It is not often that I feel compelled to follow a recipe exactly. Usually when I read recipes written by other chefs, I take bits and pieces, an idea, a technique, a flavor combination and then I turn around and make it my own. However, when I saw this recipe I realized how in the dark I still am with vegan cooking techniques and ingredients. When contemplating making a fried eggplant ball I never would have thought to toast and grind pumpkin seeds into the batter or even add chia seeds, but hey, why not?!? These eggplant balls are full of things that are both good and good for you! And there is not a thing about this recipe that I would change…I think that’s a first!
Making these eggplant balls requires a good bit of time as there are many steps involved but all of the steps are nice and easy and the end result is easily worth a whole day toiling around in the kitchen. This recipe is completely vegan though I think that it would satisfy even the most carniverous. And with a slight variation in the herbs and spices (think dried oregano and red pepper flake in place of the curry and cinnamon and parsley or basil in place of the mint), maybe a little bit of red sauce and you’d have something on your hands that would rival the best meatball sub!
Eggplant Ball Subs with Tahini Dressed Kale and Cioggia Beets
Makes 2 Subs
For the Eggplant Balls:
*This recipe was written by Trudy at the Veggie Num Num website and her recipe can be found here: Eggplant Ball Sub Recipe at Veggie Num Num
- 2 good-sized eggplants
- 1 head of garlic
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon harissa (+ extra if you like it spicy)
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 cup pumpkin seeds
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 1½ tablespoons curry powder
- good handful of fresh mint and/or parsley leaves, chopped
- 1 lemon, zest
- ½-1 cup quinoa flakes or panko (Japanese breadcrumbs), I used panko
- 1/2-3/4 cup canola or peanut oil for frying
The first step for the eggplant is roasting it in a 400 degree oven. Cut the tops off of the eggplants and halve them lengthwise. Place them cut side up onto a baking sheet. Cut the whole head of garlic in half and throw onto the baking sheet with the eggplant.
Whisk together the olive oil, harissa, cumin and cinnamon and brush this mixture onto the cut sides of the eggplant. Season the eggplants and the head of garlic with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 35-45 minutes until the eggplant is totally soft and gooey and your whole kitchen smells like smoky cinnamon!
Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely. In the meantime, spread out your pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet to toast in the oven for 10-12 minutes until they are nice and dry and golden brown. You can roast your beet chips at the same time!
Transfer your toasted pumpkin seeds to the workbowl of a food processor, process to a coarse crumb and then move them into a large mixing bowl. Scrape all of the flesh of the eggplants and all of the roasted garlic into the food processor and process into a thick paste. Add this to the bowl with the pumpkin seeds. Next add the chia seeds, curry powder, lemon zest and mint and stir together. Add in the panko a half a cup at a time until you have reached a consistency that is still nice and moist but holds together well.
Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat. When hot, roll the eggplant mixture into balls about the size of a standard meatball and drop into the hot oil. Fry in batches, turning the balls about every minute or so until they have reached a deep golden brown on all sides. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
For the Tahini Dressed Kale:
- 4-5 large Lacinato kale leaves, cut into a chiffonade
- juice of half of a lemon
- 1/4 cup tahini
- pinch of cumin
- pinch of ras-el-hanout
- salt and pepper to taste
In the bottom of a mixing bowl add the tahini, lemon juice, spices and salt and pepper and whisk together. Add the chiffonade of kale and toss to coat. I like to refrigerate the greens so that they go onto the sandwich cold and provide a nice temperature contrast against the eggplant balls.
For the Cioggia Beets:
- 1 cioggia beet, skinned and thinly sliced on a mandolin
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
Lay the beets onto parchment paper lined baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast in a 400 degree oven for 8-10 minutes or until the sides are beginning to curl and brown but are still nice and pliable in the center.
To assemble the subs, toast your rolls. I found a nice crusty sub roll at Wegman’s that worked beautifully but you can use whatever bread or roll is your favorite! Add the dressed kale and a nice layer of the roasted beets and shove as many eggplant balls as will fit! I drizzled a little extra tahini over the top for good measure! Marvel in the glory of this beautiful vegan sandwich, maybe even cry a little in the presence of its beauty and then for god sakes eat it!! Savor it! Share with someone you love and enjoy!