Loving Tomato Jam & Lentil-no-meat Balls

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Sometimes, I seem to have a serious craving for spaghetti and meatballs.  Not that I necessarily have eaten loads of meatballs in my life, but the craving sometimes can be pretty darn strong.  Something about an Italian meal gets me…  I think it’s the sensory aspect.  The basil, garlic, oregano, slowly cooking tomatoes..  The way it makes the whole house smell so warm and lived in.

I tend to not really buy many things pre-made, I like to know what goes into my food and I find that often the simplest of ingredients can give such amazing flavor. It’s an enormous reward to know that it was created from scratch! That is entirely true for tomato sauce, whether it is slow roasted, simmered and loved or tossed together in a pinch – homemade is always the way to go.  I have a secret love for what I call “tomato jam”, I pile it on everything that resembles noodles. It’s quick, has this… super crazy punchy flavor, and makes the house smell divine. I originally drummed it up as a condiment for a savoury tart, having oodles of left overs I scooped it into half of a spaghetti squash and have never looked back.

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Now, this weekend… there couldn’t just be spaghetti without meatballs. There just couldn’t.  Cooking for folks who are a tad on the green side of this whole “veggie” thing (no pun intended, ha!), means that sometimes there needs to be real alternatives that.. well, don’t really seem like an alternative. Now I’m not claiming that these lentil-no-meat balls could fool a carnivore, but they sure would satisfy one!  Lentils are great! Super easy to cook (or sprout), great source of plant based protein, and they work well with so many different dishes.  Growing up, my mom used to make this lentil… bake.  I can honestly say that’s what we named it, I don’t remember it having any other title. Lentil bake.  It had tomatoes, cheese…. herbs, I don’t know. It was delightful. I have tried to recreate it a number of times with no success, these little balls paired with my tomato jam – well they measure up well. Le Boyfriend even enjoyed them!

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New Spaghetti & Meatballs
(makes for about 4 people)

2 Large Zucchini

Punchy Tomato Jam

5-6 Medium Red Tomatoes
1 Cup Sundried Tomatoes
3+ Cloves of Garlic
1/2 Cup Water
1/3-1/2 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
Salt & Pepper

Lentil-no-meat Balls

1 Cup Cooked French Lentils
1/2 Cup Cooked Quinoa
2 Shallots
2 Cloves of Garlic
1-2 Tsp Olive Tapenade
3+ Tbsp Water
1/2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
2-3 Tsp Shichimi Togarashi
1-2 Tsp Nutritional Yeast
Salt & Pepper
1/3 Cup Quinoa Flakes

Tomato Jam: Wash & chop the tomatoes leaving the skin on, and a decent chunky size. Slice the sun dried tomatoes, roughly chop the garlic.  In a medium pot, heat up the water to a simmer then add in both the dried and fresh tomatoes and the garlic. Cook uncovered for about 10 minutes keeping the heat at a medium temperature. Season with salt and pepper once the tomatoes have begun to soften and release their juice, about another 5 minutes. Add the apple cider vinegar, and continue to cook until the tomatoes have deepened in color, the house smells amazing, and the mixture has thickened up a bit.

No-meat Balls: Preheat the oven to 375 and lightly coconut oil or prepare with parchment – a cookie sheet. In a food processor, pulse the lentils, quinoa, tapenade, shallots, garlic and water (add if necessary, table spoon at a time) until it begins to pull from the sides and stick together. For a more uniform texture, continue processing a touch longer with a tad more water. Add in the spices,nutritional yeast, salt and pepper, and give it another quick pulse to incorporate. Remove the blade, and mix the quinoa flakes in by hand. Form the mixture into balls and set on prepared cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, turning them, and baking for another 5-10 or until browned and firm.

Assembly: Wash and spiralize or julienne the zucchini into noodles, divide between bowls. Spoon on the hot tomato jam and then top with the lentil balls. Voila!

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