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Thursday
Dec292011

LENTIL "MEATBALLS" IN LEMON PESTO



I cleaned up all the holiday remnants on Monday. I made piles of what needs to be returned, boxed up the decorations, and dumped our brittle wreath and miniature tree. No offense to you Christmas cheerleaders, but it all becomes a bit much for me - the lists, the toffee, the spending and the formalities. It honestly was a wonderful day, but I think this year, more than ever, we saw most clearly what we wanted from the celebration, or rather what we wanted to contribute to it, and I think next year will look different.

My haste to clean up is a personality trait (a vice sometimes). I like things to be moving forward, to be improving and growing, and the New Year's holiday commemorates that. I made a date with Hugh last year to discuss our resolutions for the sake of accountability and it may be one of the highlights of my marriage to date. You can have a list of three or thirty things that you'd like to take note of as we dance right into 2012, but having some accountability - a person who loves you to listen - makes the list worth making. Last year I scribbled down intentions to master roasting a whole chicken, get certified to teach pilates, save a bit of money for a down payment and have chisled arm muscles. The answers are yes, not yet, yes and errr, working on it? But the point is that I wrote them down, shared and revisited the list and I think it's an exercise worth doing (It may not give you chisled arm muscles but it's good for the spirit).

I really love writing letters. I couldn't write a scholarly essay in college worth reading but I LOVE personal letters. An item on my list this year is to communicate compliments or positive thoughts to people as they cross my mind. I want to send letters of affirmation to friends, or post cards to acquaintences just to say, "I really enjoy your blog" or, "You are super easy to talk to and I like it." Same goes for my husband, to remind him how I appreciate how he always make me laugh, or a note to my family. We'll call them love letters, and I plan on roping Hugh into this because I think men are even more hesitant to compliment each other. I started by writing a letter to Jennie, a woman in the food blogging world who lost her husband suddenly earlier this year (you may remember or participated in "A Pie for Mikey"). I thought of her recently and wanted to write her a letter. Maybe it's weird, because we don't know each other, but I am another woman who can't imagine coping with that kind of loss, so I figured I'd say hi.

The recipe below is one from her site that I've tweaked around a bit for my taste. It's nice to have the little nuggets in the fridge to dip in the pesto sauce for an afternoon snack. I haven't had them with marinara yet, but I imagine that'd be nice as well.

There will be celebrating with close friends this weekend and hopefully another date to discuss resolutions with my beloved.

May the new year exceed your expectations and challenge you.



LENTIL "MEATBALLS" // Serves 4, Makes 18 small balls
Meatball recipe adapted from In Jennie's Kitchen

The sauce I made is less a pesto and more a dressing, as the lemon juice adds quite a bit of acid to it. I thin mine with a bit of water, but if you like it thicker, simply don't add it. Adjust to your personal taste.

In honor of lightening up post-holiday, I like them as is, maybe on some sauteed greens. I don't feel that their "meatball" title necessitates noodles. Anyway, those are decisions I'll leave up to you.

2 Cups Cooked Lentils
2 Eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 Cup Ricotta
1/4 Cup Fresh Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Large Clove Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. Fennel Seed, crushed
2 Tbsp. Finely Chopped Fresh Parsley
Hefty Pinch of Dried or Fresh Thyme
1 tsp. Each Sea Salt and Pepper
2/3 Cup Breadcrumbs (fresh or panko, preferably)

Lemon Pesto Sauce

1 Clove Garlic
1/4 Cup Pinenuts
Zest and Juice of one Meyer Lemon
1/2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 Cup Packed Basil Leaves
1/4 - 1/3 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tbsp. Grated Parmesan
2 Tbsp. Water to thin



In a food processor, pulverize the lentils into mush. Put them in a large mixing bowl.
Add the beaten eggs, ricotta, parmesan, garlic, fennel seed, parlsey, thyme, salt and pepper and stir to mix well. Stir in the breadcrumbs and let the mix sit for 20 minutes.

For the pesto sauce, put the garlic, nuts, lemon zest and juice and salt in a food processor or blender and run until smooth. Add in the basil leaves and olive oil until you get a smooth, sauce-like consistency. Add water, oil or lemon juice to thin as desired. Stir in the parmesan and set aside. The sauce will keep covered in the fridge for about a week.

Preheat the oven to 400'. Check the lentil mix by rolling a 1'' round ball between your palms, it should hold together fairly well. If it seems pretty wet and it falling apart, stir in another Tbsp. or two of breadcrumbs until the ball with stay together.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Roll the mix into balls and line them up on a baking sheet (they don't need lots of space between, they won't spread). If you like a bit more of a crust, brush them with olive oil.

Bake on the middle rack for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown, gently turning the balls over halfway through baking. Remove to cool slightly.
Serve with your favorite noodles, on a bed of sauteed greens, or simply on their own with a nice drizzle of the pesto sauce.

