Spontaneity, Mashups, and Meatless Meatballs

Leafing through the August 2013 issue of Food & Wine at the beach last week (yes, the beach), I happened upon Eggplant & Porcini “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce. I scanned the ingredients and thought I had an instant quick dish hit on my hands. Bubba, my son, is is nearly eleven and is constantly hungry. We dashed to Jason’s, bought everything, and rushed home only to discover the eggplant needed to be roasted for an hour. Bogus!

Caught by my own favorite question, “did you read the directions completely?”

Cooking, like life, is all about organization, planning, and attention. Look for the patterns and try to assemble them where you can to save time. Now, fast forward to Saturday. I need to roast nut, usually almond & walnuts, for our weekly snacking. So, why not roast some eggplant at the same time? Sure, you might need to pay a bit more attention to roasting time and oven temperatures, but anytime I can multitask, I jump on it.

Roasted eggplant in hand, I got to work stripping off the skin.. True, I had no Porcini mushrooms, but I had Shiitake. The recipe wanted cheese, we went with Vegan Monterey Jack. Along with the basil, I chopped and married in a little Chinese parsley. Improvising, I tossed in a 1/2 cup of roasted walnuts for a little mouth feel.

Confession one, I skipped the tomato sauce.

Confession two, I would flash fry or saute the mushrooms next time.  I arrived at this conclusion through a feedback comment from Bubba, “too much mushroom taste.”

Folding and mixing, I combined all the remaining ingredients, bread crumbs,  eggs, and garlic. My only regret, I had no fresh chili peppers!. Arrabiata Meatless Meatballs, now that would be interesting! It was wet going in there and the faux cheese was not helping in the binding and adhering department. Undeterred I mixed on. Maybe a skimped on the bread? Or maybe I should have toasted the bread first? In my next revision, I might go with some corn starch.  Note to self, check with Mom, she knows things!

I dusted the balls as directed, but I didn’t really see the point. I find dusting very subjective? I never know how much dust is required. Into the refrigerator they went. After cleaning up, life distracted me and the balls ended up chilling for quite some time.. Honestly, I  thought, why not just pull them out as Bubba got hungry. If I had no other time to make anything else, there was always Bubba’s favorite, meatballs on a fork. And, he could actually fry them himself.

Instead of going with a 1/2 of oil for frying I used about 1/4. Note to reader, go with medium to low heat and pay attention. They burn easily! Ask me how I know? I used tongs to gently turn them in the pan as they lacked the cohesiveness of actual meat meatballs.

While I love bacon for breakfast, I thought, why not eggs over easy, with asparagus, and meatless meatballs. If you don’t have any asparagus, try bok choy. No bok choy, wing it. While experience may vary with equipement ruined, I prefer to think of it as there is nothing I can’t fix. And if you can’t fix it, spin it with a great story.

Eggplant & Porcini “Meatballs” in Tomato Sauce by Domencia Marchetti  in the August issue of Food & Wine.

Bubba’s verdict, “what if you added a little bacon?”



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