The Meatball Shop in Manhattan is famous for its meatballs, of course. On a given day you might find a Reuben Ball or a Chicken Cordon Bleu Ball or just a classic beef meatball with tomato sauce.But surprisingly, some of the restaurant’s most popular and creative dishes don’t contain any meat at all. Topping the list is the vegetarian ball — a favorite of Michael Chernow, a co-founder of the shop.“My partner eats the veggie balls every single day without fail,’’ says Daniel Holzman, chef and co-founder. “From a culinary standpoint, they are my favorite meatball. A really good vegetarian meatball that holds together and has a light quality and isn’t super dense tends to be a little more difficult than a regular meatball.”...The Meatball Shop’s Veggie BallsThe Meatball Shop’s staff eat these around the clock. You’ll often find them at the bar with a big bowl of these and a side of steamed or sautéed spinach. You can also top with Spinach-Basil Pesto. ...2 cups lentils1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil1 large onion, chopped2 carrots, chopped2 celery stalks, chopped1 garlic clove, minced1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme2 teaspoons salt3 tablespoons tomato paste8 ounces button mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced3 large eggs1/2 cup grated rennet-free Parmesan cheese1/2 cup bread crumbs1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts1. Combine the lentils and 2 quarts water in a medium stockpot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart, about 25 minutes. Drain the lentils and allow to cool.2. Add 1/4 cup of the olive oil to a large frying pan and sauté the onions, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown. Add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly, for 3 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 15 more minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a large bowl and allow to cool to room temperature. When cool, add the lentils to the vegetable mixture.3. Add the eggs, Parmesan, bread crumbs, parsley and walnuts to the cooled vegetables and lentils and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Place in the refrigerator for 25 minutes.4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish and use your hand to evenly coat the entire surface. Set aside.5. Roll the mixture into round golf ball-size meatballs (about 1 1/2 inches), making sure to pack the vegetable mixture firmly. Place the balls in the prepared baking dish, allowing 1/4 inch of space between the balls and in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid.6. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the meatballs are firm and cooked through. Allow the meatballs to cool for 5 minutes in the baking dish before serving.Yield: About 2 dozen 1 1/2-inch meatballs.Spinach-Basil Pesto Recipe follows:http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/11/14/the-meatball-shop-g...
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