"Well, those sound really good, but can you really call them 'meatballs' if they don't have any actual meat?" - my parents, when I practically drooled over the phone about these so-called meatballs.
"I mean, it's either that or 'lentil-balls', which, for some reason, sounds even less appealing to me than an actual rolled up ball of animal flesh," - me, in response (slightly self-questioning at first, but then in solidified self-assurance).
Thoughts of this recipe (yes, I do actually genuinely dream about and think about food several times throughout any given day) first popped into mind as I scrolled through my collection of recipes and food pictures from two-three years ago all the way until a few days ago. It wasn't so much an act of conceited pride as one of innocent boredom, which illuminated how my diet has changed since I first started photographing and documenting my food.
The most drastic changes appear within my transition to veganism. Cutting out meat and dairy was a pretty big step (duh), but even bigger were the steps I took back and forth between the well-known high-carb, low-fat (HCLF) branch of veganism and just plain vegan. HCLF caught my attention during my first few weeks as a vegan and I absolutely loved it, but then veggie burgers and deep-fried falafel and donuts (vegan, of course) and oreos (did you know they're vegan?) got all up in my HCLF business and flaunted themselves oh-so-irresistibly. What was I supposed to do? Pass them up for some dates instead?
Don't get me wrong - dates (the sugary, juicy, sweet, caramelly kind that do not involve awkward car rides, fancy dinners, and cute boys) hold their own special place in my heart, but come on, you can't expect me to just walk on by that vegan mozzarella cheese on the grocery shelf and ignore it's pairing ability with these (oil-free, anyone?) lentil 'meatballs' solely because it doesn't fall under the list of whole foods. A list I follow about 85-90% of the time, might I add...
Hmm, so these are deceptive little "meatballs", themselves, and then I slide some phony vegan "cheese" underneath - who do I think I am, anyway? Sometimes I don't even know, but in the context of this post, I guess you can think of me as the forever-hungry creator of one of the best, easiest, most eye-catching (not to toot my own horn) not-so-meaty "meatball" melts - vegan-college-student-version.
Makes 10 meatballs, 2 half-sandwiches
For the Lentil Meatballs:
1 cup cooked lentils
1 tsp. minced garlic (or one clove, minced)
2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. flaxseed meal + 5-6 tbsp. water)
1 tbsp. grated vegan parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
3-4 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup buckwheat flour (or any other whole-grain flour)
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup chopped parsley
For the melts:
2 slices whole grain bread
1 cup steamed kale
1-2 slices vegan mozzarella cheese (I used Follow Your Heart)
Extra grated vegan parmesan cheese
Extra parsley, for garnish
Lentil Meatballs (I used two per slice of bread)
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Using a food processor or high-power blender, process the lentils, garlic, flax eggs, vegan parmesan cheese, and tomato paste until almost smooth. Set aside.
- In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, spices, and parsley and add to the lentil mixture. Stir until combined.
- Form the "meat" into golfball-size portions, set on the baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
- Lay the steamed kale, cheese slices, and lentil meatballs on each slice of bread and sprinkle with extra grated vegan parmesan. Broil on high until the cheese slices have melted, then remove and top with extra parsley.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!