As I’ve mentioned before, organizing a gluten free diet can be a little more difficult that planning a conventional one. However, instead of dwelling on the fact that so much is off limits, it’s much more fun (and useful) to think of delicious alternatives that don’t harm one’s body. When you are eating gluten-free, you have to look out for gluten in all of its sneaky forms. This captor lurks in the most hidden places: soups, fried foods, soy sauce, meat substitutes, and obviously most breads (which unfortunately includes pizza). It gets especially hard when you enjoy cooking for and with other people. However, finding alternatives and substitutions for gluten can be fun, and when the experiments are successful it’s very gratifying and delicious.
A friend and I and are splitting a meat CSA this summer from Simply Wisconson. GB and I came home from vacation to a freezer full of meat. I realize if you’re vegetarian, this probably sounds disgusting. But, if you’re a meat eater knowing you are supporting small farms with sustainable practices actually makes the meat taste even better. We received pork chops, a ham steak (uncured and huge), ground beef, italian sausage, chicken thighs, chicken legs, two large steaks, and ground bison. Now, I love a good hamburger, but lately I’ve been craving meatballs. Unfortunately, most meatball recipes contain gluten. So, I decided to make a new recipe, and it turned out well.
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground Italian sausage
4 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
2 cups mushrooms, stems removed, caps diced
1/2 cup gluten free breadcrumbs*** (if you are not on a GF diet, feel free to use conventional breadcrumbs)
2 TBS butter
2 TBS olive oil
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/2 tsp fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp fresh oregano, minced
1 cup basil (chiffonade cut) loosely packed, divided in half
1/4 cup lemon zest (for sauce)
1 TBS “good olive oil” (for sauce)
1 1/2 tsp balsamic (for sauce)
1. If it started frozen, Make sure your meat is thawed, but keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use it. Warm meat is gross and a breeding ground for nasty bacteria.
2. Prep all your ingredients, cut them up and measure out everything else, so you’re not running around your kitchen. Now’s a good time to preheat your oven to 350.
3. Toast your gf breadcrumbs in the oven with the butter for about 10-15 minutes. I made my own gf breadcrumbs by using my food processor to chop up a gf English muffin. Gf products tend to be a bit more temperamental than conventional flour based products, so keep a close eye on your breadcrumbs toasting. Take them out the oven and let them cool a bit.
4. Combine garlic, thyme, rosemary, oregano, 1 TBS olive oil, little salt, little pepper, chopped mushroom caps, and tomato paste. Cook at 350 for 10 minutes. Take this mixture out of the oven and let it cool a bit.
5. Now, take your meat out of the fridge. Combine the Italian sausage and ground beef. Add the egg. I started by using my food processor to mix everything, but ended up preferring my hands. After the meat and egg are combined, add the breadcrumbs and mushroom mix. Now add the remaining regular olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix it up. Lastly, add 1/2 cup of the basil chiffonade. Make sure everything is well blended.
6. Now it’s time to make the mix into little meatballs! I like to put the meatballs on a sheetpan covered with parchment paper. After I’ve made all the meatballs, I like to put them in the fridge so they firm up a bit before I cook them. I left them in the fridge for about a half hour.
7. You could cook these meatballs a variety of ways. I put some of them on skewers and threw them on the grill. The rest I cooked on the stove top. You could boil them, or whatever. I liked cooking them on the stovetop because the outsides got a little crusty and the insides remained tender. It is important to cook them through. Since I used meat that was previously frozen, I did not freeze these meatballs. If you buy meat that had never been frozen feel free to freeze these guys.
8. Eating the meatballs fresh off the grill was tasty, but I preferred eating them cooked over the stovetop topped with a little lemon zest, fancy olive oil from California, and freshly chopped basil. I love tomato sauce, but this was a nice alternative for a hot summer evening.