Recently I threw a party for a group of friends and I thought pasta would be a good dish to serve, but I had to be mindful of everyone's dietary restrictions. So, I boiled up some veggie pasta (my housemate just got a Veggetti and we wanted to try it out), but it still needed something else.
But half of my dinner guests were vegetarian. So I decided to get creative and make veggie meatballs.
Step 1: Ingredients
The ingredients are as follows:
- 1 Can Black Beans
- 1/2 Cup Pearled Barley
- 3 Tbsp. Black Bean Paste
- 1 Tbsp. Onion Powder
- 2 Tspn. Garlic Powder
- 2 Tspn. Parsley
- 2 Tspn. Oregeno
- 2 Tspn. Basil
- 2 Tspn. Thyme
- Olive Oil (for pan frying)
You can play around with the seasonings and herbs, that is just the combination I used. The most important components are the first three. The beans give the meatballs protein, color and structure while the barley gives the meatballs substance and texture. The black bean paste gives the meatballs that umami taste that is missing without the meat.
Step 2: Prepare the Barley
Barley is a great, hearty alternative to other carbohydrates and starches like rice. It has a great texture and pairs well with almost anything.
To prepare the barley, boil 1 1/2 cup of water then add the 1/2 of barley once boiling. Reduce the heat and cover until all the water has been absorbed (around thirty minutes).
Step 3: Prepare the Beans
While the barley is cooking, drain and rinse the black beans. Put the rinsed beans into a blender, food processor or hand mixer and puree. Use a spatula to scrape the sides to ensure a consistent paste.
It is important to use a mechanical blender to release the starches in the bean, which will act as a binding agent for the meatballs. It's the same concept (but opposite goal) of why you wouldn't blend potatoes, or else you'll end up with sticky mashed potatoes.
Step 4: Mix
Once your barley is cooked and beans blended, mix everything together in a mixing bowl with a wooden spoon or your hands. You'll probably want the barley to cool a little bit before sticking your hands in there though!
Step 5: Fry
Form the mixture into balls with the palm of your hands. I found that balls of about 1-1.5" (~30 cm) in diameter work best. They're fairly sticky uncooked, so the best method I found was to heat 1-2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a pan then roll and drop each ball in individually. Cooking them this way keeps them from getting stuck together while spreading out their cook times for a more manageable approach. Take a look at my setup in the pictures for an idea of what the cook station should look like.
Brown the meatballs on each side for 1-2 minutes then flip gently with tongs or your utensil of choice. Once the meatballs are brown on all sides put them on a paper towel-lined plate to allow the extra oil to drip off. Continue the process until all meatballs are done. The recipe makes about 24 meatballs.
Step 6: Serve
Plate the meatballs separately or on top of your favorite dishes right before serving. They look great and taste even better!
While they're not going to taste just like meat, they're pretty close and they fulfill that craving for protein. They're also not as tough as meatballs. so take that into consideration when putting them into a meatball sandwich or a sauce with a lot of liquid (they will eventually begin to dissolve).
In the end, they were a huge success and really easy to make. I'll definitely be making them again!