Ahead, two ridiculously tasty recipes for the vegetarian balls and the Q-balls. Whether or not you'll be taking all the credit when your dinner guests start singing the dishes' praises is up to you.
Mediterranean Bison Balls
2 pounds lean ground bison
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
⅛ cup chopped mint
¼ chopped toasted almonds
¼ chopped raisins
1 cups cooked saffron rice (recipe below)
⅛ tsp ground black pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt
Make saffron rice. Can be done a day ahead.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle olive oil into a 9x13-inch baking dish; using your hand, evenly coat entire surface. Set aside.
In a large bowl, use your hands to mix bison, parsley, mint, almonds, raisins, saffron rice, eggs, black pepper, and salt until fully incorporated. Roll mixture into firmly packed one-and-a-half-inch balls.
Place meatballs in prepared baking dish, taking care to line them up snugly so that they are touching one another in even rows vertically and horizontally to form a grid. Transfer baking dish to oven. Bake until meatballs are firm and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of a meatball reads 165 degrees.
½ cup basmati rice
1 pinch saffron
1 cup water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil
Place all ingredients together in a small pot, bring to a boil, then simmer covered until all the water is absorbed. This will yield one cup cooked. Let cool before mixing in.
Saffron Yogurt Tomato Sauce
1 yellow onion, small dice (about 1½ cups)
1 bay leaf (fresh or dry)
1 sprig fresh oregano (or ½ tsp dry)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste
¼ cup olive oil
2 tsp salt
2-28 oz cans of canned tomatoes, chopped (preferably San Marzano)
Cook the onions with the olive oil, oregano, bay, garlic, and salt over a medium heat in a large pot (12 quart) stirring constantly until soft and translucent (about 15 minutes). Add the tomato paste and continue cooking for five minutes. Add the canned tomatoes, and stir constantly until the sauce begins to boil. Continue cooking for one hour, stirring every four or five minutes so that the sauce does not burn. Season with extra salt to taste.
Saffron Yogurt Sauce
1 cup nonfat yogurt
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp water
Small pinch of saffron
1 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp chopped mint
⅛ tsp coarse salt
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Place saffron, water, and lemon juice together, and let bloom for five minutes. Combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl, and whisk until incorporated.
To serve, place cooked meatballs in a serving bowl and ladle over the tomato sauce. Drizzle on the yogurt saffron sauce to finish.
Yields about 24 golf-ball-sized meatballs.
2 cups lentils
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 carrots, chopped (about 1 cup)
2 celery stalks, minced (about 1 cup)
2 tsp salt
1 clove garlic, minced
4 sprigs thyme, picked (about 1 tbsp)
¼ cup olive oil plus 2 tbsp
3 tbsp tomato paste
½ lb button mushrooms, sliced (about 3 cups)
½ bunch parsley, chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup bread crumbs
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
¼ cup chopped walnuts
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Combine the lentils with two quarts of water in a medium-sized stock pot and bring to a boil over a high flame. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are soft but not falling apart (about 25 minutes). Strain the lentils through a colander and allow to cool.
Sauté the carrots, onions, celery, garlic, thyme, and salt with one-fourth cup of olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, stirring frequently (about 10 minutes). When the vegetables are tender and just beginning to brown, add the tomato paste and continue to cook, stirring constantly for three minutes. Add the mushrooms, and continue cooking, stirring frequently for 15 more minutes. Remove the vegetables from the pan, and allow to cool.
Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large mixing bowl with the cooled vegetables and lentils, and mix by hand until thoroughly incorporated. Drizzle the rest of the olive oil into a large baking dish (9x12), making sure to evenly coat the entire surface (use your hand to help spread the oil).
Place the mixture in the refrigerator and allow to cool completely (about 25 minutes).
Roll the mixture into round, golf-ball-sized meatballs, making sure to pack the meat firmly. Place the balls into the oiled baking dish so that all of the meatballs are lined up evenly in rows and are touching each of their four neighbors in a grid. Roast until firm and cooked through (about 30 minutes). Allow the meatballs to cool for five minutes before removing from the tray.