Sam and I love to shop at Harry’s Farmers Market in Marietta. If you’re a fan of Good Eats on Food network, you’ve most likely seen Alton Brown shooting a few segments at Harry’s. Because the store is a Whole Foods concept (organic and locally grown produce, with a heavy focus on vegetarianism and vegans) prices are often a bit spendy compared to a regular grocery store. But we are always able to find specialty ingredients, unusual fruits and veggies, bulk packages of raw nuts and freshly ground nut butters, and they carry a wide variety of ethnic foods and ingredients – Indian, English, German, and Mexican are the ones we’re most interested in. Because Sam and I are both foodies, we end up spending way to much money when we shop there, so we try to limit our trips to once a month or once every six weeks.
On one of our trips, we picked up a bag of TVP granules. Sam is doing Weight Watchers, and he’s looking for ways to get bulk food for the least amount of points. We have been enjoying the Boca and Quorn meatless products, so we figured why not try a natural soy product. What did we have to lose, except $5?
Needless to say, I’ve been wracking my brain for the last six weeks as to how to cook it. The recipe on the package is for red beans and “rice”, which I’m not a real fan of, especially in 90 degree heat. I considered making veggie burgers out of it, but we have all the Boca burgers, so that seemed a bit boring. I toyed around with tacos or sloppy joes, but we have meatless crumbles for that. I thought of meatloaf and stroganoff, but again, it’s too hot for that. So finally yesterday, I was craving pasta and meatballs. I didn’t have any thawed ground beef, and I didn’t have enough Quorn crumbles, so I decided to use the TVP. I was skeptical, I’ll admit, but I figured it was worth a try, and if it was horrible I could just toss it and chock it up to experience.
I dug out my usual ingredients for meatballs – onions, garlic, jalapenos, Italian seasonings, parsley, breadcrumbs, eggs, salt and pepper, and the bag of TVP. I put the electric kettle on to boil and measured out a cup and a half of TVP. As I added the boiling water, I noticed that it smelled very nutty, and once it had absorbed the hot water the texture was similar to instant oatmeal, although a bit drier. I also discovered that it didn’t really have much of a taste to it, so I knew I was going to have to over season it.
After adding in all my ingredients, I quickly pan seared the “meatballs” so they’d have a nice crust on them and hold together more like a traditional meatball would. I finished them off in the oven while the pasta and sauce were working together, and then gently tossed the meatballs into the pasta just before serving so they wouldn’t fall apart.
When the moment of truth arrived, both Sam and I were pleasantly surprised at how good they really did taste.
They tasted like a very fine textured meatball, which is what we like. The outside was crispy while the inside was moist and flavorful. They held up beautifully in the sauce, and we both decided that they’d make a wonderful meatball sub. Honestly, they were really good, and they had the added bonus of no gristle, fat, bone, or veins to deal with. The flavor was that of my regular Italian style meatballs, and it is certainly a meal that I wouldn’t hesitate to serve to a guest. In fact, the meatballs were so good, I don’t think a guest would realize it was meatless.
Hummmmm, I’m having guests over for dinner in a few weeks, maybe I’ll try this out on them. I do have half a bag of TVP left. Now that would be the ultimate test, wouldn’t it? I’ll have to think on that.
I really encourage you to try this recipe out, especially if you’re trying to eat healthier or you’re just looking for ways to cut added cholesterol and fat out of your diet. TVP is gluten-free, and can be substituted in any meatball (or meatloaf) recipe you have – Italian, Swedish, sweet and sour, Hungarian, Indian, grape jelly, or bar-b-que.
Italian Style Meatballs
1 1/2 cups dried TVP granules
1 1/2 scant cups of boiling water
1 small onion, minced and sauteed
2 jalapeno peppers, minced and sauteed (optional)
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper, minced and sauteed
1/2 to 3/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs
2 tablespoons Italian seasonings
1 tablespoon oregano
2 teaspoons parsley
1 – 2 teaspoon seasoned salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 large egg
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
1. In a small bowl, reconstitute TVP with boiling water. Cover bowl and set aside for 5 to 10 minutes.
2. While TVP is softening up, saute onion, jalapeno pepper and bell pepper in a skillet sprayed with cooking spray. You’ll want the veggies to be soft and translucent, but not mushy.
3. In a large bowl, add the reconstituted TVP, sauteed veggies, and the remaining ingredients. Work the mixture with a large spoon or your hands, until it’s sticky and holds together. If the mixture is too dry, add a few sprinkles of warm water. If it’s too wet, add in a teaspoon or two of bread crumbs. This is a very organic process – essentially, you want to get the mixture to hold together without being overly wet and sticky, but also not too dry.
4. Heat the same dirty skillet you sauteed the veggies in. You can use a couple of teaspoons of olive oil, or just spray it with cooking spray – it’s your choice how much fat you want, I used a few drops of oil. Form the mixture into 1″ meatballs. Cook the meatballs in the hot skillet for 3 -4 minutes, turning often – you’re looking for a nice crust on the meatballs. Place the hot meatballs in a small baking dish that’s been sprayed lightly with cooking spray. (**Note: at this point, you can cover the meatballs in any sauce of your choice and bake it – that will work especially well if you’re making meatball subs or cocktail meatballs.)
5. Bake the meatballs for 15 – 20 minutes. Once the meatballs are cooked, you can stir them into pasta, sweet and sour, grape jelly, bar-b-que sauce, or you can dump the cooked meatballs into a crock pot set on low heat with the sauce of your choice to be served later.