I fully recognize that, by posting anything with "tofu" in the title, I may send my readers (all 6 of you!) running for the hills. I am a vegetarian, though, and much of what I cook does center around this versatile protein. If you're still reading at this point, I promise that these "meat" balls are well worth a try! The pesto (from last week's post) is the secret ingredient that takes these balls from simply a source of protein to a tasty standout.
I first started making these tofu balls about a year ago. Disgusted by the lack of decent "meatless" meatballs, I decided to try and make my own. Back in my meat-eating days, meatballs were one of my favorite things to cook (and eat). I realized I could use many of the same ingredients (minus the meat, of course) and come up with my own tasty vegetarian version of a meatball. After all, once you put garlic, cheese, breadcrumbs and fresh herbs into just about anything, the result is usually pretty amazing.
The first several versions of my tofu balls were good, but last week I managed to make them delicious. Tofu? Delicious?! Oh yes!
It happened sort of by accident. It was one of those days when I was trying to clean out the refrigerator and pantry to use up all my ingredients that were about to bite the dust. As it so happened, "leftover frenzy" gave way to a masterpiece.
Unfortunately, when I sat down to write this post, I couldn't find my notes. (Normally when I cook something for the blog I keep notes as I cook so I can tell you exactly what I used and how I used it.) It's entirely possible that I didn't even write any notes for this meal, since I didn't expect the result to be so yummy.
Alas, here is my best recollection of this surprise winner of a meal. The measurements are approximate and my best guess of what I actually included. Maybe, despite all of my ambiguity, you'll create your own meatless masterpiece!
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1/2 block firm or extra firm tofu
(If you have a whole block, go ahead and double the recipe. Remember, I was working with leftovers)
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp sun dried tomatoes, coarsely chopped
half of a small-medium onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/3 cup shredded cheese (Parmesan, mozzarella, Asiago -- whatever you have on hand)
2-3 Tbsp basil pesto
2-3 Tbsp fresh herbs (I used basil and thyme)
1/4 cup bread crumbs
Preheat the oven to 375 and drizzle a little olive oil into a baking dish.
Crumble the tofu onto a cheesecloth or several paper towels. Gather the cloth into a sack and squeeze most of the water out of the tofu. Transfer the dried tofu into a bowl.
Add the rest of the ingredients to the tofu and combine. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a smidge of olive oil. Now for the
messy best part...
Grab a small palm-full of the tofu mixture and roll it into a ball, pressing it a little so it holds together. (I know that squeezing is a "no no" when making real meat balls, but it's sort of a necessity when using tofu -- since there's not a lot of fat to hold the balls together on their own.)
Place the balls into the prepared dish. I usually drizzle a little olive oil over the top, once they're all in the dish. This time, since I used pesto, the extra bit of olive oil seemed a bit overkill. You decide, though.
Bake until the balls begin to brown, about 20 minutes.
If you want to make a basic tomato sauce to go with the "meat"balls, here is a old standard of mine...
In a couple tablespoons of olive oil, over medium high heat, sauté half an onion, chopped, with several cloves of garlic, finely chopped. Stir in a can of crushed tomatoes. Add a couple teaspoons of dried herbs (or a couple tablespoons of fresh herbs), a pinch of red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste and a bay leaf. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until your ready to eat. Don't forget to remove the bay leaf before you eat.