If you have ever looked at my photo albums on Facebook called “My Vegan Recipes” and “My Vegan Recipes II,” you know I have A LOT of recipes that have not yet made it to my blog. Mainly, that is because I set this high standard for myself (which I often regret) of requiring some interesting story to go along with each recipe. And I have more recipes than I do interesting stories so you see my problem.
I cook something, it tastes great and I take pictures and then think, “Yeah, but what am I going to say about Indian Stew?” (that’s just to tease you because I have an INCREDIBLE Indian Stew recipe waiting to be shared).
So I either need to have some incredible life experiences that can somehow be associated with the food I cook or I am going to have to learn to deal with shorter, less creative writings and let the food speak for itself.
However, the lack of a story was not the only reason this recipe has been sitting in the “Green Room” waiting for its 15 minutes of fame for so long. This delay came from not being able to decide what to call it. Why the problem?
Well, one day a debate ensued on a Facebook group page for using the word “meat” when describing an Extreme Vegan Makeover for meatloaf or something. Or maybe I used the word “steak.” I don’t even remember. Some people don’t like to see or hear words that remind them of food made from animals. I respect that. So I came on the blog and put all the words like that in quotation marks in the titles of all my recipes.
There were suggestions I come up with “alternative” names for my recipes, e.g. sweet loaf, veet loaf or maybe I could do what the big companies do and purposely misspell words like “chickn” or “wingz,” as if removing a vowel or changing a letter doesn’t make you think of an animal at all????
So I did some reading on the etymology of certain words. According to The Online Etymology Dictionary, the term “meat” comes from the Old English word “mete” which meant food as opposed to drink. It wasn’t used to mean animal flesh until much later around the 14th century. Today we talk about the “meat” of a coconut and seitan being “wheat meat.”
The word “flesh,” according to The Free Dictionary, is used in botany to mean “the pulpy, usually edible part of a fruit or vegetable” and can also mean substance. “Milk” is a term used to describe the liquid expressed from seeds, nuts and grains as well as from non-human animals and human animals.
One of my favorite writers and Vegan chefs, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau writes how she steers away from words like “mock,” “faux,” “substitute,” “fake,” or “imitation” because Vegan food IS real food and not some inferior, unreal version of animal-based foods. She writes in her Vegan’s Daily Companion, “By definition, the words “alternative” and “substitute” imply that the thing they are being measured against is the superior choice; that is, you choose the “substitute” when you can’t get the real thing, and so on” (p. 175). I completely agree. I don’t like when people say they eat “fake” cheese. The cheese I eat isn’t fake. It isn’t plastic or pretend cheese. It’s just non-dairy cheese.
Plus, if my recipes are makeovers of old pre-veg favorites, then, of course, they have to have the original name in them somewhere or how will anyone know what it is I am trying to recreate in a compassionate, cruelty-free way? If I call my recipe Chickpea Salad and not Chickpea “Tuna” Salad, then how will anyone know I am attempting to recreate the tuna fish salad and sandwiches that many people, including myself, loved before becoming vegetarian or Vegan? Some people may feel disgusted by the thought of eating anything that reminds them of animal foods but there are many, many people, again including myself, who miss the foods they used to eat and appreciate a way to satisfy those cravings with Vegan foods that are familiar to their senses and their memories.
In fact, someone told me that my Chickpea “Tuna” Salad was just the thing her sister needed to give up eating tuna! THAT is the purpose of my Extreme Vegan Makeovers.
Now for the recipe: I spent a lot of time batting around ideas about what to call these. Tom and I sat around free associating names like “veet” balls, “neat” balls, lentil balls, etc. It actually got quite silly (and risqué) and I proposed holding a contest on the blog so someone else could come up with a name that everyone would be happy with. But in the end, I have to be true to myself and so I present to you my delicious Lentil “Meat” Balls.
Lentil “Meat” Balls
2 cups dried lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
Cooking spray or oil
½ red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 zucchini, finely chopped
1 large carrot, grated
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
1 cup bread crumbs (or gf bread crumbs or corn flake crumbs)
2 tbs. ground flax seed
3 Tbs. gf Vegan Worcestershire sauce OR2 Tbs. soy sauce plus 1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. each paprika, garlic powder, Italian seasoning
2 Tbs. chickpea flour plus 2 Tbs. water
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the lentils and a pinch of salt and return to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and cook for about 20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Let cool and move the lentils to a large mixing bowl. Mash them with a fork, potato masher or your hands until they are completely mashed.
Heat a large skillet and add the oil or cooking spray. Sauté the onions for about 4 minutes until translucent. Add the zucchini, carrot, celery, garlic, salt and pepper. Sauté about 5 minutes until the veggies are tender.
Add the hot veggies to the lentils in the bowl. The heat will help soften the lentils. Add the parsley, bread crumbs, flaxseed, Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce and vinegar), and spices. In a separate little bowl or cup, put 2 Tbs. of chickpea flour. Add 2 Tbs. of water and mix into a loose paste. This will act as a binder. Add the flour and water mixture to the bowl.
Mix everything well. Hands work best. If the mixture seems too loose, add more bread crumbs. If it feels too dry and tight, add water or non-dairy milk.
Heat the large skillet again with a tablespoon of oil. While it’s heating, form the lentil mixture into little balls. Wet your hands, scoop up about 2 Tbs. worth of the mixture (more or less depending what size you like your balls) and roll between your open hands until it is shaped like a ball. Let them rest for awhile (you can even refrigerate them) so they will hold their shape better.
|Raw Lentil “Meat” Balls|
Put the balls into the skillet and fry on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Turn them carefully with tongs or a thin spatula so that they brown on all sides. Cook them long enough to be sure they get cooked all the way through (that’s a great excuse to steal one and taste it 🙂 Remove from the pan and serve however you choose.
(1) instead of frying them in a pan, other ways to cook them include baking them in the oven or dropping the balls gently into a pot of tomato sauce and letting them gently cook. That’s the way I always used to make meatballs and they were always very soft and tender.
(2) if you want the balls zestier, you can change up the spices to include chili powder, Cajun seasoning or hot sauce. For an extra decadent treat, stuff the lentil mixture with some Vegan cheese while forming the balls. Then when you bite into one, you’ll get a mouthful of yummy, gooey cheese.
When I made the Lentil “Meat” Balls, I served them with brown rice pasta with a simple Marinara Sauce. But we had so many left over, that the next time we ate them, we changed it up completely and served them with mashed potatoes and gravy. Equally scrumptious!