This is Food editor Joe Yonan's take on the traditional rice-studded meatballs called kufteh that his aunts and grandmother made on his childhood visits to Chicago, a center of Assyrian American culture. As a vegetarian, he uses vegan ground beef, and he couldn't resist creating a quick but nontraditional lemon-butter sauce out of the cooking liquid left in the pan. The cornstarch is used if you want to make the sauce thicker and silkier, but it's optional. Note that an Instant Pot version can save you hands-on time. Serve with bread and a salad, if you'd like.
Beyond's plant-based ground beef comes in 16-ounce bulk packages. Impossible's product comes in 12-ounce packages, so this recipe would require 2 of those, with 8 ounces left over.
Make ahead: The meatballs can be formed and refrigerated for up to 3 days before cooking.
Storage: Refrigerate for up to 4 days.
From Food and Dining editor Joe Yonan, loosely based on recipes by Kathryn Pauline on her Cardamom and Tea blog and "Assyrian Mothers' Cookbook: Our Heritage" (1995) published by the Assyrian Universal Alliance Foundation of Chicago.
Ingredients (Servings: 4)
- 1/2 cup basmati rice
- 4 cloves garlic, halved
- 3 scallions, trimmed and cut into large pieces
- 1 celery stalk, cut into large pieces
- 1 banana pepper or small green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into large pieces
- 1 pound vegan ground beef, such as Impossible or Beyond Meat
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter, such as Miyoko's
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch (optional)
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the rice and boil until the tips of each grain turn clear but the middle is still white, about 5 minutes. Drain, rinse with cool water and transfer to a large bowl.
- While the rice is boiling, in a food processor, combine the garlic, scallions, celery, and banana pepper and pulse until finely chopped. Transfer to the bowl with the rice.
- Add the vegan ground beef, oregano, salt and pepper and use your hands to thoroughly mix. Scrape the excess off your hands, and rinse them but leave them wet. Form the mixture into four large balls, squeezing each ball tightly to compress.
- Pour the water into a large, deep, lidded skillet set over medium-high heat. Bring to a vigorous simmer, nestle in the meatballs, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the meatballs are firm and the rice inside has swelled and become tender, 35 to 40 minutes, replenishing the water if it starts to run dry. (Once the rice on the outside of the meatballs feels tender, you'll want to cook them another 15 minutes or so to make sure the rice is cooked inside, too.)
- Use a spatula to carefully transfer the meatballs to a serving platter. Add a little water if needed to make sure there is at least 1/2 cup in the skillet. Increase the heat to medium-high, add the butter and lemon juice, and cook until the butter melts and the sauce reduces and thickens to about 1/2 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. (The sauce might have grains of rice in it that fell off the meatballs during cooking; that's okay.) If you want to make the sauce thicker, transfer 1 tablespoon of it to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, then whisk the slurry back into the sauce and cook until the sauce is glossy and smooth, another 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon it around the meatballs on the platter, sprinkle with the parsley and serve warm.
- Instant Pot version: Pour the water into a programmable multicooker such as an Instant Pot and nestle the meatballs in the water. Secure the lid and make sure the steam valve is sealed. Select PRESSURE (LOW) and set the cook time to 20 minutes. (It should take 5 to 10 minutes for the appliance to come to pressure.) Release the pressure manually by moving the handle to "Venting," covering your hand with a towel and making sure to keep your hand and face away from the vent when the steam releases. Open the appliance and check to see if the rice is tender inside the meatballs. If not, return them to PRESSURE (LOW) for 5 minutes at a time, manually releasing the pressure and steam each time, until the rice is tender. Set the cooker to SAUTE, add the butter and lemon juice, and cook until the butter melts and the sauce reduces and thickens to about 1/2 cup, 3 to 4 minutes. If you want to make the sauce thicker, transfer 1 tablespoon of the sauce to a small bowl and whisk in the cornstarch until smooth, then whisk the slurry back into the sauce and cook until the sauce is glossy and smooth, another 1 to 2 minutes.