Grain-based Italian meatballs

I’ve been waiting a long time to share this recipe with you – one month and three days shy of an entire year, to be exact.

grain-based Italian meatballs(1)tossed with a rich marinara and best-quality gluten free spaghetti

I’m a very impatient person – it’s felt like an e-t-e-r-n-i-t-y.

I think it’s worth it, though, and not just because I’m excited about these grain-based meatballs. You see, my dear friend Kathy just also happens to be a fantastic cookbook author – and she lets me test and develop recipes for her – and this particular recipe is on page 17 of her latest book, Vegan Slow Cooking – For Two – or Just For You.

deciphered for the massesAren’t you glad I didn’t just scan my original notes and make you try to decipher them?

Did I mention this is her third book? You should visit her site to see what she’s been up to, and to check out the other recipes being shared on this tour. Psst – I’m also giving away a copy of this book! Details in the recipe notes…

grain-based Italian meatballs(2)meatballs always taste better with a hunk of focaccia bread

Back to these meatballs. They are vegan, gluten free, made out of wholesome pantry staples, and free of any binders. They come together in less than 10 minutes, bake in 20, and work just as well as links. I prefer meatballs, though, so that’s what I’m sharing with you today.

meatballs in the makingmeatballs in-the-making
grain-based Italian meatballs-preready for the oven
grain-based Italian meatballs-postleftovers, for a repeat meal in 24 hours // the only reason I saved any was to show you how well they hold up // we always gobble these up in one night
grain-based Italian meatballs Day 2gently simmered for 5 minutes on day 2 // I think they held their shape nicely

Grain-based Italian meatballs

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These don’t have any binders – no ground flax or chia, no psyllium husk, no xanthan or guar gum. Why? Because when I create something new, I always start as simply as possible, and then go from there. I have no idea how they would do if fried, because I don’t like to fry things. I have no idea how they freeze, because I don’t like to freeze this sort of thing. But they’re damned good straight out of the oven. Want to win a copy of this book? Leave me a comment between now and midnight on Sunday, 29 September 2013, and a winner will be randomly selected. Fair Winds Press is letting me give away a print or digital copy, winner’s choice.

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1/2 cup cooked brown lentils, drained
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano or marjoram
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup cold, cooked long grain brown rice
1/2 cup cold, cooked quinoa
3/4 cup almond meal (not flour)
1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat oven to 350 F / 180 C and place a rack in the center position. Line a baking tray with parchment paper or oil lightly.

In a food processor, puree the first nine ingredients (lentils through black pepper) into a paste. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.

In the same food processor (no need to wash between steps), combine the grains, almond meal and nutritional yeast. Pulse until coarsely ground but not pureed.

Add the rice mixture to the lentil mixture and stir until everything is completely incorporated. It will have the texture of veggie loaf. Wet your hands and shape into links or meatballs. Space evenly on the try at least 1 inch apart.

If making links: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Turn the oven off, leave the tray inside for 10 more minutes, and then remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

If making meatballs: Bake for 10 minutes, flip over, bake for an additional 10 minutes. Remove the tray and allow to cool at room temperature to firm up.

Links are great for slicing into coins and reheat nicely in a dry or lightly oiled skillet. They can be layered in a dish a few minutes before serving, but won’t hold up if baked in something like a lasagne. If I’m making a baked pasta dish, I like to nestle them in the top just before the final broil – drizzled with a bit of additional sauce and sprinkled with gluten free breadcrumbs, they heat through but don’t fall apart.

Meatballs (or whole links) hold their shape well and can be gently simmered in a sauce for up to 5 minutes. They also reheat well, as long as you refrigerate any unused meatballs in a covered dish without sauce; the moisture will make them disintegrate.

Yield: 15 – 30 links or meatballs, depending on size; I usually end up with 20 medium-sized meatballs

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 20 minutes


One, two, three, four . . .

Yes, I’ve been listening to a lot of Feist lately. But it’s not penguins I’m counting . . .


