LENTIL "MEATBALL" SEAHAWK SUBS
Hearty, healthy and delicious describes this winning half-time Superbowl sandwich. Kim O'Donnel, author of the "Meatlover's Meatless Cookbook," shows her Seahawk spirit in this special edition of Healthy Dish.
Lentil “Meatball” Subs
This year, we’re gonna let go of the chicken wings; I promise it won’t hurt. The plan I’ve cooked up isn’t just leaner on the jeans; it’s downright lip-smacking. Made from lentils, this meatball sub has all the flavor notes of an old-school Italian-American meatball. Tuck it into a bun with some marinara sauce, and you’ve got a champion in your own two hands.
6 3⁄4 cups water
1⁄2 cup uncooked medium- or long-grain brown rice
1 cup dried brown or green lentils
3-5 garlic cloves: 2 whole, 1-3 minced (to taste)
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1⁄2 cup for panfrying
3⁄4 cup very finely minced onion (about 1 medium-size onion)
3 teaspoons dried oregano
1 (23- to 28-ounce) container tomato puree, crushed tomatoes or your favorite prepared spaghetti sauce
1⁄2 cup finely grated Parmigiano- Reggiano cheese (or pecorino for a sheep’s milk option)
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1⁄4 cup unseasoned medium-grind bread crumbs
2 eggs, beaten lightly
6 (6-inch) sub rolls, toasted
Optional topping: 4 ounces sharp provolone or Cheddar cheese
Tools: Food processor or handheld potato masher, 10- or 12-inch skillet
Kitchen notes: Both the lentils and rice must be completely cooled before mixing together and shaping into balls; otherwise you’ll have a goopy, unworkable mess on your hands. You’ll need about an hour of advance prep time before the meatball assembly can commence. The balls can be assembled in advance and cooked when ready to serve, as can the sauce. The recipe yields 26 to 30 meatballs, which make 6 to 8 ample servings. It is important to note that the balls are more delicate compared to their meaty counterparts, and care should be given when frying.
Cook the rice: Bring 3⁄4 cup of the water to a boil, then add the rice. Return to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 40 minutes. Off the heat, keep the rice covered for 5 minutes. Measure out 1⁄2 cup of the cooked rice and transfer to a baking sheet or plate to cool completely. Refrigerate the remaining 1 cup of rice for another use.
While the rice is cooking, prepare the lentils: Place the lentils in a large saucepan, along with the 2 whole garlic cloves and the remaining 6 cups of the water. Over high heat, bring to a boil, then lower the heat to medium. Cook the lentils until tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Drain thoroughly so that the lentils are dry. Allow to cool completely.
While the lentils cook, prepare the marinara sauce: In a medium-size saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over medium heat, then add 1⁄4 cup of the onion and the minced garlic cloves, cooking until slightly softened, about 3 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of the dried oregano and stir occasionally to minimize sticking.
Add the tomato puree and stir to combine the mixture. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat so the sauce can simmer. Cover and cook for about 20 minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve. (For prepared marinara sauce, you do not need to add oil, onions, etc. Simply heat until warmed through over medium heat, cover, and keep warm over low heat.)
Put the cooled lentils and garlic in a large bowl, and with a handheld potato masher, mash until the lentils are pasty and somewhat smooth. (You can also use a food processor, using the “pulse” button.)
Add the cooled rice, the remaining 1⁄2 cup of onion, the remaining 2 teaspoons of oregano, and the grated cheese, salt, black pepper and bread crumbs. With a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, stir until well mixed. Gradually add the beaten eggs and stir; you’ve got enough when the mixture is both glossy and holds together. (Store any remaining egg in the refrigerator and use promptly for another use.)
Using a 1⁄8-cup measure, shape into balls. They will be slightly sticky to the touch. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 325°F.
Over medium-high heat, heat 1⁄4 cup of the olive oil in a 10- or 12-inch skillet until the oil shimmers. Gently lower the balls into the hot oil, cooking in batches and making sure not to crowd the pan, as they are somewhat delicate and benefit from space. Lower the heat to medium and panfry on the first side for about 3 minutes. Turn (or gently nudge) to second side and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the first batch to a baking sheet. Add the remaining 1⁄4 cup of olive oil to the skillet for subsequent batches and cook in the same manner. Transfer the balls to the oven to finish cooking, about 5 minutes; the balls will still be somewhat soft to the touch but will have dried out a bit and will have a slightly crispy coating.
To keep the balls warm while you prepare your sub fixins, lower the oven temperature to 225°F.
Recommended Topping Option: Sautéed Broccoli Rabe
Kitchen notes: Broccoli rabe (also spelled raab) is a cool-weather crop also sold as rapini. It’s more closely related to turnip greens than to broccoli, and is not the same thing as broccolini, a hybrid. If the assertive-flavored rabe is too bitter for you or it’s not available, feel free to substitute other quick-wilting greens, such as chard, spinach, or baby kale. (No need to blanch; just go straight to the sauté step.)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 bunch broccoli rabe, washed and stalk ends removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 cloves garlic, smashed
1⁄4 teaspoon red chile pepper flakes
Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the salt. Add the greens and cook for about 90 seconds. With tongs, remove from the pot and drain in a colander. Pat dry with a towel, then chop into 1-inch pieces.
Swirl the oil into a 10- or 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat, until the oil shimmers. Add the broccoli rabe and garlic, and lower heat to medium to minimize burning the garlic. Cook for about 3 minutes, turning with tongs for even coverage. Season with the red chile pepper flakes, plus salt to taste.
Putting It All Together
As part of a sandwich: Into each toasted sub roll, tuck three or four lentil balls, followed by 1⁄4 cup marinara sauce. With tongs, lay about 1⁄4 cup of broccoli rabe on top. If adding cheese, cut into thin slices and lay on top of the sandwich as is or melt under a broiler. Cut subs into half and hold together with toothpicks.
In a bowl: Ladle about 1⁄2 cup of marinara sauce over three or four lentil balls. Top off each bowl with about ¼ cup of wilted greens.
Makes 6 servings.
Excerpted from “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Celebrations” by Kim O’Donnel by arrangement with Da Capo Lifelong , a member of the Perseus Books Group. Copyright 2012.