The flavor and texture of these vegetarian split pea “meatballs” are so enjoyable that even traditional meatball enthusiasts will be won over. This recipe was inspired by Persian lamb meatballs, which often have cooked split peas or basmati rice as part of the meatball mixture. I decided to eliminate the lamb, and form meatballs using only split peas and basmati. The spice mixture and fresh herbs give these “meatballs” bright flavor, and the egg yolks and flour work to bind the mixture so that the "meatballs" don’t fall apart as they cook. Give this recipe a try, and you will be rewarded with “meatballs” that will satisfy vegetarians and meat eaters alike. —Josh Cohen
about 20 meatballs
For the Pistachio Yogurt
shelled pistachios (roasted, unsalted)
Juice of 1 lime
For the Split Pea “Meatballs”
medium onion, finely diced
cloves garlic, minced
yellow split peas
Juice of 2 limes
roughly chopped fresh parsley leaves, plus extra for garnish
roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves, plus extra for garnish
Add the pistachios and water to a blender, and blend until the pistachios are finely ground. Scrape down the sides of the blender with a rubber spatula as necessary. Add the salt, cumin, lime juice, chili powder, and yogurt. Puree to combine. Taste the yogurt sauce, and adjust the flavor as you see fit. Set the yogurt sauce aside. Please note that it can be made a day or two ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator.
Set a medium skillet over medium heat, and add enough olive oil to barely cover the bottom of the skillet. When the oil is hot, add the onion. Stir the onion regularly until it begins to soften. Add the garlic and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the garlic and onion begin to caramelize. Remove the skillet from the heat and set it aside.
While the onion and garlic are cooking, you can add the yellow split peas and water to a medium pot. Set the pot over high heat. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the split peas are simmering gently. Simmer the split peas uncovered for approximately 20 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Add the rice to the pot with the split peas and continue cooking, uncovered, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, the water should be nearly completely evaporated, and the split peas and rice should both be fully cooked. Set the pot aside until the split peas and rice are room temperature.
Transfer the cooked split peas and rice to a large mixing bowl. Add the cooked onion and garlic. Add the cinnamon, turmeric, ground coriander, chili powder, sumac, salt, lime juice, parsley, and cilantro, and stir to combine. Add the egg yolks, and stir to combine. Add the flour and stir to combine.
Preheat the oven to 425° F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Form “meatballs” that are a little larger than bite-size. You should be able to form about 20 “meatballs” in total. The mixture will be wet and tacky, and it may be hard to form perfect balls. It will help to either wash your hands regularly as you work, or you can wear rubber gloves and lightly coat the outside of the gloves with oil. Cook the “meatballs” for approximately 10 minutes, until they begin to crisp and caramelize around the edges.
To serve, the pistachio yogurt sauce can be cold, room temperature, or gently warmed, depending on your personal preference. Spoon some of the sauce onto a plate. Rest the “meatballs” in the sauce. Drizzle a little bit of pomegranate molasses over the top. Garnish with a little roughly chopped fresh parsley and cilantro. Serve and enjoy.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, I'm perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer's market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta.