I grew up on the outskirts of a rural small town, a farming community that respected and cherished all that the surrounding land had to offer. Times have certainly changed over the years though, and now there are a lot more greenhouses going up in place of standard crop fields, and it is clear that there is some genetically modified planting going on. One thing that can always be counted on, however, is access to roadside fruit and veggie stands, a place for small farmers to showcase their best stuff while also making a modest summer supplemental income.
Proof of this fact came on a recent late summer trip to South Western Ontario, the beautiful region of our province that my family calls home. After my mother picked me up from the bus station in London, we headed off down Highway 4, the road that connects the metropolis that is "The Forest City," with my home town of 4,400 people, Exeter, Ontario.
My mom decided we should stop by a local farm to see what harvest goodies they had on offer. But upon entering the wee produce stall, it was clear that this was no big-city market. There were plenty of plant offerings to be sure...but what was missing was a vendor. In their place, a note on the wall to welcome us, plus directions about where to deposit our money once our shopping was complete. You see, this sale barn ran on the honour system. You simply select your stuff, pack your bag, and leave the cash behind.
Mom and I managed to find some great deals, and drove away with more than an ounce of local inspiration.
That night, when it came time to prep our meals, I knew I wanted to make fresh produce the main attraction. And nothing says summer suppers like local squash and the classic combo of fresh basil and tomatoes. So I decided to hold onto the season for just a bit longer and created a fresh green pasta bowl, topped with some comfort-food-style "no-meat-balls" for added protein.
I have been meaning to come up with a raw and vegan substitute for ground meat, and this was the perfect time to get to work on it, as there are often not a lot of protein choices available for me when I am not cooking in my own kitchen. What I came up with that evening, was a rustic Italian inspired dish that I know I will be making again and again.
Savoury RAW No-Meat-Balls
1 C raw sunflower seeds
½ C + 1 T raw almond butter
4 sundried tomatoes, soaked and chopped
3 T fresh basil, shredded
1 T nutritional yeast
1 clove of garlic
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp olive oil
sea salt to taste
Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until the mixture reaches a texture similar to ground meat.
Scoop the mixture out byinto heaping teaspoons and form each meatball. Try not to over-roll them; we are going for "rustic" Italian here!
This mix can be served as balls over raw zucchini pasta as seen here, but it can also be a great vegetarian stand-in for any recipe you'd use ground meat. Try it as a taco or sandwich filling, a base for a raw chili, or as a crunchy topping for salad or soup! This protein-packed flavour blend pairs well with marinara sauce, cashew sour cream or pesto!