CHICKPEA EGGPLANT HEMP VEGGIEBALLS

1½ pounds purple eggplant, preferably long, thin eggplants

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon salt

1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/3 cup pea protein powder

1 large yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped

1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste

2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon ground smoked paprika

½ cup vegan fine-textured, dried white or whole wheat bread crumbs

Olive oil cooking spray or olive oil, for brushing

SIMPLE & SPICY TOMATO SAUCE

1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 garlic cloves, smashed

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 (28-ounce) can crushed or diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon dried thyme

½ teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

½ cup roughly chopped fresh basil or cilantro

Get ballsy with this dish inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe for meat eaters trying to eat like vegans. Roasted eggplant and pea protein tenderize the vegan house favorite: baked chickpea meatballs. These balls are able to withstand a complete dousing of the homemade tomato sauce that’s simple enough to make you’ll feel like a jerk for buying tomato sauce in a jar. The sauce is tasty as is, but might just be illegally good with a handful of fresh basil or cilantro leaves stirred in immediately after cooking.

1 Make the veggieballs: Preheat the oven to 400°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Do not peel the eggplant. Dice into 1-inch pieces. Transfer the eggplant to the baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Sprinkle with a little of the salt and roast for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is tender and golden. Remove from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes, or until cool enough to handle.

2 Meanwhile, get that tomato sauce going! In a large saucepan over medium heat, sauté together the onion, garlic, and olive oil until the onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the remaining sauce ingredients except for the fresh basil/cilantro and bring to an active bubbling simmer, stirring occasionally. Lower the heat to low, partially cover the pan, and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes, or until thickened slightly. If desired, pulse the sauce with an immersion blender to smooth it out a little, but leave it a little bit chunky. Turn off the heat and stir in the chopped basil or cilantro.

3 In a large mixing bowl, mash the chickpeas with a potato masher or your hands into a chunky paste. Add the cooled roasted eggplant and the remaining veggieball ingredients, except the cooking oil spray. Knead vigorously with your hands into a thick mixture. Lower the oven temperature to 375°F.

4 Lightly spray or brush with oil the same baking sheet used for roasting the eggplant. Use a mechanical ice-cream scoop to scoop out meatball-size portions onto the sheet, then lightly spray all the balls with additional cooking oil spray. Roast at 375°F for 20 minutes, or until the outside of the balls are golden and slightly crisp, and the interior is hot. Halfway through roasting, flip the balls over and spray or drizzle with a little more olive oil. Serve hot with tomato sauce over your favorite high-protein pasta or with the roasted broccoli.