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Bean-Meatballs: This omnivore’s ode to the soybean burgers of her youth.

Thanks to my mother, I grew up eating nothing but cooked-from-scratch 1970’s-style health food*: Wheat germ and banana bar cookies instead of Toll House (we were part of the Nestle boycott, of course), a green salad every single night (lettuce, sunflower seeds, apples, beets, cabbage, sprouts, whatever we had from the garden, the fridge crisper, and the fruit bowl), milkshakes whirred up with a raw egg for extra nutrition, that sort of fare. One of my best friends was being raised in a vegetarian home (even their pets went without meat, a novelty at the time). Her family ate the best soybean burgers in the world, seemingly every single day. I loved those bean burgers and used to beg my mother to make them for us. I don’t know why we didn’t eat them at home, but I’m making up for that now, after a fashion. After a fashion that involves grass-fed Mountain Beef, fresh greens, and spices, that is. I apologize right now to every vegetarian I’ve ever met for this travesty. I just really, really like grass-fed beef burgers, and I really, really like bean burgers, and I really, really like koftas, so I thought I’d combine them all and see what happened. I formed my mixture of beans, beef, greens, and spices into small meatballs, browned them in grapeseed oil in my trusty cast iron skillet, and served them for dinner with brown rice pasta and some garden greens (we have French sorrel, miner’s lettuce, and bittercress this week). All of us enjoyed these, and I had to promise the girls I’d make them again.

As an added benefit, the bengal gram beans (Desi chickpeas, different from the Kabuli chickpea most familiar to North Americans) I used are extremely low on the glycemic index and have a lovely nutritional profile. If you have a craving for something sweet, eat these for dinner before dessert to help your body process the sweetness with less impact on your blood sugar.

Here’s my recipe (there will be no photo; meatballs aren’t exactly the most photogenic food), with approximate volumes. Eyeball things and adjust the proportions and spices to please yourself:

Gluten-Free Bean-Beef-Meatballs

1 1/2 pounds ground grass-fed beef

1 cup, heaping, cooked bengal gram chickpeas

1 fresh egg

1 good handful fresh sorrel leaves

fresh rosemary leaves to taste

fresh mint leaves to taste

1 large clove garlic

fresh or granulated onion to taste (yellow or green onions work)

1-2 shakes of ground allspice

good pinch of ground cinnamon

1 heaping teaspoon ground cumin

sea salt to taste

black pepper to taste

In a food processor, pulse the beans, greens, spices and seasonings until everything is well ground and mixed. You can stop when you like the texture – I went for a dry paste.

Mix this in a bowl with the beef, using your hands to gently fold everything together. Be firm but gentle – Insist that the beans and beef become one, but don’t squeeze all the air and life out of either. Add the egg and mix that in the same way.

Let the completed mixture rest while you heat a heavy skillet over medium heat with enough grapeseed oil to fully coat the bottom. When that’s heated through, form the mixture into balls about the size of a walnut in its shell, only rounder. Fill the pan with the meatballs, allowing room around each ball so the oil stays hot. Brown on each side, checking one to make sure you’ve cooked the beef to your own comfort level. Remove and let drain on a piece of old paper bag or whatever you like to drain oily foods on. Serve hot. These would be perfect with rice, plain yoghurt, and the vegetables/greens of your choice.

* So far as my mother knew, anyway. I snuck in things that weren’t on the standard healthy hippy diet whenever I could.

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