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Reader Comments (125)

looks delish! i hate regular meatballs so i'll give to give these a try. perfect new year's recipe.

carrie
plumsintheicebox.typepad.com

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commentercarrie @plums in the icebox

Sara, I love this concept. I feel like when I was younger, my friends and I mailed cards to each other frequently, but that 'old fashioned' way of letting someone know you love them feels like it's kind of dying. I've kind of reconnected with my old love of things handmade, and I hope to continue the trend in 2012. P.S. Thank you so much for the postcard you mailed me. It's on my fridge :) Happy New Year! To new possibilities, love, and new friends! xo

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKasey

I'm so making these in 2012! We are still relaxing and indulging -- so I am thinking going meatless and merry in the new year (at least for January) is a good goal.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAnne

Sara, I've been thinking the same thing. Just the other day I told a dear friend that 2012 is going to be my year of the letter. I love that you're doing this. Letters, cards, notes- they're all such a gift. It always seems to mean something more when it comes in the mail. Happy New Year!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

The fact that you don't post a picture of the final product until the end of your post had me scrolling down eagerly - wondering what these little gems would look like!
The finished product did not disappoint :) These look amazing! YUM.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

You're the best. That's all.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKelsey

This recipe has officially made it to the top of my list.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I love lentil meatballs, I make them quite frequently with ricotta.

As for sending love notes, we started this thing called the ABCs of why I like you. Everyday we send a new compliment that begins with the letter of the day. As in, A is for awesome and you are awesome because x. Love it :)

I like you :)

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDessertForTwo

Sara! Beautiful post. Happy New Year to you... I'm currently staring down old wrapping paper and my tree wishing a Christmas fairy would come and help me clean it all up. Not likely, I'm afraid. Love the idea of an accountability date... I'm going to try that with Sam this year. Keeps you focused in a different way, I imagine? Hope you're having a mellow, relaxing week!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMegan Gordon

I LOVE this post. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person out there who isn't a Christmas cheerleader. However, I love the New Year holiday and already made 12 goals for 2012 and have already started working on some of them. I love the idea of accountability and making a date to discuss resolutions. I also love your goal of writing letters. I need/want to do that more as well. Maybe I'll make it 13 goals for next year.

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Divine! And exactly the sort of thing I've been craving. Thank you!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJulie

Looks absolutely fantastic! Yum!

December 29, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoy

Beautiful!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNina Designs

we had a no-spend (of sorts) christmas.

we have no small children in our extended family so we just bought everyone goats and chooks from oxfam - oxfam uses the money to buy a village a goat, and you get a cute card to give to the person you are donating on behalf of, and then we bought christmas presents to donate to the salvation army wishing tree. and avoided all shopping centres!

and actually, it made christmas meaningful and enjoyable for me again, and took away all the stress. I highly recommend it!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLillie

What a beautiful recipe and post. The world definitely needs more lentil balls and more love letters! :-) Happy 2012!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKitchen Vignettes

I always look forward to your posts because not only are the recipes great but your writing and stories are even better- thanks :)

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSimply Life

Please, write letters to all people you want, it is beautiful. I would be more than happy to get a letter, even if it says only "hi". It is good feeling to know somebody made an afford.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMagda's Cauldron

I loved reading this post of yours - for years I was one of those people who relished in setting goals, making resolutions, or whatever you want to call it, to mark the new year. Just a few weeks ago I set out to review my 2011 goals and found I had actually never done it. What a weird discovery - I wasn't quite sure how to look back on my year and judge what I had done. Not 2012 - I'll be working on that list today and tomorrow!

PS I thought I was the only one continuing pushing forward to the next stage in life - reading about your "abrupt" end to Christmas made me smile.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCooking with Michele

Such a great resolution...I've always been so inspired by random acts of kindness. I wish they weren't so random, though. Maybe you'll start to change that in 2012. :)

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterthe tasty tRuth

I felt the same way about Christmas this year. Still haven't taken down the decorations, but soon! Andrew and I have a similar tradition of setting goals and reflecting on the past year each New Year's Eve. It's one of my favorite things we do-- so refreshing and inspiring. It's also great when someone can hold you accountable throughout the year!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole

Such a beautiful post. Have you heard of Hannah Katy's campaign, The World Needs More Love Letters? She's been inspiring me to not only write letters to my loved ones, but to strangers needing a boost, as well. Check it out here: http://www.moreloveletters.com/

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBritty

What a nice variation on traditional meatballs. I can honestly taste it in my mouth, that pesto so bright and punchy. Love it.

I love pesto on my pasta but I never thought about making a sauce for meatballs it sounds so good and I just need to make them!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbetty

I always feel like New Year's Resolutions are a bit silly, but I love how you set these goals with someone who can hold you accountable. I think I will do this with my husband this year. And I also love sending real mail to people and used to do it with greater frequency. Will definitely be adding that to the list.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSarah

Sara, I don't know you personally, but you seem very articulate and thoughtful. Handwritten notes are a lost art and something I think should be revived. I love receiving postcards and notes from friends much more than an email. Happy New Year!

