Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto

When I was a little girl, 99 percent of the vacations my family took were camping and backpacking trips, high in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Sometime in my awkward middle school years, I joined the men in my extended family for a fairly strenuous hike — one pass led to a lake, which led to another pass and another lake, at which point, we broke out the topographical maps. My dad and I continued to a higher lake. Our yellow labrador, Jake, followed us; it was a few miles of what I would essentially call hellish gravel stairs.

We arrived at the top to find a pristine, semi-alpine lake that was likely a result of continually melting snow. I was hot, deceptively sunburnt, and exhausted (as was Jake). So Jake and I went swimming. The water chilled me to the bone, but it was worth it — even while doused in a sub-degree alpine lake, I found myself just staring, soaking up the landscape, sun, water, and snow. My dad used to tell me to remember those views and to store them in my memory, for the days that I’d find myself stuck behind some desk with some mundane task, so I’ll always have these memories to fend off office frustration.

And he was right. The frustration, just like the peace of mind, is always temporary, and will fade out when  memories like this fade in. Sometimes, I forget this sanity tactic in situations where I need it most, like behind my desk, amidst passive-aggressive office e-mails and fluorescent lights that leech onto the melanin in my skin.

But the frustration passes. The winter, the summer, the anger, the bliss: they all pass. It’s like a good hot yoga class. Your hips burn, your calves feel like they are going to burst free from your legs, and you almost give up on the hope of ever being comfortable again. But then you breath out, relax your muscles (or your mind), and upon realizing that every single solitary aspect of life is temporary, you are no longer stuck in that god-forsaken rut.

I just spent a whirlwind of a weekend in Cupertino, for the first wedding of my twenties. On the ride back to the San Francisco airport, amidst rolling hills dotted with age-old oak trees, I soaked in the landscape, and my heart ached. While the attendees dear to my heart are scattered across the country, many of them not far from me in Washington, there is something to be said about everyone traveling across the country to celebrate the love two of our friends share with each other.  Amidst the wine and the whiskey, there’s solace in simply being with the people you love, and the ones who make you feel loved.

Tomorrow, I will struggle to face a newly launched website, and a likely deluge of emails with reports of glitches, typos, and miscellaneous fires to put out.  I’ll be thinking about the rolling hills of a state that I love visiting but will probably not settle in, and I’ll be taking pride in learning to enjoy whiskey on the rocks with the boys.


Lentil Meatballs with Lemon Pesto (adapted from Sprouted Kitchen)


Lentil “Meatballs”:
2 cups cooked French lentils
2 eggs, beaten
3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Pinch of fresh or dried thyme
2/3 cup breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to taste

Lemon Pesto:
1 cup packed basil leaves
2-3 cloves garlic
3 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
zest and juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese
1/3 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


If your lentils are not cooked, boil them in water for about 20 minutes, until they are soft.  Strain them, and let cool.

Once cooled, pulse grind the lentils in a food processor until they turn to mush.  I love that word.  Mush.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cheeses, garlic, parsley, thyme, and breadcrumbs.  Once evenly mixed, add the lentil mush, and stir to mix well.  Let the mixture sit and continue cooling for another 15 or 20 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and make your pesto.  Pulse-grind the garlic and pine nuts in a food processor, and then add the basil leaves, grinding until the mixture starts looking like, well, pesto.  Add the cheese and lemon zest/juice.  Use the dripper on the top to slowly add the olive oil, while the food processor is running.  Slip in a pinch of salt and pepper each, and set the pesto aside.

Now, using your hands, start rolling the lentil mixture into 1 inch balls.  If the mixture is too wet, just stir in more breadcrumbs.

Once the baking sheet is covered, brush the tops of the meatballs with some olive oil, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve over pasta with the pesto sauce, or just eat them by themselves (that’s what I did).  I do have a hunch, though, that they would make fabulous vegetarian meatball sandwiches on a good French baguette.