Who doesn’t like vegan balls?

Jokes aside, I do have an affinity for foods in compact, cute shapes–and round, ballish ones definitely hit the cute mark. Plus, bite-sized bites are always a good thing at potlucks or for a quick snack. So, ages ago back during MoFo, when Jessy posted one of her many delicious looking vegan ball recipes, I bookmarked it and knew I’d be back eventually to give it a whirl. Then, the other week, our weekly potluck decided to have a themed “gluten-free phallic and vegan balls” potluck in honor of a few folk’s birthdays. Vegan balls, here we go!

It was fun to log into Google Reader and search for “butternut balls” under “starred items.” Who else can have this much fun cooking? Martha Stewart, Alton Brown (actually, he might–he is Alton Brown), Stefan from last year’s Top Chef? Trust me, bookmark a “balls” recipe and then search for it months later–it’ll make you feel badass about life. Anyways, so I found the recipe and then, per usual, set to changing it up a bit. For potluck I actually made acorn squash-scallion-maple-kale balls and served them with a side of the kimchi reduction. They were an instant hit! For these, however, I used roasted sweet potato and sauteed kale. Without the maple syrup but with caramelized onions, these balls maintained a natural sweetness with and earthy, roasted tone. On top of spaghetti and almost meaty mushroom sauce or served with a dipping sauce, these balls really shine. Plus you get to tell everyone that you’re serving vegan balls–snickering is good for you, embrace you’re inner middle school child!

Sweet Potato Kale Balls

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped
5-6 leaves of kale, chopped into small pieces
3 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
1/4 c cornmeal

Preheat the oven to 400.

On a baking tray, place the sweet potato chunks. Drizzle olive oil (approx. 1 tbsp) and sprinkle salt and pepper over them (approx. 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper). Toss with your hands to completely cover the chunks with oil and bake for 20-30 minutes, until soft when poked with a fork. Remove from oven, set aside.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and caramelize by lowering the heat and stirring every 3 minutes to brown evenly. Once the onions are caramelized,bring the heat back to medium and add the garlic and saute for 1 minute, until aromatic. Add the kale pieces and saute for 5 minutes, until the kale is tender. Remove from heat.

In a medium bowl, smash the sweet potatoes with a fork or a pastry cutter (I’ve found the latter works well). Mix in the kale and onions and combine completely.

Form the mixture into balls. Place the cornmeal in a bowl and then roll each ball in the cornmeal to cover completely.

Oil your baking sheet and place the balls on the sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes, flipping the balls over after 15 minutes, until lightly brown on all sides. Let cool, then serve.

Makes 15-20 balls, depending on size.