sunflower-chickpea meatless balls
If we are connected by Snapchat, Instagram, or simply by real-life friendship, you may recognize these savory little spheres... and, you may remember that I used to make them with walnuts. I have lots of love for walnuts, but when I tried this substitution using less-expensive and also highly nutritious sunflower seeds to accommodate my sweet Mum's walnut allergy, I liked it just as well. So, in mindfulness of how common nut allergies likely are in the USA, here is the nut-free recipe.
The texture of these meat-free meatballs is toothsome and hearty; slightly denser, more moist, and nuttier than falafel, with a distinct Italian-inspired flavor. I typically serve them VLGL spaghetti-style over spiralized zucchini (as shown) or roasted spaghetti squash, with marinara, pesto, and/or vegan parmesan cheese, but the leftovers make a satisfying, protein-rich snack or salad topping.
The humble chickpea is a VLGL rockstar food, capable of being transformed into pizza crust and omelettes, in addition to the fantastic spread that is hummus. Chickpeas are rich in plant-powered protein, fiber, manganese, and folate, and one study indicates that people who consume chickpeas may experience better health than those who do not, based on several metrics.
With its savory flavor, ease, and versatility, this recipe is one that I make nearly every week. I hope it brings warm, delicious love to your table as it does for me.
RECIPE: Sunflower-Chickpea Meatless Balls
(makes approximately 14)
- 15 ounces cooked chickpeas, drained but NOT rinsed (the aquafaba, or bean liquid, helps bind the "meatballs"... though if you are not using chickpeas that come in a BPA-free can, do rinse the chickpeas)
- 1 cup roasted, shelled sunflower seeds
- 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons olive oil + an additional tablespoon for brushing
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce or coconut aminos
- 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning blend (or a blend of marjoram, oregano, thyme, rosemary, savory, basil, and sage)
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, pulse all ingredients (except for the additional tablespoon of olive oil) until somewhat-coarsely combined. The texture should be that of a slightly-chunky hummus, with some visible seed particles present.
- Using slightly wet fingers, roll the dough into 1 1/2 tablespoon-sized balls. Line these up on the cookie sheet with at least half an inch in between. As they are somewhat soft, they will "relax" a bit, rather than baking into perfect spheres.
- Brush the meatballs with olive oil, and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the insides are no longer wet but not crumbly-dry.
Serve with love and your favorite VLGL Italian dish.