It has been awhile since I have posted a Meatless Monday recipe but we haven’t fallen back into the meat wagon. With MarocBaba’s celiac diagnosis we have been eating even less meat, actually we’ve been eating better all around. It’s a great thing when no one asks what is in a dish (specifically if there is meat or not) and they just eat to enjoy. I have been having a lot of fun creating new vegetarian, vegan and even raw meals. It always seemed much more difficult but I’ve found it has opened up so many new creative doors in the kitchen. I’ve even got a little sous chef backing me up many nights!
One of my favorite ingredients in the kitchen are olives, but if you would have asked me a few years ago to find a way to use an olive other than eating it as is – I would have been at a loss. Last week I had an idea for dinner that was swirling around my head all day at work. I wasn’t sure if it would work but it sounded great. I rushed home that night and started to pull together the ingredients to make vegetarian “meat”balls with olives as a secret ingredient. I knew that the contents of the meatballs warranted a special sauce too so I dug into my Sicilian routes to make this dish. I wouldn’t be surprised if my great-great-great grandma would have created something similar in her kitchen. You won’t need to buy anything special to make this and chances are you have everything in your pantry right now. Here’s my modern day salute to Sicily.
Ingredients for “Meat” balls:
- 1/2 c almonds (or almond flour)
- 1/2 c oatmeal (you can use any binder here such as bread crumbs/day old bread)
- 1 can black olives (Lindsay are my favorite)
- 1/4 cup fresh grated parmesan cheese
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 egg
- 1/4 onion chopped roughly
- 1/2 tsp each salt and pepper
- 2-3 tbsp olive oil + oil for the pan
- In a food processor blend the almonds, oatmeal, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the almonds are very fine – nearly powder. You can use almond flour or any other kind of nut as well. Pour into a large mixing bowl.
- Next add a full can of drained black olives, garlic and onion to the food processor and pulse until the olives, garlic and onions resemble a paste. If this mix is dry stream some of the olive oil so that it blends well.
- Mix the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and add the egg. Continue to mix with your hands until everything is well combined. Begin rolling small palm-size balls.
- In a skillet preheat olive oil on medium-high heat and add the “meat”balls, making sure to leave enough space to turn them. Watch closely and rotate the meatballs so that all the sides are brown but not burnt. Remove from the heat when all sides are brown. Repeat until all meatballs are cooked.
- 3 large roma tomatoes, skin peeled
- 1/4 c crushed almonds or almond flour
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp each salt and pepper
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 1/4 c onions diced finely
- small handful of basil or spinach chopped
- red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tsp olive oil
Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are blended well, the almonds are fine and the basil or spinach are mixed into the sauce. Add the olive oil to a pot along with the blended tomato sauce. Heat on Medium-Low heat until it comes to a bubble. Test the seasoning and add more salt or pepper if needed. Red pepper flakes can also be used to bring up the heat.
This dish can be served with any type of pasta on hand, or as the main dish with another vegetable on the side. I’ve never met an Italian -American who didn’t have parmesan or asiago on the table to shave over a pasta dish so do include this as well! A nice rustic bread also adds to the dish.
I am entering this recipe to Lindsay Olives’ blogger contest for Eat, Write, Retreat in Washington D.C. All recipes, images, opinions, and ideas are my own.