Thursday, December 13, 2012

Arancini (Rice Balls) and The Vegg

Arancini, or Rice Balls are a family tradition. We grew up eating them, and it seems that have resurfaced within the family as some of my cousins have been making them again.

Our families recipe consists of ground beef and pea stuffed arancini- clearly not vegan. And of course the egg used to bind them? Not vegan, either.

For some reason I became inspired to try a vegan version of this family tradition. Substituting the ground beef is easy, as is the Parmesan cheese but the egg yolks called for to bind the rice? Not as simple.  The Vegg to the rescue!

I was recently offered the opportunity to try The Vegg- a vegan egg substitute developed by Rocky Shepheard of State College, PA.  The timing of the offer to sample this product was near perfect- it really simplified my dilemma in terms of how to make an entirely vegan rice ball!

Not only does The Vegg behave like egg yolks, it looks and even smells like egg yolks!  Thanks, Rocky for the chance to sample this great product- I cannot wait to try Hollandaise sauce!

Anyway, back to the Rice Balls.  I will tell you this recipe should come with a warning-- it is aof a pain to make but it does taste delicious.  It took me a lot of trial and error to be able to cook these so they did not fall apart.  I tried to pan fry them as opposed to deep frying them and let me tell you- it does not work (as evidenced by the huge pile of rice and filling I had to retrive out of the pan (it did make a nice rice casserole, though that is for another post).

So, if you are afraid of deep frying, don't bother!  If you are OK with a little decadence once in a while, especially if Arancini is a tradition in your family, give it a whirl!

Oh, and one more really cool thing about The Vegg?  The proceeds go to Compassion Over Killing.  Sweet!

Arancini (Rice Balls)
1 lb cooked white rice, cooled to room temperature0
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lb meatless ground crumbles (such as Boca)
2-3 tbsp plain tomato sauce
15 oz frozen peas, thawed
Equivalent of 4-5 egg yolks, using The Vegg's preparation directions
1/2 cup vegan parmesan cheese (my recipe below)
1/2 cup chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp non dairy milk (I used So Delicious Unsweetened Coconut)
1 cup (or more) plain bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

Vegan Parmesan Cheese* 
Mix the following in a food processor:
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup raw cashews
Salt to taste

Heat the 2 tbsp olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat.  Add the crumbles, season with salt and peper and cook until heated through. Add the peas and 1 tbsp tomato sauce, stir and set aside.

Place rice in a large bowl add the egg yolk equivalents, vegan Parmesan cheese, the other tbsp of vegan Parmesan and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.  Mix well.

To assemble the rice balls use an ice cream scoop. Pack the scoop with the rice, make an indent with your thumb and then push the rice out of the scoop.  Place on a platter with the indent side up and fill with the ground crumble mixture.  Scoop some more rice into the ice cream scoop and pack well. Push out of the scoop place on top of the filled portion on the platter to form a ball.

I found that the the more firmly you pack the ice cream scoop with rice the better the balls will stay together when frying.  It will also help to pick up the ball and ensure the rice is firmly packed  by using your hands to press it together gently.  Repeat until both the rice and filling mixtures are gone.

Mix the 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 tbs non dairy milk together and whisk.  Using a brush or your hands coat each ball with the mixture and then roll in the bread crumbs.

Fill a pot with enough oil and heat over medium high heat.  Be sure you use enough oil that the rice balls will be completely submerged.  When the oil is hot gently drop the rice balls into the oil using a spider. Allow to fry a few minutes until golden brown all over.  Remove from the oil using a spider- be gentle- they are rather delicate!  Place on paper towels to drain.

Allow to cool slightly and serve.

*Note: this makes more than the recipe calls for. Save the rest n the refrigerator for use in other recipes. The recipe I used for the vegan Parmesan cheese can be found here.

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