I'd like to ask you to consider the meatball for a moment. Humble in stature, it doesn't receive nearly as much attention as it deserves. Instead, it's usually an afterthought. Sometimes a poorly flavored concoction, sadly bubbling away in a crock pot at a buffet or just a meaty decoration to adorn a pile of pasta, the meatball suffers from some poor PR. What is failed to be recognized is how convenient and versatile meatballs are. Cute little round vessels of flavor, the meatball can be oh so much more than the traditionally Italian flavored meat rolled into a ball. In fact, dare I say, it can even be delicious as a vegetarian dish.
A couple months back, I made my first version of a vegetarian (eggplant) meatballs and I fell in love. In addition to my affection towards this recipe, I think it opened my eyes to a wide world of possibilities and flavor combinations. The eggplant meatballs that I made are a lighter cousin to a traditional meatball but doesn't sacrifice flavor (usually the flaw in a well-meaning lighter version of a recipe). However, being the self-competitive person that I am, I wanted to see if I could one up myself and create a completely different vegetarian meatball.
Mission accomplished, I must say. I was thrilled with the way they came out and found myself liking them even more than my eggplant meatballs. What really made these so good was the texture. "Poppy" and slightly crunchy quinoa was very welcoming and a nice change of pace as well as was a great compliment to the tender mushrooms and sweet roasted red pepper bits. I also added a couple pinches of crushed red pepper flakes just to keep things interesting and heat things up a bit (of course you can just leave those out if you're not into heat).
For serving, I thought these worked quite nicely in traditionally meatball parm. sub form, with lots of mozzarella melting down the sides and good quality crusty sub rolls. These would also be a popular guest a party. Served in a more miniature form, they could be accompanied by a simple marinara sauce and I guarantee they'd be a favorite as well as a conversation starter as I find there's still a good population that hasn't had the pleasure of being introduced to quinoa yet.
I loved this recipe so much that I've decided that it is worthy of being categorized in as a Recipe I Love.
Recipe is featured after the jump!
Quinoa Veggie "Meatballs"
- 1/2 cup quinoa
- 1 cup water (or chicken stock)
- 5-6 large button mushrooms, cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1 small pat of butter or a drizzle of olive oil
- 1/2 bag of fresh baby spinach, chopped
- 1/2 red pepper, finely diced
- 1/4 cup onions, diced
- 2 tbs pine nuts (almost any kind of nut would work well here too!)
- 2 eggs - one for egg wash
- A couple generous pinches of crushed red pepper
- 1/2 tsp fresh oregano
- 1/2 tsp fresh rosemary
- Salt and pepper to taste
Cook quinoa according to package using either water or chicken stock and set aside to cool a bit. Fry up the onions and mushroom slices in a little bit of butter or olive oil until the onions have softened and the mushrooms have browned and set aside. In the same pan, wilt the spinach until it just softens. In a large bowl, combine the fried mushrooms, wilted spinach, red pepper and onions. Add the oregano, rosemary and crushed red pepper. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the pine nuts and combine mixture. Add the cooled quinoa and mix in one of the eggs. Shape the mixture into even-sized balls and place on a greased and foil lined baking sheet. Make an egg wash by mixing together the remaining egg and a splash of water. Using a brush, paint the meatballs with the eggwash. Bake at 400 degrees until they are cooked through, browned and slightly crispy.