These inspiring and adaptable little items leapt out at me from the pages of a wonderful cookbook called Twelve Recipes by Cal Peternell. I find they happily flex to accommodate both whole-grain and gluten-free bread, and the addition of some stealth pumpkin puree brings additional nourishment along with a very nosh-able texture. They work well with just about any green + herb combination. Like the Little Meatballs, these are delicious hot from the pan, room temperature from the counter, cold from the fridge at 3:00 a.m., eaten alone, or dipped in something wonderful. A nutritional powerhouse in a small, appealing package, they make a handy stand-in for meatballs over pasta, in the Wild Rice Soup or on a stick. I generally require at least three reasons before I am willing to haul out (and wash) my food processor, and this recipe provides that: use it to pulse the bread, then the shallot, then the garlic and herbs, then the greens; fine, fine mincing of all the components is the key to success here.
— Janet Reich Elsbach
From Extra Helping by Janet Reich Elsbach © 2018 by Janet Reich Elsbach. Illustrations © 2018 by Anna Brones. Reprinted in arrangement with Roost Books, an imprint of Shambhala Publications, Inc.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 shallots very finely minced (about 1/3 cup)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 cloves garlic very finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 1/2 cup finely minced fresh cilatro or parsley (or a combination of the two)
- 1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 bunch (about 8 ounces) sturdy greens, such as kale, chard, or spinach, tough stems removed, leaves washed and dried, very finely chopped
- 1-1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
- 2 ounces (about 1/2 cup) crumbled feta
- 1/3 cup canned pure pumpkin puree
- 1 egg
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for frying
- Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the oil, shallots, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 6 minutes, until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, herbs, cumin seeds, and paprika. Stir for 30 seconds.
- Add the greens to the pan and sauté for 1–2 minutes, until they soften. Turn the mixture out into a medium mixing bowl.
- Let cool for 5 minutes, then add the breadcrumbs, feta, and pumpkin. Mix well, then taste for seasoning. Add more salt and some pepper if necessary—this is your chance, while the mixture is egg-free, to taste and get the seasoning right.
- Crack the egg into the bowl and mix it in very well.
- Let the mixture rest in the fridge for 10–20 minutes, to regulate the moisture between the wet and binding ingredients and the breadcrumbs.
- One scant tablespoon at a time, roll the mixture into balls.
- Once all the unmeatballs are formed, refrigerate the rolled balls for at least 30 minutes, to firm up a bit more.
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the balls to the pan—they should sizzle when they hit the oil—then turn heat down to medium-low (bread browns fast, so keep the heat on the lower side to keep these from burning). Use a small spoon to gently move them around, turning frequently. The mixture is soft, but the balls will hold together as soon as a cooked crust forms. Cook for about 8 minutes, until toasty brown on all sides.
- Remove to a plate or heatproof dish. Serve immediately, hot or at room temperature, or cool and store to reheat later. They will keep for up to 1 week in the fridge. They can be frozen, wrapped securely, for up to a month.
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