Vegetarian ‘meat’ balls with farro risotto

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farro risotto veggie meatballs

veggie meatballs with farro

I accidentally invented the world’s best vegetarian meatballs! Or meatless balls. Or veggie balls. I can’t keep trying to think of alternative names for ‘meatballs’ because eventually anything plus ‘balls’ starts sounding really funny to me, so… whatever you want to call these things, be my guest, so long as you know that they are good. Great. They are great. I invented these while staring at some leftover farro risotto. The risotto is just the right amount of chewy (unlike a bean version which would be tasty but mushy or a soft, crumbly falafel-like version) and it already has the flavor from the wine, stock, onions, celery, cheese (and a bit of pesto).

I don’t recommend making them right off—meaning, cooking the risotto just to make the meatballs—as that will be too much effort for a home-cooked dinner. Wait until you have some leftover farro risotto lying around and then pounce. Or plan two meals ahead of time: farro risotto with pesto one night and spaghetti with vegetarian meatballs the next night.

Ingredients for the veggie meatballs

3 cups farro risotto, cooled*
2 eggs
ground cashew nuts or cashew meal
panko flakes
salt and pepper
flour for rolling
olive oil for frying

For the sauce

a large can of unsalted stewed tomatoes
(or a jar of simple pasta sauce)
1-2 cloves garlic
pinch of sugar
salt and pepper, as needed
olive oil

*For the risotto
Trader Joes quick cook risotto
big chunk of butter
onion, minced
celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
splash white wine
vegetable bouillon mixed with water (or veggie stock)
grated cheese (parmesan, romano, cheddar, jack, or a mix of all)
fresh black pepper
splash of cream
1-2 tsp homemade fresh pesto

1) Farro risotto

The night before I invented these amazing veggie balls of deliciousness, I had made the farro risotto for dinner and still had plenty leftover. I don’t have measurements as I didn’t measure anything. If you are used to making risotto, this should be no problem.

Sautee the onion, celery and garlic in plenty of butter until soft and translucent, then add in the farro and stir to coat. Add a good glug of wine and turn up the heat, stirring till the liquid has evaporated. Add a bouillon cube and water (or stock), cover with a lid and cook on medium heat till done. Check and stir frequently, adding more water as needed, until the farro is cooked but still chewy. Then add in grated cheese, black pepper and a splash of cream. Cover and let sit till ready to serve. Just before serving, add a dollop of fresh homemade pesto and mix in thoroughly. The kids ate this very well with their fish sticks and edamame, and my husband and I had our risotto topped with sautéed mushrooms (in butter, garlic, wine and cream) and extra pesto.

2) THE NEXT DAY, in a large bowl, combine 3 cups of leftover farro risotto with 2 eggs, plenty of ground cashew meal (start with 1/3-1/2 a cup and go from there), some panko flakes and fresh black pepper. I didn’t measure the proportion of ground nuts or panko flakes so you will have to go with your gut. You want the veggie balls to hold together very well and still be quite sticky. Keep your hands floured as you work to cope with the stickiness.

3) In a heavy-bottomed frying pan, heat up enough olive oil for shallow frying and gently lay the veggie balls into the oil. Fry on medium or med-low heat and turn so that each side is golden brown.

4) Drain on paper towel.

5) In another pot, heat up some olive oil and fry 1 or 2 cloves of garlic gently to flavor the oil. Add in the large can of stewed tomatoes or the jar of pasta sauce. Break up the tomatoes if need be. Simmer for 20 minutes or so. Taste the sauce and add seasoning if needed: salt and pepper, basil and a tsp of sugar, or nothing if you are using a prepared pasta sauce already.

8) Add in the veggie balls and simmer gently until the sauce is ready and the veggie balls are tender, about another 10-15 minutes. Be gentle with them! It’s ok if they start to break up a little in the sauce, this makes the sauce and the farro even tastier. It is ready when it has turned a rich, deep red and tastes delicious.

Serve with al dente pasta and grated cheese on top.

Apple cider doughnuts

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apple cider doughnuts

apple cider doughnuts

Oh I just had to try a recipe for apple cider doughnuts from a magazine titled ‘Yankee’. Funny name, don’t you think?

This recipe is fantastic. No yeast, no overnight rising, done in an hour or so and the next day the doughnuts still taste fairly light and moist, not heavy like some homemade doughnut recipes. The only hard work involved is reducing the apple cider and purchasing some buttermilk—or do as I do and substitute milk with lemon juice for buttermilk. These came out tasty enough that I didn’t even bother with cinnamon sugar or powdered sugar.

Here is the link to the original recipe. In the recipe below, I have included the proportions I used for the milk and lemon juice buttermilk substitute.

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
5 tablespoons soft unsalted butter
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 and 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk (or mix 1/2 cup full fat milk with a good, strong squeeze of fresh lemon juice and let sit for a bit.)
1/3 cup boiled apple cider (Boil about 1 cup of apple cider way down and use 1/3 cup once it has reduced)
1 tbs vanilla extract
vegetable oil (for deep frying)

1) Use a kitchen aid with whisk attachment or handheld mixer to cream butter and sugar till creamy and fluffy.
2) Add eggs, one at a time, and mix after each
3) Add buttermilk (or substitute), boiled cider and vanilla and mix.
4) Add in the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda and spices and mix with a wooden spoon or the paddle attachment for the kitchen aid.
5) The original recipe tells you to:
“Line two baking sheets with waxed paper or parchment paper and dust generously with flour. Turn dough out onto one baking sheet and pat gently into 3/4-inch-thickness. Sprinkle dough with additional flour, cover with plastic wrap, and place in the freezer for 10 minutes to firm up. Remove dough from the freezer; use a lightly floured 3-inch doughnut cutter (or two concentric biscuit cutters) to cut out about 18 doughnuts with holes. (You may gather the scraps and roll again as needed, but you may need to chill the dough more to firm it up.) Place cut doughnuts on the other baking sheet as you go; then transfer to the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up again.”
I found that the dough was not too soft and quite easy to work with. I patted down a thick layer of dough and put it in the freezer only for as long as it took the oil to heat up.
6) Heat up about 3 inches of oil in a deep pot (if you have a thermometer it should be 350 degrees). Take the chilled dough out of the freezer and use a doughnut cutter (I use the top half of a cocktail shaker) to cut out the doughnuts, flouring the cutter edge so that it doesn’t stick. I use a shot glass or a jigger to cut out the holes. Save these to fry as little doughnut holes.
7) Fry each side of the doughnuts for about a minute, and then drain on paper towel.
8) Roll out the scraps of dough to make more doughnuts and keep frying.
9) Serve plain, dusted with powdered sugar or rolled in cinnamon sugar.

Serve warm with coffee, obviously ;)

apple cider doughnuts

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