Vegetarian Quinoa meatballs stuffed with Mediterranean heart, drowned in a thick mushroom sauce
Time: prep 20 mins
(+soaking time for quinoa)
cooling 30 mins
or in deep freeze 10 mins
cooking 15 mins
Yield: 2 servings
In line with what has already been said in the recipe for Quinoa balls, vegan and gluten free with mixed seeds, regarding ethical problems, without exaggerating the frequency and quantity, certainly take advantage of the health benefits contained in quinoa, so surprising and so useful for those who want to reduce the meat intake. If you find quinoa grown in Europe, stock up on it.
Having resolved the ethical issue, let’s also talk about the aspect that may influence negatively the decision to reduce the consumption of animal products: the excessive intake of carbohydrates and consequently gaining weight. In this case the solution is to pay attention to calories, preferring complex carbohydrates with more fiber and avoiding associations with fatty foods. For this reason, combining these tasty vegetarian quinoa meatballs with Mediterranean heart with a fulfilling mushroom sauce could be an excellent idea; as mushrooms, besides being very rich in fiber, are also low in fat. In addition, with their high content of antioxidants such as ergothioneine and glutathione, they are valuable collaborators in the fight against free radicals. Furthermore, these substances, together with the presence of selenium, perform a very efficient anti-inflammatory action that serves to strengthen our immunity defenses (especially for people who are recovering from some disease).
Moreover, it should be noted that mushrooms are one of the few non-animal foods able to synthesize Vitamin D, which is as useful for the immune system as it is to fight many serious pathologies like multiple sclerosis, Chron’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.
To do this, I recommend placing them in direct sunlight for about twenty minutes before cooking*, so as to stimulate the conversion of ergosterol – a precursor of vitamin D – into Vitamin D2: as it happens exactly in our skin when we expose ourselves to the sun.
So if in addition to delighting the palate, you also want to give your body a little boost, the recipe is as follows.
For approx. 8 meatballs
8 tbsp of quinoa – already washed, cooked and cooled
1 tbsp of chickpea flour
1-2 tbsp wholewheat bread crumbs
salt (better little salt or, no salt at all; since olives and dried tomatoes contain a lot)
Oil for cooking
How to cook Quinoa?
For many, cooking quinoa is still a mystery. But nothing could be simpler: after washing and soaking it for a few hours, and changing the water a few times, you are ready to cook it. I should underline a point: even if you see written “does not require washing / soaking” on the package, I suggest you not to skip this step anyway, as the quinoa seeds contain high levels of saponins, which are molecules similar to detergent and soluble in water and/or methanol; these can have toxic effects on the mucosal walls of the intestines. They are washed industrially, but repeating it one more time won’t harm. So, after completing this phase, put a saucepan with a little oil on the fire and add the quinoa seeds well strained; raise the flame to moderate or high for 2-3 minutes continuing to stir with a wooden spoon. Then add the vegetable broth or simple water, until the seeds are covered (it usually takes double volume of the quinoa you put); add a little salt and cover with a lid, lower the heat. When the quinoa has absorbed all the water, you will see that the seeds are puffier, which means it’s ready. For our recipe, let it cool down by pouring it into a bowl at room temperature
For Mediterranean heart filling
1 little onion chopped finely
1 handful of desalinated capers chopped coarsely (soak them in warm water with dried tomatoes for desalinate then, when you soak quinoa)
ten green olives cut roughly
4 slices of dried tomatoes, cut roughly – ten minutes before using soak them in hot water
1 tbsp of tomato paste
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
A sprig of rosemary
thyme, black pepper, red hot pepper (optional)
1 tbsp of parsley finely chopped (or basil, optional)
½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
For mushroom sauce
5-6 brown champignon mushrooms, or 1 large portobello, cut into thin slices
½ tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon of rye flour (I use this flour but if you don’t have it you can also use wholemeal wheat flour)
½ glass of water or vegetable broth
4 tablespoons of soy milk (or other unsweetened vegan milk)
Mix the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl: depending on the desired consistency, you could add another tablespoon of chickpea flour. Then leave the mixture to stiffen for 30 minutes in the fridge, or 10 minutes in the freezer: this will make it easier to give them a shape.
Veganize this recipe!
Those who want a vegan formula could replace the egg with 2 tablespoons of chia seeds: 10 minutes before preparation put the seeds in 4 tablespoons of water, to give them a jelly consistency
In the meantime, prepare the filling to create Mediterranean hearts. In a non-stick pan, sauté the onion cut into cubes; add the small pieces of capers, dried tomatoes (both desalinated properly), and the small pieces of olives with the sprig of rosemary; stir-fry them for 1 minute and add the tomato puree; cook for another minute and turn off the stove, then transfer them to a bowl to cool a little bit. Remove the rosemary sprig and add the parsley or basil when it is cold.
Once the stiffening time in the fridge is over, divide the mixture into 8 “ping pong balls”. Dampen your hands from time to time, and “drill” a hole at one end of the ball with your index finger, gently so as not to break the structure of the meatball.
Put a teaspoon full of stuffing inside the hole, then cover it by shaping the ball with your hands. To conclude this part of preparation well, which requires a minimum of manual skill, the mixture must be very cold and the hands wet. Then smoothly crush the balls giving them the shape of a burger. Then place them inside a non-stick pan already hot and oiled. 5-6 minutes of cooking over moderate heat will be enough to turn them on the other side: you will understand the right moment when the underside of the meatball will no longer stick to the spatula or pan. Cook an additional 4-5 minutes and the meatballs will be ready to be served with a thick brown champignon mushroom sauce.
To pair these two portions of meatballs, use 100 grams of thinly sliced brown mushrooms; sauté them in a pan with a little oil for 5 minutes without adding salt. Then in a small saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook the wholewheat flour with a little oil, as if to make a roux (a sort of thickener); afterwards add water and vegetable milk, both cold, continuing to stir with the spoon to avoid forming lumps. When the sauce begins to thicken, add the sauteed mushrooms, keeping a spoonful of mushrooms aside. Finally, homogenize the sauce using a hand blender, but not too much so as to keep the mushrooms visible… and drown the vegetarian quinoa meatballs stuffed with Mediterranean heart in this hot mushroom sauce.
Put 3-4 tablespoons of sauce on a plate, place the meatballs on top, decorate with more sauce along with the mushrooms kept aside and be ready to receive the compliments.
Enjoy your dinner and good revolution to all
(*) Cardwell, Glenn et al. “A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D.” Nutrients vol. 10,10 1498. 13 Oct. 2018, doi:10.3390/nu10101498