a meatless twist on an Italian-American favorite
It feels odd writing about food at the moment, or even sharing a recipe, when the world feels more broken than ever. I read a quote last night—”these are precedented times”. It sums up what’s swirling through my mind. When do we learn from history? Of course, we have to acknowledge our full history to learn from it, and sadly we’re living in a time when the media refers to blatant lies as disinformation for fears of libel or slander accusations.
As a teenager in the late 80s, the world felt scary while simultaneously moving in a forward manner, leading to hope that maybe there was a more peace-filled, equitable future. There was hope that we humans had the ability to evolve in a way that wouldn’t cause our own destruction.
I often wonder if Brexit hadn’t happened, maybe Trump wouldn’t have become president, and then maybe Putin wouldn’t have been so empowered to invade a country and start a war for the sake of his own ego and legacy. I am fully aware this is a very simplified outlook, not a deep explanation of the factors that have led to what’s transpired these last six years.
The last few days I can’t help but wonder, over and over again, what the world would be like if there were more women in positions of economic and political decision-making globally. Of course there are women that prove not just straight white men own the market shares in evil, maniacal tendencies—all one has to do is look at Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter or Marjorie Taylor Greene for proof. I woke up with this on my mind one morning recently, wondering if they really believe the lies they spew or just figured out the key to playing the game in a white man’s world.
In one breath, the same people who claim “their bodies, their choice” as a way to “protect” their children from wearing a mask—a MASK, a simple preventative measure for the greater good during a pandemic—these same people would criminalize children and their parents from living their lives when it doesn’t fit into their perception of gender.
These same people care zero for the lives of children once they’re outside the womb. These same people refuse to accept there is more than one religion practiced in our country, and that for 29% of our population there is no one nation under God because they’re atheists or agnostic.
It’s getting harder to find the bright spots, even with the sun blaring down amidst a clear, blue sky as I write, but I am trying. I spent the better part of Saturday in the kitchen, baking a new-to-me recipe from Olia Hercules, a Ukranian chef and food writer who now resides in London. It feels akin to what we would’ve called a danish growing up in Brooklyn. So many of the items I’ve enjoyed from the old school bakeries in New York City, now mostly closed, were steeped in recipes with an Eastern European influence.
I’m not sure how to neatly connect my former thoughts with the recipe I’m sharing today, so I’ll just cut to the chase. Many of you know about my other vegetarian “meatball” recipe—the lentil-ricotta ones. It continues to be a staple in our meals 12 years after I first decided to swap pureed lentils in place of the ground meat in my nana’s meatballs.
I hesitate to say the word recipe when I refer to her meatballs because as with most homecooks, there were no real recipes—it was all cooking from instinct. I was also very young when she died, 7-years old, and don’t remember much of her cooking. The recipe I use for meatballs is based on how my late aunt, her daughter, made them, which was of course based on how my nana made hers.
Anyway, these chickpea meatless “meatballs” stray much further from my nana’s, and are therefore quite different from the lentil-ricotta meatballs. These are what I’d call hippie, healthy vegetarian meatballs, filled with oats, finely chopped walnuts, nutritional yeast, chickpeas and aromatics. I wanted to create something that leaned vegan but not 100%. There’s egg in here, but I’m quite sure a flax egg would work fine here if you wanted to try that out.
Why would I stray so far when I already had a perfectly delicious meatless meatball recipe to use? Curiosity is how we grow, both as cooks and as human beings. This was also low-risk, at most a dinner gone awry. I certainly didn’t invent the idea of chickpea meatballs but I was willing to put my own spin on them and give them a try.
I hope you’ve managed to find moments of peace and calm this weekend. Be well and be kind.