Let's Dish With Linda Lou

Sharing My Recipes, My Life, And The Food Tale Of Two Cities

My Gluten Free, Meat Free Veggie Balls In Marinara Sauce

on January 16, 2015

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So really, I’ve been working on some new recipes for my daughter to try out because she doesn’t eat meat. Now, she’s not gluten free, but a friend of mine is. I think it’s just easier to come up with new recipes when you have someone that you can test them out on. Tonya, practices a gluten free, and meat free lifestyle, so being able to make dishes for her, and get her input, is so important. I knew that this recipe had to have some great flavors going in, this way, the lack of any meat wouldn’t be missed at all. I’m not saying that this dish is for everyone, but if you are meat free and gluten free, I can tell you this dish does not disappoint. Also if you do eat meat, and just want to cut down on your meat intake, this is a great alternative.

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So what I’ve done here is to roast off an egg plant that I’ve cut in half, and some cremini mushroom, that I’ve laid out, and sprayed with non- stick cooking, on a baking sheet. Drizzle a little olive oil each half of the egg plant with Kosher salt and pepper then lay them cut side down on the sheet.I did not add any salt and pepper at this point to the mushrooms. I only drizzled them with some olive oil before roasting both off at 425 degrees for around 20-25 minutes. The mushrooms won’t n take the whole 20-25 minutes,  pull them out after about 10-12 minutes. Just let them wait for the egg plant to finish cooking.

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So now I scrape the egg plant out of its skin and place it into a food processor with the roasted mushrooms. Then I pulse those for a minute, until it looks like this.

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Next, I take the egg plant and mushrooms that I’ve pulsed and place them into a large mixing bowl. Moving on, I add some other ingredients to the food processor. Cannellini beans, marinated artichokes,with their oil, roasted Piquillo peppers, whole garlic cloves, diced onion, Kosher salt, and pepper to the food processor. Pulse a few times until it looks like this picture above. Then add it to the bowl with the roasted egg plant and mushrooms.

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Now all the veggies are in the bowl, now it time for a few more ingredients. A beaten egg, #glutenfree bread crumbs, You could most certainly substitute some cooked  Quinoa for the bread crumbs. Worcestershire sauce, fresh oregano, fresh Italian parsley, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, Kosher salt, and black pepper. The last picture is what all the ingredients will look like at this point. Next, to make the balls.

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On two baking sheets, this amount will yield, 30-32 2 ounce balls. I use one of those 2 ounce ice cream type scoops to make sure they are all the  same size. Now I place them on baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Then they go into the frig over night. This gives them a chance to really set. Now for me, I decided rather than browning them off in some oil in a frying pan, that I would bake them off. I just wanted to eliminate the extra fat, since I wanted this dish to be as healthy as possible.

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As you can see here, they browned nicely. I just drizzled them with a little olive oil on the top of each one and baked them off at 300 degrees for just a few minutes. The veggies were all already cooked, it’s just the egg I used as a binder that I wanted to cook all the way through. Now because these are veggies and not meat, they tend to flatten slightly on the bottom. I don’t see this a being a big deal, however: if you want to keep the integrity of the round shape, you could just go in and turn them gently half way through the baking process using 2 spoons to flip them over. This will stop them from settling a bit on the bottom side. Once they come out of the oven set them aside while the marinara sauce finishes simmering on the stove. I think that, if you set the hot veggie balls into the hot marinara sauce, they will just start to dissolve right into the sauce and loose their shape. Remember they are all veggies. The day you want to make this dish, the only thing you need to do is to make the marinara sauce.

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So if you’ve read any of my earlier posts. I make my sauce the same way whether I add meat or just make the standard marinara sauce. So if you want my recipe for sauce, just check out any of my pasta dishes from earlier recipes. Basically I just saute a diced onion in a little olive oil, to add in some minced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, tomato paste, dried oregano, dried basil leaves, Kosher salt and pepper. I let these ingredients saute with the spices for 2-3 minutes on med heat  before  I add in some low sodium chicken broth. I let this come up to a bubble then reduce by half and then add in the San Marzano crushed tomatoes, 1 small jar of pureed Piquillo peppers, and to that some light brown sugar, to cut some of the acidity of the tomatoes. Whenever I make any type of tomato sauce, I always add in pureed roasted red peppers. I just happen to love the Piquillo peppers, they are really sweet.  I let the sauce simmer, turning the heat down to low  for a an hour stirring occasionally. I just think it really concentrates all that tomato goodness in the sauce. After the sauce is done, I take it off the heat and add in some fresh torn basil leaves. This extra ingredient brings a nice sweetness and a bright red color to the sauce. It also echos the flavor of the Piquillo peppers in the veggie balls.

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When I’m ready to serve this dish, I take the veggie ball out of the frig, heat them up separately on a baking sheet in the oven on a very low temperature, around 275 degrees in the oven. Be sure to keep an eye on them. You just want to warm them through. Then I ladle some of my really hot sauce on the bottom of a serving plate. Add the amount of warmed up veggie balls to the sauce. Then I just spoon a little of the hot marinara sauce on top of each one, sprinkle some fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, and garnish with some fresh basil. I do it this way to make sure the veggie balls hold their shape.

Prep Time: 40 minutes ( this time is to make the veggie balls the day before)
Inactive Prep Time:24 hours
Yields: 32- 2 ounce balls
Prep Time: 5 minutes ( this is the prep time for the marinara sauce)
Cooing Time: 1 hour
Tip: can be stored in air tight resealable bags and frozen

Ingredients for veggie balls:
1 roasted egg plant-pureed
1 pint of roasted cremini mushrooms-pureed
1 jar of Piquillo peppers- pureed
1 jar of marinated artichokes with their oil- pureed
1- 15 ounce can of Cannellini beans- pureed
1 onion diced ( this also get pulsed in the food processor)
3 whole garlic cloves ( this also gets pulsed in the food processor)
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoon of chopped fresh Italian flat leaf parsley (reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish)
3 dashes of Worcestershire sauce
1 large egg
3-1/2 cups of gluten free bread crumbs

Ingredients: Marinara Sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 diced onion
3 cloves of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 tablespoon of Kosher salt
1 teaspoon of black pepper
1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes ( Optional)
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
1 tablespoon of dried basil leaves
2 tablespoons of light brown sugar
2-28 ounce cans of San Marzano tomatoes
1 jar of pureed Piquillo peppers
1-2 tablespoons of fresh torn basil leaves

Directions: The day before you want to serve this dish, you want to make the veggie balls. Let them rest, on the baking sheets, in the frig, for 24 hours covered with plastic wrap. You could make the marinara sauce the day before as well. If you’re making the sauce the same day you are serving, start the sauce on the stove and when the sauce is close to being done, preheat the oven to 300 degrees. When the oven is ready place the cold veggie balls into the oven, and watch them carefully. You just want them to heat through and keep their round shape. After the veggie balls are warmed through, place some of the hot marinara sauce on the bottom of a plate. Then set the veggie balls on top of the hot sauce and drizzle some more of the marinara sauce on the top of each one. Garnish with some fresh chopped Italian parsley, and even a sprig of fresh basil.


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