Since we’ve modified our diet to a more plant-centered one, invitations for gatherings that involve food – and is there ANYTHING social that doesn’t? – usually bring about a natural concern that our omnivorous friends won’t even want to try our dish simply because once it’s labeled as “vegan” or “gluten-free”, to some people it automatically means bland, or worse, fake. We know that feeling. When we started to transition, we thought that vegan food either meant steamed broccoli and brown rice, or fake meats that taste absolutely nasty and not even close to the “real” thing. What we didn’t realize though is that the “real thing” is not what they eat anyway. Beside carpaccio or sashimi, every piece of animal based food has some kind of delicious seasoning to enhance/alter its natural flavor – even carpaccio and sashimi themselves are served with some kind of sauce, right? But we grew up enjoying those dishes, and why not continue to enjoy those flavors, but in a lighter, easier-to-digest version? So that’s what we did. Meatballs are certainly a staple in summertime potlucks, and we set out to create something with that meaty texture and flavor. Here’s what we used: 2 packages of gluten-free tempeh 1 Tbsp of smoked paprika 1 flax “egg” – 1 Tbsp flaxseed to 2.5 Tbsp water (let soak for 10 minutes prior) 1 Tbsp of fresh garlic 1 medium carrot, finely grated 1 tsp sea salt or to taste 2 shallots, minced 1 1/2 Tbsp gluten-free Worcestershire sauce 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast (this gives the cheesy flavor – and it’s good for you – easy to find at any health store!) Pinch of nutmeg 1 tsp each of dried basil and rosemary 1 Tbsp fresh chives, finely chopped 4 Tbsp cornmeal (1 for recipe and 3 for breading) 1 tsp chipotle sauce (you can make your own by processing the pepper in adobo sauce, or use the ready version sold in stores) – this, together with the smoked paprika and the Worcestershire sauce wild give it the smokey, meaty flavor and aroma. Start by steaming the tempeh above some boiling water. If you skip this step you might get a slight bitter aftertaste. While the tempeh steams up, chop the veggies or simply add them to a multi-processor with only 1 Tsbp of the cornmeal; reserve the fresh chives for the very end or add them by hand when all the other ingredients are incorporated. Pulse them all but not to a purèe. It’s nice to taste some of those in the final product! Transfer to a bowl and reserve. Add the tempeh to the processor and pulse a few times until it is no longer crumbling, but instead has a firm, doughy consistency. Add the tempeh and the chive to the other ingredients and mix it all up by hand. Spread the remaining 2 Tbsps of cornmeal in a bowl. Make little 1-inch balls and roll each in the cornmeal. Heat up a skillet and add some neutral tasting oil. Add half of the balls to the pan and gently move it back and forth, so as to get the balls evenly cooked. Careful not to do it too fast and watch them crumble and lose their shape! Serve it with your favorite marinara/puttanesca/barbecue sauce. Only add the sauce when ready to serve. If you add them to the sauce too soon they will get soft and eventually disintegrate. We mixed a hearty store-bought marinara with a tad of homemade barbecue sauce (recipe soon! ;)) and added some more nutritional yeast for the ‘parmesan’ flavor. Aren’t they cute? They look super brown in the picture but we promise they were not burnt – just crispy! Our friends said they were among the best dishes of the event – and to hear that from regular eaters is certainly an honor! How about you? Have a favorite recipe you’d like to share? We’d love to know how yours comes out if you decide to try it 😉 Cheers to a delicious dish! Gigi and Dani.