And as for this delicious recipe, geeeez! That photo of parsley might be my favorite yet. The texture and light is similar breathtaking. It made me smile.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered Commenteradrienne

These look amazing. As always, loved the post, the photos and can't wait to make these. Well done!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

Wowza, those little beauties look too delicious! Going to have to try them out - made a similar version with tempeh, but love the lentils and pesto combination!

I adore everything you wrote. I agree you with on so many levels and its great to hear someone else say it. I too always like to clean up, move forward, for the better. I also think of Jenny and wonder how one could ever handle such a loss. I like your idea of writing down affirmations. I also most certainly dig this idea of using lentils in a meatball context. Being a vegetarian you miss out on things like meatballs and I love reinvented dishes using a fantastic array of ingredients that make it "me" xx N

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicole Franzen

This looks so amazing!

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterYadsia @ShopCookMake

When I read your post it reminded me of the gift I gave my sister this Christmas - a set of notes to send people who inspire you in some way...they are beautiful handcrafted notes made by a young artist in Halifax, Nova Scotia...check them out:

http://www.harttoheart.ca/

Love your blog!!
Happy New Year!

Edie

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEdie

That lemon pesto sounds wonderful! I adore meyer lemons and can't wait to make this pesto! I bet it is lovely with these lentil balls, but I'm sure it would also be yummy on a sandwich or stirred into a bowl of orzo.

December 30, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKatie@Cozydelicious

Hello Yummyness!
Im gonna add your blog right away to my blogroll!
HOpe you dont mind!
Happy New Year!!!!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen

We made this for dinner last night... superb! We have left over lentil meatballs and are going to turn them into a lentil burger on a slice of toast for today. Yum! Thank you!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterNicki

I would have my tree, etc. all packed up if only I could get the rest of my family on board. I agree, onward and upward in the new year. Soon, very soon, it will be history. I am a miserable letter writer, so we part ways there; I agree, though, it is a nice touch, but I confess I save it for condolence notes....but maybe a postcard? I like that concept. And lentil "meatballs" on a bed of greens--that's definitely the ticket for January!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterSally

Love this adaptation of Jennie's recipe, love that you shared your goals list from last year, and love that you love writing letters. Happy 2012 and may it bring you wonderful things.

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWinnie

I share all of your same sentiments about the new year and resolutions...to a T! My husband and I now have the tradition to make reservations somewhere nice for just the two of us and use the time to discuss the past year, good and bad, and the year to come. It's something I really look forward to. Good luck to you and yours in the new year!

December 31, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAllison

Wow. Your site is stunning! So glad I came across it. Your photos are perfect. <3

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVanessa

These look amazing!! Must try!!!

: )
Jen

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJennifer

Thank you so much for this recipe....I am sad to admit that it's been a long time since I've cooked with lentils but thanks for the inspiration to pick this ingredient up again!

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAnna

I don't think I've ever left a comment, but in the spirit of this post, I thought it was timely to let you know how much I adore your blog, recipes, and writing! All the best to you in 2012!

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterAngela

What a great idea! I'll definitely be saving this recipe.

January 1, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarly

sara: beautiful words and such a wonderful resolution that we should all consider. genuine kindness can never be spread too far or too often. with that said, i adore your blog. am inspired by your words, food, and hugh's photos - you have struck a lovely combination of the three. and, i am waiting in eager anticipation for your book! wishing you all the best in 2012. good luck with those resolutions! :)

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered Commentersamantha

I smiled and got a little shiver of recognition up my spine when I read what you wrote about writing better letters in college than papers. Just this weekend I started cleaning out my childhood bedroom closet, which has been doubling as a time capsule from 1999 or so. I found a box of letters I'd received from my college roommate, my grandmother, and everyone in between. I also found stacks of term papers with decent grades, constructive notes, and lots of reminders to "synthesize" and "critique the research". Meh. I just wanted to write letters and tell stories. One of my intentions for this year is to write one letter a week -- a real letter crafted from pen and paper. I love your site -- thank you!

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRochelle

Hi Sara, I think accountability is a huge part of success. I know my husband and I started doing the same thing. I hate resolutions, mostly because the term has led to lack of actions and failed intentions but I do believe that goals are important and someone to share them with is equally so. Are list includes things like, laugh once a day, spend time with a friend once a week and take a dance class. Thanks for sharing a little snippet of your life. You always write beautifully.

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterFrance @ Beyond The Peel

Great idea with the lemon pesto.

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTender B.

I love this recipe for so many reasons. I find that after the holidays, I am just burnt-out on all the fatty foods. This is just the light dish I was looking for. Thanks for posting!! H

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHolli

These look absolutely amazing. Added to my ever-growing list of "must-make-soon."

January 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJay @ LocalFood.me

I made these last night and they are delicious!

January 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMackenzie

these looks so good and healthy... i love lentils...

Happy 2012!!!

January 3, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPunctuation Mark

I'm all over this meal. I love the sound of the lentil meatballs and the lemony herb dressing. Thanks for inspiring!

January 3, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterkickpleat

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