‘Meatballs’ With Marinara
1/2 cup uncooked medium or long-grain brown rice
1 cup dried brown or green lentils
5 garlic cloves — 2 whole, 3 minced
2 tablespoons olive oil plus 1/2 cup for pan-frying
3/4 cup onion that has been very finely minced or grated using a box grater (about 1 medium onion)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (23- to 28-ounce) container tomato puree
1/2 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 / 4 cup unseasoned medium-grind breadcrumbs
1 egg, lightly beaten
Bring 3/4 cup water to a boil and add the rice. Return to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook until rice is tender, 40-45 minutes. Off the heat, keep the rice covered for 5 minutes. Measure out 1/2 cup of the cooked rice and transfer to a plate to cool completely. Refrigerate the remaining 1 cup of rice for another use.
Place lentils in a large saucepan, along with the 2 whole garlic cloves and 6 cups water. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then lower to medium. Cook the lentils until tender, 30 to 40 minutes. Drain thoroughly so that the lentils are dry. Allow to cool completely.
While lentils cook, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add 1/4 cup of the onion and the 3 minced garlic cloves, cooking until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon of the dried oregano and the tomato puree. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer about 20 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Place the cooled lentils and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until lentils are mashed. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and add cooled rice, remaining 1/2 cup onion, remaining 2 tablespoons oregano, and the grated cheese, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and egg. Stir the mixture until well mixed.
Using a 1/8-cup measure, shape into balls. They will be slightly sticky to the touch. Refrigerate 20 minutes. Heat oven to 325 degrees.
Over medium-high heat, heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet until the oil shimmers. Gently lower the balls into the hot oil, cooking in batches and making sure not to crowd the pan. Lower the heat to medium and fry on first side for about 3 minutes. Turn (or gently nudge) to second side and cook 2 minutes.
Transfer the first batch to a baking sheet, add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil to the skillet for subsequent batches and cook in the same manner. Transfer the balls to the oven to finish cooking about 5 minutes. The will dried out a bit and will have a slightly crispy coating.
Place the warm marinara in the bottom of a wide bowl and arrange the “meatballs” on top. Makes 6 servings.
Source: Adapted from “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations” by Kim O’Donnel (De Capo, $18.99).
Per serving: 482 calories (48 percent of calories from fat), 17 grams protein, 47 grams carbohydrates, 13 grams fiber, 27 grams fat (5 grams saturated), 41 milligrams cholesterol, 968 milligrams sodium.