Grab some early-season zucchini and combine them with mid-season asparagus to make a tasty veg ball. It’s important to remove as much liquid as possible from the grated zucchini to prevent sogginess and ball collapse. Simply wrap the grated zucchini in a clean dish towel and wring it out. Be careful when toasting the pine nuts—keep them moving around the skillet so they don’t burn. I am the king of distraction here. Whole pans of pine nuts have ended up in the garbage can because I left them on the stove and forgot about them. You have been warned.
From The Meatball Cookbook, by Jez Felwick.
Coarsely grate the zucchini into a bowl and scatter with 1 teaspoon of the salt. Set aside for 20 minutes to draw out some of the liquid, then squeeze the zucchini in a clean dish towel. This is important, because you want to remove as much liquid as you can in order to help the mixture combine and stick together.
Put the pine nuts into a dry skillet and toast them over medium heat, shaking the pan from time to time and making sure they don’t burn. Remove the pan from the heat as soon as they start to turn a light brown color and then tip them onto a cutting board. When they’ve cooled down, crush them into small pieces.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl. Add the asparagus, zucchini, garlic, dried red pepper flakes, white breadcrumbs, Parmesan, crushed pine nuts, and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Combine with a wooden spoon, then mix thoroughly using your hands, squeezing the mixture together as you go. The mixture will be fairly wet, so chill it into the fridge for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to infuse and the mixture to set.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400ºF, and line a large baking pan with nonstick parchment paper.
Pour the panko breadcrumbs into a shallow bowl. Form the zucchini mixture into 12 balls, each about 1¾ inches diameter, then roll them in the panko breadcrumbs and place them on the prepared baking pan. Bake in the oven for 15–20 minutes, turning the pan around halfway through—the balls should begin to brown on the top and be firm to touch. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn underneath.