I am embarassingly late reporting back to you with the findings on my meatless meatballs adventure, friends and family. I made this dish about two months ago and have been holding it from you. I’m sure some of you have seen it on Amelia Morris’ bonappetempt blog where I found it and were perplexed by the meatless meatball.
Even if you’re not into the meatless meatball (how many times can you read that phrase without laughing??), the sauce alone is to die for. Here’s how I know: My roommate is a marinara sauce aficionado and she loved it PLUS a friend was over and along with eating my avocado cupcakes essentially licked the tupper ware clean. The magic that is slow-cooked tomato+garlic+olive oil+porcini mushroom flavored liquid was that much more special just because it was served at a Sunday night dinner.
I had an old friend and new friend over for dinner at my parents’ house when my grandmother was in town and wanted to get back to this kind of evening I used to have often. The first year out of college I thought that cooking was a way of guaranteeing the success of the evening – and I think many people see food this way. If I can crack the recipe, I can be sure something’s going right today.
My recent meatless mushroom meatball dinner gave me another view of what was really going on during most of my dinners. My old friend who attended has been a comrade in my adventures exploring adult life in Atlanta and my new friend reminded me of those sentiments of starting out in a new place. As we figured out which bars people go to in summer versus winter and how to not get lost parking at the Braves game (yes I am a native Atlantan and barely can figure that out), we always had Sundays every month or so at my parents’ house to remind us that the road is long and the bumps smooth out.
I realized that although the constant questioning of my life might not be there as much any more, Sunday night dinner will always be a peacemaker for somebody’s soul that night. My parents have always been a comforter and steadfast for me – I started thinking, maybe being an adult means that I am going to start being THEIR comforter on Sunday nights.
All of this is to say that I’m thankful for old friends who want to continue discussing politics (I always need a refresher), will taste my food, will sit and take a deep breath before starting the week, and never, ever, skimp on Sunday night dessert.
I hope you enjoy this!
(I doubled the recipe so don’t worry if yours doesn’t look like this much!)
1 large eggplant (1 1/4 pounds)
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, finely grated
Two 28-ounce cans imported whole Italian tomatoes, seeded and pureed with their juices ( I didn’t actually seed them before I pureed them – get the Cento kind they are really good!!
2 tablespoons chopped basil, plus leaves for garnish
Freshly ground pepper
3 cups fresh bread crumbs (from 6 ounces crustless country bread)
2 large eggs, beaten
2 ounces PArmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus more for serving
1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
All-purpose flour, for coating
1, Roast the eggplant after pricking it all over with a fork, at 350 for about 45 mins to an hour until it gets really soft.I’d wait a few minutes to scrape out the insides – but yes, you’ll want to get rid of as much of the skin as possible
2. While the eggplant is roasting, boil 1.5 cups water and pour over the mushrooms in a heatproof bowl. After 30 minutes strain but reserve the liquid. Rub the mushrooms of any grit and chop coarsely.
3. While you’ve got the eggplant in the oven and mushrooms soaking, heat the olive oil in a large deep skillet. Add onion and half the garlic until fragrant, careful not to burn the garlic. Puree your tomatoes at this point if you havent already. Add the tomatoes and mushroom soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for about an hour, honestly the longer the better. I think mine went for about 1.5 hours. Then add half the basil towards the end and taste test with salt and pepper.
4. Here’s where things get weird. Fold together the mushrooms, breadcrumbs, insides of the eggplant, rest of the garlic, rest of the basil, parsley, and cheese. It says 2 ounces of cheese – I did one batch with cheese and one without and both were delicious. Add 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Fold your mixture into small golf ball sized balls, dust with flour and refrigerate on a baking sheet for 20 mins.
5. When ready, heat a skillet to moderately high heat with a sheet of vegetable oil. Sear the meatballs until browned all over. After browning, drain them off on paper towels and add to your magical tomato sauce. It says simmer for 5 mins, I’d give it ten. Serve with crusty bread, torn basil and chocolate cake for dessert!!
So whose coming for dinner next Sunday?