This was easy to make (via Ciao Italia), and has definitely made it into my tried and true category. I simply served these meat free “meat-balls” with a fresh made marinara over a penne pasta. This recipe required some adjustments for the first couple of tries, but it was definitely worth it. Watch the excess liquid contained in the sautéed vegetables, as it will make the batter harder to work with if you don’t squeeze some of the liquid out . Then, if you have the time, refrigerate the batter overnight, so the balls will be easier to form. If your batter is still not at the desired consistency, slowly add in some extra bread crumbs, but do not overdo it.
This is an extremely versatile recipe, with plenty of room for creativity. You can always flatten the ball and make a veggie burger out of it. And, if your batter is too soupy, put it on a well oiled skillet and make a pancake out of it. Any way you slice it, this is a delicious recipe and you would like it even if you weren’t a vegetarian. If you want to spice it up a little, add in a TBS of freshly grated ginger, a teaspoon of ground cumin and a teaspoon of nutmeg. The aroma is sensational!
ABOUT THE CHICK PEA
Chickpeas are a nutrient-dense food, providing rich content of protein, dietary fibre, folate, and certain dietary minerals such as iron and phosphorus. Thiamin, vitamin B6, magnesium, and zinc contents are moderate, providing approximately 10 – 15% of the Daily Nutritional value.
Cooking treatments do not lead to variance in total protein and carbohydrate content. Soaking and cooking of dry seeds possibly induces chemical modification of protein-fibre complexes, which leads to an increase in crude fibre content. Thus, cooking can increase protein quality by inactivating or destroying heat-labile antinutritional factors. Cooking also increases protein digestibility, essential amino acid index, and protein efficiency ratio. Although cooking lowers concentrations of amino acids such as tryptophan, lysine, total aromatic, and sulphur-containing amino acids, their contents are still higher than proposed by the FAO/WHO reference. Diffusion of reducing sugars, raffinose, sucrose and others into cooking water reduces or completely removes these components. Cooking also significantly reduces fat and mineral contents. The B vitamins riboflavin, thiamin, niacin, and pyridoxine dissolve into cooking water at differing rates.
This was a direct quote from Wikipedia on the effects of cooking chickpeas, and I included it because there is a presumption of loss of nutritional value when raw food is cooked. This paragraph clearly explains to raw food enthusiasts the value of the cooked chick pea and its preservation and digestibility of its protein value.
Chick Pea Meatballs
1 14-ounce can chickpeas, drained
1 small sweet red pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 small zucchini, ends trimmed and coarsely chopped
1 small carrot, scraped and chopped
1 leek (white part) cut into rings
1 clove garlic, peeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups dry bread crumbs
Fine sea salt to taste
Canola Oil for Frying
Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor and transfer to a bowl. Set aside.
Add the pepper, zucchini, carrot, leek and garlic to the food processor and pulse until the mixture looks minced. At this point, you want to squeeze the excess liquid out of the minced vegetables before you sautee them. Use a paper towel to do this, or squeeze them up against the side of the bowl. This will help make your mixture stiffer to form the balls with.
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan and stir in the minced vegetables; cook until softened. Cool about 5 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the bowl with the chickpeas. Add one egg and mix well. Refrigerate until cooled down completely and batter is stiff. Four hours is sufficient, but overnight is perfect.
With wet hands, form 1 inch balls. If your batter is not firm enough, add some breadcrumbs. Set aside.
Beat the remaining two eggs in a shallow bowl and place the bread crumbs in another shallow bowl.
Coat each ball in egg then in bread crumbs and place on a dish. When all the balls are coated, heat 4 cups of oil in a heavy duty pot or a deep fryer to 375°F.
Fry the balls a few at a time until golden brown and use a slotted spoon to transfer them to absorbent paper to drain. Serve warm.
Image by Whitney Knutson Photography