"The more I play around with vegetable-based meatballs, the more I like them," writes Mark Bittman in The VB6 Cookbook. He says that, "the different textures and flavors are terrific." VB6 is shorthand for "vegan before 6 p.m.," the compromise health plan Mr. Bittman, who writes about food policy and cooking for The New York Times, undertook when his doctor recommended a vegan diet for his health and he didn't feel he could fully commit to such a rigid diet on a full-time basis.
Slightly adapted from a recipe in Mark Bittman's The VB6 Cookbook: More than 350 Recipes for Healthy Vegan Meals All Day and Delicious Flexitarian Dinners at Night, published by Clarkson Potter Publishers.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound eggplant, unpeeled, cut into 1" cubes
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup canned white beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 cup breadcrumbs, preferably whole wheat
pinch of red chile flakes (optional)
2 cups all-purpose tomato sauce (your favorite version)
Heat the oven to 375F. Use 1 tablespoon olive oil to grease a large rimmed baking sheet.
Put 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add the eggplant and 1/4 cup water. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and cook, stirring l, until the pieces shrivel a bit and are tender and beginning to color, 10 to 15 minutes. Transfer the eggplant to the bowl of a food processor.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan along with the onion and garlic and return to the heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until they're soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the beans and parsley to the work bowl with the eggplant and pulse until well combined and chopped, but not pureed.
Toss the eggplant mixture with the onion and garlic, then add the breadcrumbs and red chile flakes if you're using them. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Roll the mixture into 12 balls about 2" in diameter; transfer them to the prepared pan. Bake, undisturbed, until they're firm and well browned, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, warm the tomato sauce. Serve the meatballs hot or at room temperature along with the tomato sauce. They can be served over pasta or rice, or even as the filling for a meatball sub.
Makes 4 servings.