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Entertaining

Just Another Meat Free Monday
March 4, 2010 • Posted by Jennifer Perillo

Imagine the kind of change that is a win-win for everyone. A campaign has taken hold to encourage people around the world to eat more responsibly. Honestly, it wasn’t a new concept to many of us home cooks. If you’re an avid twitterer like me, you’ve probably seen the #meatlessmonday hashtag. Then, a few weeks ago, Gwenyth Paltrow was enlightened by Paul McCartney’s UK-based Meat Free Monday campaign.

The premise is simple, yet the effect lasting. Taking meat out of the equation for just one day a week can positively impact your body, the planet and your budget. We’ve all experienced the rising costs of grocery bills. Imagine a meatless makeover of your favorite dishes. That’s just what I did recently. I’ve been crazy for lentils lately, and am in the habit of preparing a big pot of them at the beginning of the week. Well, one day I had a craving for meatballs but had no beef from my favorite farm in the freezer. I looked at the pot of lentils and had a pretty crazy idea—at least it was crazy for an Italian meat-eating girl from Brooklyn. What if I tried to re-create my recipe for meatballs using lentils instead of ground beef?

I was nervous at the start. I’m not afraid to fail in the kitchen but don’t like wasting ingredients either. As soon as I started mixing everything, that “what if” feeling went away. I knew I was on to something good. And, oh they are good…trust me. The best part is organic dried lentils cost less than $1.50 per pound—that’s a huge savings compared to the normal $8 per pound I spend for ethically raised meat at the farmer’s market. See, I told you, it’s a win for you, your wallet and Mother Earth.

Lentil-Ricotta "Meatballs"
makes about 18

These moist, tender “meatballs” soak up a lot of sauce, so be sure there’s enough in the pot if you plan on serving them with pasta. I prefer to make lentils from scratch so I can infuse them with herbs and shallots. If you decide to swap in canned ones, you’ll need to add some Italian seasoning for extra flavor. Regardless of canned or fresh made, pureeing them is quick and easy using the food processor attachment on your Cuisinart Stand Mixer.

2 cups cooked lentils, pureed
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup fresh ricotta
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 1/2 teaspoon chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Canola oil for frying

Marinara sauce, optional

  1. Add all ingredients to a deep bowl. Mix very well, using hands or a wooden spoon. Cover and refrigerate for two hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, shape mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls. Heat about 1/2-inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium flame. Add shaped "meatballs" and cook until browned all around, turning only once. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and let excess drain off. Add to simmering marinara sauce if serving immediately, or store in a tightly covered container up to three days.
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