Meat/Un-Meat: Meatballs for Everyone

Meat/Un-Meat: Meatballs for Everyone

Faith Durand
Mar 18, 2009

Meatball is a really unfortunate word. It implies the inclusion of, well, meat in each tasty little globe. But some of our very favorite "meatballs" contain no meat at all. For the purpose of this post, let's redefine meat back to its original source: mete, the Old English word for food. Little balls of delicious edible goodness, whether they are made from vegetables, lentils, ground lamb, or yes, even cake, are on the menu in many, many cuisines, and the love of meatballs is one thing that should rightly join omnivores, vegans, and vegetarians alike in our common love of food.

Here's a look at some of our favorite meteballs, with and without meat!

We do love meatballs. A good meatball can be your guests' favorite party appetizer. It can be a hearty dinner. It can be a light vegetarian supper. It can showcase really good meat. It can be filled with fresh garden spinach or potatoes. It can be made with gooey cheese or deep fried. Meatballs also store very well; make a big batch and freeze them for two hours on a cookie sheet, then dump them into a bag and squirrel away in the back of your fridge for emergency suppers.

Meat-centered meatballs are usually made primarily with ground meat — beef, turkey, chicken, lamb. Usually you add an egg as a binder, along with some herbs and spices. Breadcrumbs sometimes find their way in as well. One of my favorite meatball recipes involves ground lamb, a great quantity of warm spices, cilantro, and crushed almonds. Here are a few meatballs that we enjoy.

The New Meatball (pictured above), with recipes for Chipotle-Braised Duck Meatballs and Pesto Sliders.
Spanish Meatballs - A version of tapas favorite albondigas, with veal and pork.
Turkey Meatballs Over Greens - A healthier alternative to spaghetti and meatballs.
Mini Lamb Burgers - An aromatic mix of lamb and spices.

Vegetarian and vegan meatballs, on the other hand, usually have a wider variety of base ingredients. Potatoes, rice, vegetables, lentils, and chickpea flour are some that we've seen. They often have more ingredients and an even greater diversity of flavors. Malai kofta is one classic Indian meatball made with vegetables; I will eat it any chance I get. The really gorgeous koftas pictured at the top of this page, and just above too, are by Sia from Monsoon Spice. These little balls are so worth the work, and delicious too.

Malai Kofta (pictured above) A delicious blend of cheese, potatoes, onions, and spices.
Paneer Koftas (also pictured above) Cheese dumplings in a creamy saffron sauce.
Parmesan Spinach Balls - Great appetizer or light dinner.
Really delicious-looking tofu balls at Flickr, with recipe attached.

What's your favorite way of making "mete"balls, and what do you like to put in them?

(Images: Jim Franco for Metropolitan Home; Sia of Monsoon Spice)

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