Last winter I was having birthday brunch with Dave at the lovely Steadfast Coffee and we ran into my fellow social worker/professional acquaintance, Cameron. She’s so cool. She’s a social worker, yoga instructor, rock climber, a true beauty. The kind of person you want to be like. I had a stack of books, including some cookbooks on our table and it sparked a conversation about cooking as we stood there chatting. We discovered our mutual love for the kitchen. (I know… and she is a cook!) I asked her a “must make” recent recipe of hers and she instantly suggested these falafel meatballs with spaghetti squash. She sent me the link to the recipe. I made it a few weeks later and we all loved it. I have made the recipe a couple of times since, so I think I’ve gotten my groove enough to share it with you, with the tips I’ve garnered along the way.
Since those who read this blog come from a variety of cultures and food exposure, here is a little culinary context: Falafel is traditionally a Greek food, a meatless meatball made from garbanzo beans. This would be yummy served with Greek fixings (like rice and tzatziki sauce). But so far we have been making it with the spaghetti squash and red sauce, as the recipe detailed, and loving it. Spaghetti Squash is a squash that when cooked, becomes threaded like spaghetti noodles. If you haven’t tried making spaghetti squash, you must. It is so magical and fun, that by simply roasting this squash, it cooks such that with a tender pulling of a fork, a bowl full of veggie noodles can be loosened!
1 spaghetti squash
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
4 cloves of garlic, minced
¼ cup chopped sweet onion
1 15 oz. can of chickpeas, drained, rinsed and dried
1 egg, beaten
½ Parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast)
¼ cup rolled old-fashioned oats
¼ cup flax or hemp seed
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup fresh basil, chopped
¼ cup chopped dry sun-dried tomatoes
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. sea salt, adjust to taste
pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
freshly ground black pepper, adjust to taste
Make the falafel balls: Place a Tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and sauté for 2-4 minutes. Add minced garlic and a little coarse salt and pepper. Continue to cook for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
In a food processor or blender, combine the sautéed onion and garlic, along with all of the remaining ingredients, including the 2 remaining Tbsp of oil.. Combine until texture is well incorporated and smooth. Then roll into small to medium sized balls. (Wetting hands if needed for shaping).
Turn skillet back on, this time to medium and heat up a little oil. Place balls in one layer and brown them, turning them after five minutes or so, turning them so that all sides become brown and firm.
On a work day, I mixed and formed the meatballs in the morning and refrigerated them until dinner time. I then pulled them out and cooked them while the squash was cooking at dinnertime.
Make the Spaghetti Squash:
I usually make a batch of pasta as well as the spaghetti squash, since some of my people are more spaghetti-squash eaters than others.
Preheat oven to 350˚. Carefully slice squash in ½ inch longwise. Using a large spoon, scoop out the middle of the squash, with the membranes and seeds and discard. Rub 1 Tbsp of olive oil on exposed squash flesh. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt and pepper. Place flesh side down on baking sheets (covered with parchment paper or aluminum foil for easy clean up). Place in the preheated oven for 45 minutes or until a knife easily cuts through the skin. Remove from oven. Using a fork, gently scrape the interior of the squash until all the flesh is in ribbons in a bowl. Cover with foil or plastic wrap to keep warm until serving.
You can use your favorite bought sauce, or you can make your own. There are no rules on this. The sauce pictured below was some homemade that we had in the freezer. It’s a simple but fool proof tomato sauce recipe from Martha Stewart. We call it our house sauce.
Pile noodles on the plate, top with meatballs, top with warm sauce. Top with grated parmesan.
It’s a savory, flavorful, healthy meal that is so very satisfying, healthy and affordable.
A little tip: this is not a difficult recipe, nevertheless, there are several steps to take in making it. In fact, as I was making it alone, I thought, “this would be a good recipe to make with a pal!” I find that some recipes are more difficult to co-prepare, and others are well suited for it. With this recipe: one person could chop and sauté while the other measures ingredients; and then both could roll out the balls together, making it super speedy; then one could brown the meatballs, while the other heats the sauce and makes the salad. Meanwhile, an additional friend (or child) could set the table. And in a matter of a few minutes- dinner!
Ringing in my mind is my mother’s mantra: “many hands make light work“.
While I didn’t have much help cooking dinner the other night, it sure was delightful to eat the meal with these goofballs at the table- having fun and enjoying the meal.