Vegetarian 'Meat'balls

Cooking vegetarian in Ecuador is more difficult than in the States, for me anyways, because meat alternatives are really hard to find. I can't depend on tofu, soy chicken, tofurkey, soy ground beef crumbles, tempeh, seitan, vegan hot dogs, etc. I recently decided I want to find a way to replicate meat dishes on my own, completely from scratch. My first project? Vegetarian meatballs!

The ingredients included:
1 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 portobello mushroom
3/4 cup Italian breadcrumbs (brought these back from the States)
1 egg
2 or 3 shakes of parmesan cheese
2 or 3 shakes of granulated garlic
2 or 3 shakes of basil

I shredded the zucchini and then diced the eggplant and mushrooms into tiny cubes, throwing it all into a big bowl, and then added the other ingredients. During this time, I also had a homemade spaghetti sauce simmering. I got the family recipe from my grandma's sister a couple years ago. I love my Italian heritage (although I am also Irish, German, Syrian, and Russian). One thing that did freak me out was that as I was cutting the eggplant, I noticed a hole in the vegetable and a little worm crawled out! This is normal for Ecuadorian produce though, I find things crawling in spinach and lettuce all the time, so I have gotten used to cutting around it to save the good uncontaminated part.

Shredded zucchini and cubed eggplant

Next I just rolled the mixture into balls, and threw them in the oven around 350. I don't time stuff in the oven, I just waited until the 'meat'balls looked lightly browned on the outside. I did flip them all over halfway through the baking process. I suppose you could fry the 'meat'balls as well, because that's what I do with actual beef meatballs.

 'Meat'balls before going into the oven

The final product was really good! I could probably tweak the recipe to make the 'meat'balls a little more moist, but combined with the pasta and sauce, they tasted really good. Also, they were hearty, which is something that vegetarians sometimes crave without meat, a dense, hearty meal.

The final dish


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