The gloom of winter is still upon us but our kitchens are bright with lots of fresh vegetables. As you may know, the Sylvia Center is a big supporter of plant-based proteins so we incorporated this fantastic meatless recipe into our repertoire. It’s sure to please even the most adamant meat-eaters. This balanced recipe is not only delicious but fun to make, especially if you enlist the help of your little ones. Greek Style Chickpea Meatballs add all the flavors you love from a falafel but without the frying. Chickpeas make for an excellent base mixed with salty feta, spinach and spices all livened up with lemon. We love serving these “meatballs” with tzatziki sauce, packed in a pita and topped with any crisp vegetables we have in our refrigerator.
Plant-based proteins, such as legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains not only provide protein but are a great source of fiber. Incorporating more plant-based proteins into your diet can promote health, environmental and financial benefits. That is why we added a Power of Protein experiment to our teen food science curriculum. Teens work in groups to create variations of these plant-based meatballs and evaluate them based on texture, appearance, flavor (of course!), durability, and aroma. Try this experiment at home, by substituting other plant-based proteins such as lentils or white beans for the chickpeas, or switching up the spices, add-ins, vegetables, and accompaniments. Let us know what combination your family loves the best!
Greek Style Chickpea Meatballs
Adapted from Food and Wine
1 1/2 cups chickpeas (equivalent to one can of beans, drained)
½ cup yellow onion, diced
1-3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups diced fresh spinach
1 cup to 1 1/2 cups bread crumbs
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp fresh oregano, minced
1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 tsp cumin
½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp paprika
¼ tsp cinnamon
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 to 2 eggs
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the onion. Sauté until the onions are soft and golden.
- Add the minced garlic and spinach and sauté for a couple more minutes until garlic is fragrant and spinach is wilted.
- Transfer the cooked ingredients to the food processor. Add the chickpeas, feta, spices and herbs, lemon juice and zest and pulse just until everything is combined. Add one egg and pulse until combined.
- Add 1 cup of the dry ingredient. Pulse until just combined. If too sticky, add additional breadcrumbs until mixture is able to be rolled. Season with salt and pepper.
- Lightly coat your hands in oil or cooking spray to keep the batter from sticking. Try to form a meatball. If the batter is too wet to mold, add more breadcrumbs. If the batter is too dry, add a little water or oil. If the meatball doesn’t hold together, add one more egg. (Eggs make meatballs more dense and spongy. Since most people prefer light, airy meatballs, it’s best to use the least number of eggs needed to bind everything together.)
- Form the meatballs. Make the balls slightly smaller than a golf ball.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Flip meatballs halfway through. Serve with tzatziki and pita, topped with lettuce, red onion and tomato or toppings of your choice.
Makes 1 ½ cups
1 cup of whole Greek yogurt
1 large cucumber
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
2 teaspoons of lemon zest
2 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of fresh dill
- Cut cucumber in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Grate the cucumber on a box grater. Toss the shredded cucumber with a large pinch of salt, and drain in a colander for 15 minutes. Squeeze out any excess liquid.
- Combine yogurt, drained cucumber, garlic, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, and dill in a bowl. Mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt and pepper.