ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

Disclaimer: these are not meatballs, they are actually vegetarian. But it’s hard to avoid the association. Eggplant Balls? Eggplant Morsels? Nah, neither one works for me. Plus, “meatballs” is  the way Katie Lee referred to them in the FoodTV show The Kitchen, so I can always lay blame on her. Having said that, these are pretty awesome. A bit more work than you might expect, but worth it. What makes them a bit more involved is the fact that you must (according to Katie) process each component separately.  Other than that, a very straightforward method, for a tasty alternative to meatballs.

ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT MEATBALLS
(slightly modified from Katie Lee)

6 cups small cubed eggplant, peel left on (from 1 large eggplant)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, quartered
1/2 cup unsalted raw cashews
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
1 large egg, lightly whisked

Heat oven to 450 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place eggplant in a large mixing bowl and slowly drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Stir and drizzle in an additional tablespoon of oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper and toss to combine. Spread on a prepared baking sheet. Combine mushrooms and remaining teaspoon oil and spread on remaining baking sheet.

Bake eggplant and mushrooms 10 minutes, then stir and bake an additional 10 minutes.

Reduce oven heat to 400 degrees F. Pulse eggplant a few times in a food processor until coarse in texture. Transfer to a large mixing bowl. Pulse mushrooms until coarse and add to the same bowl. Pulse cashews until coarse and transfer to bowl.  Add panko, ginger, basil, egg, salt and pepper to the mixture and stir to combine.

Use a small ice cream scoop or yours hands to scoop eggplant mixture into 12 balls and arrange on reserved lined baking sheet. Bake until crispy and browned, about 20 minutes.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: This was our dinner on a Monday, so I prepared everything up to the final roasting on the day before. It would be too hard to make it after work, but if you can spread the preparation in two days, it is perfect. Less than 30 minutes and a nice dinner is ready for you. I took them into a more Italian territory by warming up some tomato sauce and serving with them. These are quite delicate, so don’t try to simmer them covered in the sauce, they might fall apart.  Mine were probably more fragile even, because since my eggplant was a bit small, I included one zucchini in the mixture.  Zucchini has quite a bit more moisture, and I should have adjusted the amount of panko to account for that.  I am giving you the original recipe, and advise you to stick with eggplant and mushrooms only.

Making them the day before also helps them retain the shape during baking, but you could stick them in the fridge for an hour or so and proceed with roasting.  It is nice to reduce the amount of meat we consume, so these are quite likely going into our regular rotation. They could work well also as appetizers, making them smaller and serving with a dipping sauce, perhaps a tahini-yogurt to keep with the Asian flavor, if so desired.  Two thumbs up from both of us, omnivores at heart…

 

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12 thoughts on “ASIAN-STYLE EGGPLANT “MEATBALLS”

  1. I love eggplant (part Sicilian here), and make various concoctions from them. At the risk of sounding MORE LIKE A GOD THAN USUAL, allow me to pass on a few things I’ve learned:

    1. There’s a helluva lotta liquid in Globe eggplants. This makes it tough on some cooking procedures like – yup – these meatballs. They’re “delicate” because of the high water content. Do yourself a favor and draw some of that water out before you start any other prep. Slice-n-score, or cube, place on a rack over a catch basin, and liberally salt those puppies. Let osmosis do its thing for at least an hour, then rinse ’em off (I sqeeeeeeeze them too, because they feel like boo…er, because it gets even more liquid out). Then dry them off and be on your merry way. (BTW, if you do the slice-n-score, cut the slices thicker than you normally would because you’ll be losing volume and mass. Ie: they’re gonna be thinner when you’re done.)

    2. Accepted wisdom is that the bigger the eggplant, the more bitter the liquid. I always will get two medium eggplants rather than one large one, since you never get *all* the liquid out with salting.

    3. The Italian word for eggplant is “melanzana”, but in the Sicilian dialect it’s “mulignan”. Don’t ever call an Italian either one, unless your capoeira fighting skills are at Master level.

    4. Did you know you can sex an eggplant? (Not like that. Stop it.) Technically eggplants are fruits, so they don’t have a gender. But there are two types often referred to as “male” and “female”. The “male” eggplant’s indentation on the bottom is round and pretty shallow – that’s what you want. Those generally have fewer seeds than the “female” version, with a deeper, more slit-like indentation. (I said stop it.)

    5. Or you could just say “screw it” and get some Japanese/Chinese eggplants. Fewer seeds, no need to dessicate them, and what liquid they contain is less bitter. Unless I’m making cutlets for parmigiana, or New Orleans eggplant boats, I often substitute these Asian beauties for the Globes.

    But other than that…you’re recipe looks great!

    As usual 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • oh, thank you, thank you thank you! Yes, I took notes… I was so excited about your comment that I read “they’re gonna be thinner than you are” instead of “thinner when you’re done” – well, I am definitely not as thin as an eggplant after a good session of roasting, particular if you start with Japanese mulignan…

      I knew about the sex thing. But that’s the only thing I knew from your pearls of wisdom. I bet you are not surprised. Stop it now. I said stop… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • NOTHING is thinner than you. Kids in South Sudan look at you and think, “wow, she’s THIN!”. Personally, I think you should bard those eggplants in bacon, cover them in ganache, and stick them inside crullers. Covered in more ganache. Get some meat on you.

        You’re welcome, but –

        I CAN’T STOP IT!! (I mentioned I’m part Sicilian, right? You can’t fight genetics….)

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        • I often stick the salted and rinsed product between a couple of tea towels (or tons of paper towels if I think my wife is gonna see what I’m doing and scream about the dark liquid stains) and lay a big’s ol’ Le Creuset on them. As long as you’re strong enough to lift those cast iron bad boys, you don’t have to worry about arthritic hands at all! 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

          • I’ve got another method for you – which in fact I sent to Fine Cooking decades ago and won a few prizes for it… good times! anyway, slice the eggplant, salt the slices, assemble the eggplant back into melanzana shape (sorry, could not resist) – now get som saran wrap and wrap the thing tightly – very tightly – let it sit however long you need. The liquid will form and accumulate inside the package, and the pressure you put while wrapping that baby will be enough to get the juices flowing – If you have to do several eggplants, just do them individually – this is such a nice method… (modesty aside)… no mess, no weight, no pressure… just make sure to open the package over the sink so wife will be happy…

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Delicious! I love when you can divide the preparation across a couple of days. I am always so happy when I come home from work and part of the food prep is done! 💕

    Like

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