically, they're not 'meatballs' as they're vegetarian, but I'm going to go ahead and call them that anyway, as lentillballs doesn't have quite the same ring to it.
I discovered this recipe a couple of months ago on my current favorite food blog, Sprouted Kitchen. If you've never visited, I highly recommend it, along with the Sprouted Kitchen cookbook. Both contain fun creative recipes for tasty dishes that are on the healthier side.

These little lentil nuggets are hearty yet healthy and are complemented nicely by the acidity of the lemon pesto. Don't expect a traditional pesto here, as it's much thinner and tangier- perhaps more of a dressing than a pesto. An alternative to the pesto would be a nice marinara.

I recommend serving with a side of butternut squash or sweet potato for a nice flavor contrast. If you're not feeling starchy, try a bed of wilted spinach or a caprese salad.

Enjoy this healthy recipe. Your body will thank you.

Oh, and I'll be back soon with some not-so-healthy Christmas goodies. J

Bon appetit!

Shameless adorable pup picture

Lentil "Meatballs" with Lemon Pesto
Makes 18 small balls
2 c cooked lentils (I used black, but you could probably use another variety)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c ricotta
1/4 c fresh grated Parmesan or high quality pre-grated Parmesan
1 large garlic clove, minced
1/2 tsp fennel seed, crushed
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
Hefty pinch of fresh thyme (preferable) or dried thyme
1 tsp each sea salt and pepper
2/3 c breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably)

Lemon Pesto
1 clove garlic
1/4 c pine nuts
Zest and juice of one Meyer lemon or half the zest and juice of a regular lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 c packed basil leaves
1/4 - 1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp grated Parmesan
2 tbsp water to thin

In a food processor, pulverize the lentils into mush. Put them in a large mixing bowl.

Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.

While the lentil mixture is resting, make the pesto. Put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil, blending until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

Preheat the oven to 400 F. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms- it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and/or is falling apart, stir in another tbsp or two of breadcrumbs until the ball stays together.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil covered with a light coating of non-stick spray (This is important! Half of my meatballs were left on the cookie sheet the first time around). Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil. 

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly. Serve warm topped with pesto.

Source: Sprouted Kitchen

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