Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry-Pear Sauce

Contributed by Liz Lopes.
These lentil mushroom balls are festive, filling, and a great vegan protein option for your holiday feast! I paired it with a lightly sweet cranberry-pear sauce, but if you aren’t a cranberry fan my vegan gravy would be a nice option too. You can most likely prepare the lentil balls in advance. Just shape the balls and cover with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for no longer than 12-24 hours, bring to room temperature, and then bake as usual (of course, remove plastic wrap first). The cranberry sauce can be made a couple days in advance as well. I don’t suggest skipping the sherry vinegar; it really makes this lentil mixture come to life and it pairs so well with the mushrooms. Lastly, it’s important to (very) finely chop all the vegetables and walnuts so everything sticks together.
Yield: 13-14 balls
Prep Time: 35 Minutes
Cook time: 45 Minutes
Ingredients:
for the lentil balls:
  • 1/2 cup uncooked green lentils
  • 1 cup walnuts halves, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 heaping cups finely chopped cremini mushrooms (one 8-oz package)
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup finely chopped destemmed kale leaves
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary (or 1/4 tsp dried)
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons ground flax + 3 tablespoons water
  • 1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats, ground into a coarse flour
  • 1/2-3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt, to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
for the cranberry sauce:
  • 2 cups frozen or fresh cranberries
  • 1 ripe pear, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
  • small pinch fine grain sea salt
Directions:
  1. Add lentils into a medium pot along with 2 and 1/4 cups water. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 20 minutes, uncovered, adding more water if the lentils dry out. Once the lentils are fork tender, remove from heat and mash with a potato masher until it’s a coarse paste with some lentil pieces still intact. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325F. Toast the chopped walnuts for 9-12 minutes, until lightly golden and fragrant. After toasting, increase oven temp to 350F.
  3. In a very large skillet or wok, add the oil along with the finely chopped mushrooms and garlic. Season with salt. Saute over medium-high heat for about 7-9 minutes, until most of the water cooks off. Now add the kale, toasted walnuts, cranberries, herbs, and sherry vinegar. Stir until combined and continue cooking for another few minutes until the kale is wilted. Remove from heat and stir in the mashed lentils when ready.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together the ground flax and water. Stir for 10 seconds and then immediately pour into the skillet mixture. Stir to combine. Now stir in the 1/2 cup oat flour until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. The mixture should be fairly moist and sticky. If it’s way too sticky, add a bit more oat flour. If it’s dry, add another tbsp of water.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape lentil mixture into balls and pack tightly with your hands so they hold together. Place on baking sheet an inch or so apart. Repeat for the rest. If the mixture is too hot to handle, let it cool for a bit first and then proceed.
  6. Bake the lentil balls at 350F for 15 minutes. Remove from oven, gently flip over, and bake for another 11-13 minutes, until golden and firm on the exterior.
  7. For the sauce: Add the cranberries, pear, and maple syrup into a medium pot. Bring to a low boil over high heat and then reduce heat to medium. Simmer, uncovered, for 10-20 minutes until thickened. Use a potato masher to mash up the pear.
Notes: 1) If your mixture seems dry (and this could be the case if the lentils are cooked too long), feel free to add a touch of water to moisten the mixture enough so it adheres. 2) To make oat flour, add the rolled oats into a blender and blend on high until a flour forms. Alternatively, you can use 1/2 cup oat flour if you already have some on hand.

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