I could not have been more excited when I found out that New York restaurant The Meatball Shop is releasing a cookbook. I love that The Meatball Shop sticks to what they’re good at. These guys can make a good meatball. In fact, they can make a few types of really freaking fantastic meatballs – and it’s what their menu is centered around. Their sides, in particular their roasted vegetables and salads, are delicious and inspired too.
The menu is a Choose Your Own Adventure-type deal: you get to mark your choices on the menu with a dry-erase marker. You choose the type of meat (or meatless) balls you’d like along with the type of sauce and the form it will come in. You can have them on a hero, on a round roll all smashed up, on a small individual slider, over mashed potatoes, salad or pasta. Or, if you’re a purist like myself, you can have them naked – which, in meatball terms, means they are served simply with sauce and a side of focaccia bread.
I’m not the only one who loves this place (although, I am probably one of the more enthusiastic fans) - the 3 hour wait for a table and their recent expansion in Williamsburg, Brooklyn are evidence enough of that. But I was sad to say goodbye to one of my favorite Lower East Side restaurants. News of the cookbook gave me hope that I could still enjoy some damn good meatballs in Australia.
While the book doesn’t actually come out until November, I have managed to gather a couple of recipes that have been previewed to excite people like myself. I found their recipe for their Vegetarian Meatballs on the Martha Stewart Radio Blog. I know, vegetarian meatballs sound downright awful to some, but these can hold their own next to beef and spicy pork meatballs. Admittedly, one of my favourite combinations is the classic beef with mushroom gravy, but I had such an abundance of beautiful vegetables this week I thought I would give the vegetarian variety a whirl.
The Meatball Shop’s Vegetarian Balls
I halved the original recipe since it was just Mr. F and I, so this made 12. I also swapped the mushrooms for eggplant because I only had shitakes on hand and also because I thought eggplant could be pretty awesome in these too.
- 1 cup of lentils cooked
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 celery rib chopped
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- 4 sprigs of thyme, picked
- 1.5 tablespoons of tomato paste
- 1.5 cups eggplant chopped (and two shitakes, just because they were there)
- 1/4 cup of chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs (I used a homemade blend made with sourdough soy linseed bread and parsley)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan
- 2 eggs
- 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts
1. Preheat the oven to 205 degrees.
2. Finely chop onions, garlic, carrots and celery in a food processor. Chop eggplant this way, separately.
3. Sautee the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt with olive oil in a large frying pan over a
medium-high heat, stirring frequently (about ten minutes). When the vegetables are tender and just beginning to
brown, add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly for three minutes. Add the eggplant and
continue cooking, stirring frequently for fifteen more minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan and allow to cool
4. Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand
until thoroughly incorporated.
5. Place the mixture in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely (about 25 minutes). Roll the mixture into round,
golf ball-sized meatballs making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls into an evenly oiled baking dish, such that all
of the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid.
6. Roast until firm and cooked through (about 30 minutes). Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing.
In conclusion, they came out fantastic. They were moist and flavourful and the eggplant version actually turned out very similar to a meatball made with meat (I was told I could have easily fooled my dining partner, which was not my intention – but good to know). I served them with a spicy tomato sauce made with onions, chili, garlic, paprika, canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and parsley. We also had a side of pan fried gnocchi with spinach and a browned butter sauce. It was a beautiful Friday night dinner in!
I enjoyed this addition to The Meatball Shop’s website. You might not.