Meatless Monday: Zucchini “Meatballs” With Red Sauce
Enthusiastically is how you responded to last week’s proposal for a weekly meatless feature. We take that as a “yes” and we’ve decided to waste no time in getting started.
Welcome to the first edition of Meatless Monday, a Mighty Appetite feature that explores the idea of taking a break from meat one day a week. Although many readers have expressed an interest in diversifying their diets, they also tell me that they don’t know how and could use a little help in the motivation department.
That’s why, starting today and every Monday, I’ll dish up a different recipe (with Casa Appetite testing notes, as always), but the meat will nowhere to be found. It won’t be on the side, it won’t be in the soup stock, it just won’t be -- for one day of the week.
Curiosity can often be a great motivator -- and a recipe doesn’t hurt, either.
This week’s menu is a take on kofte, spiced ground meat patties eaten as street food in the Middle East, the Balkans and south Asia. The way these fry up, though, they almost look like Middle Eastern kibbe.
Because I had a handful of ripe tomatoes that were running out time, I decided to make a marinara sauce, seasoned only with a few cloves of garlic and salt. The sauce was beautiful, naturally sweet and a perfect complement to the zucchini.
A few things to keep in mind:
The original recipe, as published in Gourmet magazine, is eggless, but I discovered that the binding action of one egg was necessary to help minimize splitting kofte in the hot oil. Feel free to experiment with other binders, including ground-up bulgur wheat, which is a traditional filler.
I highly recommend trying the bulgur pilaf, which is full of flavor and a lot of promise for playing with other root veggies.
Should you decide to do this on a weeknight, do the pilaf by itself or do the kofte and sauce. All three dishes after a long day at work would be too labor intensive. The other option is to make the pilaf the night before, then use pilaf leftovers with your kofte and sauce on the second night.
The recipe calls for forming the kofte into balls, and I think it's a shape worth pursuing so that they look like meatballs on top of your red sauce. However, if the ball thing isn't working for you and they aren't holding together, make'em into patties. They'll still taste just as good.
Zucchini Kofte With Root Veggie-Bulgur Pilaf
Adapted from the October issue of Gourmet
About 4 cups zucchini (from 3 medium zucchini), coarsely grated
2 garlic cloves
½ cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
½ cup packed cilantro sprigs
1 cup rinsed and drained canned chickpeas (I used the entire 15-ounce can)
3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ cup plain bread crumbs
1 egg (My addition, after kofte refused to hold together in hot oil)
About 1 quart vegetable oil for frying
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups bulgur
1 pound medium beets with greens, beets peeled and diced (1/4 inch), stems discarded and greens coarsely chopped (I substituted about six carrots, coarsely grated)
4 cups water
1/3 cup slivered almonds, toasted (I substituted equal amounts walnuts)
1 cup plain yogurt
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
(Taking advantage of the end of tomato season, I cooked down five tomatoes with a few cloves of garlic in a sauce pan, until tomatoes were soft, then passed the mixture through a food mill, resulting in a skinless, seedless puree.)
Toss grated zucchini with one teaspoon salt in a colander. Let stand 10 minutes.
Pulse garlic, parsley and cilantro in a food processor until finely chopped.
Wrap zucchini in a kitchen towel and twist to wring out as much liquid as possible.
Mash chickpeas with a fork (or a mortar and pestle or potato masher). Combine chickpeas with zucchini, garlic mixture, spices, bread crumbs and ¼ teaspoon in a large bowl.
Using a 1/8 measuring cup (or 2 tablespoons) to portion kofte and roll into balls. Refrigerate kofte on a baking tray while making bulgur.
Cook onion and garlic in oil and butter in a deep 1o-inch heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 5-7 minutes. Stir in bulgur, ½ teaspoon salt and black pepper to taste, and cook, stirring until fragrant and a shade darker, about four minutes.
Stir in beets (or carrots) and water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until water is absorbed and vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in greens (if using) and cook until just wilted, about one minute. Fluff bulgur with a fork, then sprinkle with nuts.
Fry kofte: Heat oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers (You want the oil to be at least 325 degrees) Fry kofte in batches, turning once until golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
(I kept kofte in a 250-degree oven to keep warm while frying the rest of the batch)
Makes four kofte and sauce servings; makes about six or seven pilaf servings.
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