March 9th, 2015 is National Meatball Day. It’s also National Get-Over-It Day and National Napping Day (welcome back Daylight Savings Time) but the one worth celebrating is definitely Meatball Day. And to commemorate this important holiday, all of The Meatball Shop locations in New York City will be kicking off a new partnership with Meatless Monday. It’ll be a whole new ballgame, with some very special vegetarian meatballs to follow.
Or should we say meatless meatballs? Actually, The Meatball Shop calls them ‘Veggie Balls’ which is more accurate and they have a place of pride among the other ‘Naked Balls’ on the menu.
The Meatball Shop got the ball rolling five years ago on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and from day one people have been lining up to get in. The brilliant collaboration of boyhood friends Michael Chernow and Chef Daniel Holzman, there are now five locations in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. These two dynamic restaurateurs are really building momentum – think of that stone in Raiders of the Lost Ark as a giant meatball rumbling forward – that kind of momentum.
Daniel may be a master of meatballs, but he also has a deep and abiding love of vegetables. Having been a chef at both vegetarian and vegan restaurants, he savors the seasonality that vegetables bring to the table. From the outset Daniel offered a veggie ball on the menu, and currently there are also veggie heroes, veggie sliders, a wealth of green sides, and the famous Kitchen Sink Salad. The story behind the kitchen sink: Michael would always ask his partner to make him a salad for lunch with whatever vegetables were handy and a couple of balls on top. Patrons saw Michael eating it at the bar and said, “Hey, I want one of those. Where’s that on the menu?” These two always have their eye on the ball, so they quickly added it to the menu where it’s lived ever since.
Given his love of vegetables, Daniel didn’t take lightly the challenge of creating a veggie ball for his menu. Shying away from ingredients like seitan (“I didn’t want it to feel like a ‘fake-meat’ meatball”) he embraced one of his favorite legumes: the lentil.
“I love the flavor, the profile, the texture, the mouth-feel of lentils,” he said. Asked if recipe creation involves much trial & error, he said, “At this point, I know what makes a great meatball. It’s kind of like being a musician – you get to know the instrument and then you can just play.”
If you want to celebrate National Meatball Day at the mecca of meatballs, get to Williamsburg or one of the five Manhattan locations. And don’t be surprised if, on Mondays to come, you see new options such as broccoli and cheddar balls
For all the Meatless Monday fans spread across 37 countries who can’t get to a Meatball shop, Daniel has graciously provided his original veggie ball recipe. So, have a ball!