Welcome to the Blue Plate Special tour stop for Kathy Hester’s virtual cookbook blogtour!  Today’s tour has four parts:

1. The nitty gritty.
Title: The Great Vegan Bean Book
Author: Kathy Hester
Blog: Healthy Slow Cooking
Publisher: Fair Winds Press
Why this book belongs on your bookshelf: Whether you’re a bean lover because they’re cheap or an heirloom bean aficionado for whom price is no object, you can make any of these recipes without breaking the bank. Recipes span everything from your traditional chili and curry to doughnuts(!) and popsicles(!!). Nearly every recipe has instructions to make them soy- or gluten-free.  Also!  Beans are high in fiber and protein. But I bet you already knew that.
Where to purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Herbivore, Indiebound

2. The sneak peek.


Niçoise salad


Indian chickpea yogurt salad


Blueberry almond oatmeal pancakes


Insanely flaky, melt in your mouth, gluten-free biscuits

3. The recipes.
With permission from Fair Winds Press, I’m sharing two recipes from the book with you today: one that is Kathy’s (Southern style gravy), and one that is mine (gluten-free biscuits). Below are the recipes as they appear in the book. In a separate post, I’m going to do my best Cooks Illustrated attempt at explaining the why’s and how’s of these gluten-free biscuits.

Gluten-free biscuits and Southern style gravy

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This gravy gets its Southern kick from a healthy dose of black pepper.  I like to round mine out with some fresh minced thyme and sage.  The biscuit recipe as printed in the book has my name in it, which is why they’re called “Monika’s” gluten-free biscuits.

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Southern-style white bean gravy:

1 1/2 cups (269 g) cooked white beans or 1 can (15 ounces, or 425 g), rinsed and drained
3/4 cup (175 ml) unsweetened nondairy milk (*use soy-free)
1/4 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon black pepper
Optional: 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon each of minced fresh sage, thyme, or rosemary

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste and add more pepper if it doesn’t pack a kick. Southern gravy is traditionally on the spicy side, but it’s just from ground black pepper.

Transfer to a saucepan and warm over low heat and then serve over homemade biscuits split in half.

Yield: 2 Cups | Prep time: 5 minutes | Cooking time: 10 minutes

Monika’s gluten free biscuits:

¾ cup (100 g) sweet sorghum flour, plus extra for kneading
¾ cup (90 g) millet flour
Scant ¼ cup (48 g) potato starch
6 tablespoons (45 g) tapioca flour or starch
2 teaspoons fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon (13.8 g) baking powder
½ cup (112 g) vegan shortening, chilled and cut into small cubes (*use soy free)
1 to 1 1⁄3 cups (230 to 307 g) plain soy yogurt (*use coconut yogurt)

Sift the flours, starches, salt, and baking powder thoroughly in a large bowl and then transfer to a food processor. Distribute the cubes of chilled shortening evenly over the surface of the flour and pulse several times until the pieces of shortening are the size of peas.

Add 1 cup (230 g) of the yogurt and pulse just until incorporated. The dough will be stiff, with a few dry spots. If needed, add the remaining 1⁄3 cup (77 g) yogurt and pulse to incorporate. Transfer the dough to a large bowl, cover, and chill for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 450˚F (230˚C, or gas mark 8) and place a cookie sheet on the center rack to preheat at the same time.

Tear a large piece of parchment paper the size of your cookie sheet. Lay it out flat and sprinkle lightly with gluten-free flour. Turn your dough out onto the parchment paper and sprinkle the top lightly with more flour so your fingers don’t stick.

Pat the dough out into a 1-inch (2.5 cm) rectangle, cut in half, and stack one half onto the other. Repeat five or six times, patting the final rectangle to ½ to ¾ inch (1.3 to 2 cm) tall.

Cut the rectangle into several small pieces (about 12 to 16). Space them out as much as you can over the piece of parchment paper. Using a peel or another baking sheet, carefully transfer the parchment paper onto the preheated cookie sheet. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the biscuits have turned golden.

These keep for up to 2 days if wrapped loosely in a dish towel, but taste best if eaten the same day.

Yield: 12-16 biscuits | Prep time: 45 minutes | Cooking time: 20-25 minutes

4.  The giveaway!

This giveaway is open to the U.S. and Canada. To win your own copy of this book, simply post a comment by midnight Pacific time on Monday, June 17th, 2013 (please make sure to leave some sort of way I can get in touch with you), and I’ll draw a random winner.

Congratulations, Diana!  Your name was drawn to win a copy of Kathy Hester’s The Great Vegan Bean Book.