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Eggplant Meatballs

Among the highlights of the annual Wine and Dine for the Arts Festival in Albany, N.Y.,  was the grand tasting on Friday January 12. Just about every chef brought their A-Game and served some pretty amazing food. Some of the stand-outs were Provence’s feather-light truffled liver pate mousse, courtesy of chef Rachel Bozzella; Chef Ric Orlando of New World Bistro offered his addictive sticky and sweet short ribs; and the best arancini I’ve ever had was served by Nick Yusavage at the Pasta Pane booth. But the dish I most ardently wished to recreate at home was the intriguing Eggplant Meatballs, dreamed up by Jen Hewes, executive chef at The Point. These meatless meatballs were moist, aromatic, and oh-so-substantial.

The fact that I’m not the biggest fan of vegetables but adore eggplant sealed the deal…and besides, I could always use a few plant-based tricks up my sleeve. So, I gathered the courage to ask Chef Jen if she’d share her recipe and she complied, very willingly. Eggplant Meatballs is a recipe so delicious that it wouldn’t be right not to share it, so below is the magic formula.

Chef Jen was inspired to create meatless meatballs because she wanted a vegetarian appetizer on The Point’s menu that was enticing enough to be share-able. Trust me, these are. And since I’ve been eating gluten-free and cow-dairy-free for nine years, I’ve provided two versions. The recipe is a bit time-consuming, but don’t let that deter you. Eggplant Meatballs are a great reason to while away an afternoon at the stove on a cold winter day.      

 

Photo credit: Emily Culver, General Manager of The Point in Albany, N.Y.

             

Eggplant Meatballs

 – Chef Jen Hewes, The Point Restaurant, Albany, N.Y. 

 

4 large eggplants, peeled and diced

3 ounces fresh garlic, minced

1 cup light olive oil or grapeseed oil

4 ounces chopped fresh oregano

4 ounces fresh basil

2 ounces fresh parsley, chopped

2 cups Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 eggs, well-beaten

3 cups Panko bread crumbs

2 cups seasoned bread crumbs

2 cups flour

 

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following: diced eggplant, salt and pepper, garlic and half-cup oil. Toss until eggplant is evenly coated with oil. Place on baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let it cool until almost room temperature and puree in batches in a food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed eggplant, eggs, oregano, basil, grated cheese, crushed red pepper, remaining oil, and the seasoned bread crumbs. Form into a large ball, then shape mixture into two-ounce balls. In a separate bowl, combine Panko, flour, and parsley. Roll the ‘meatballs’ individually in the flour mixture and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In a large frying pan or wok, heat remaining oil until shimmering. Fry until evenly cooked and golden on all sides. Place on paper towels to drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

 

 

The Gluten-Free & Cow-Dairy-Free Version of Eggplant Meatballs

Ingredients:

4 large eggplant, peeled and diced

3 ounces fresh garlic, minced

1 cup light olive oil or grapeseed oil, divided in half

4 ounces chopped fresh oregano

4 ounces fresh basil

2 ounces fresh parsley chopped

2 cups Peccorino Romano cheese, finely grated

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon crushed red pepper

4 eggs, well beaten

3 cups gluten-free Panko bread crumbs (or matzo meal)

2 cups seasoned gluten-free bread crumbs

2 cups of all-purpose gluten-free flour

 



Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350

In a large mixing bowl, combine the following: diced eggplant, salt and pepper, garlic and half-cup oil. Toss until eggplant is evenly coated with oil. Place on baking trays and bake for 25-30 minutes.

Let it cool until almost room temperature and puree in batches in a food processor. In a large mixing bowl, combine pureed eggplant, eggs, oregano, basil, grated cheese, crushed red pepper, remaining oil, and the seasoned bread crumbs. Form into a large ball, then shape mixture into two-ounce balls. In a separate bowl, combine Panko, flour, and parsley. Roll the ‘meatballs’ individually in the flour mixture and refrigerate for 20 minutes. In a large frying pan or wok, heat remaining oil until shimmering. Fry until evenly cooked and golden on all sides. Place on paper towels to drain and keep warm in a 200-degree oven until ready to serve.

 

 

 



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