It’s a hot, sunny, fabulous day in Georgia, and we’ve just gotten back from marketing (Yay!),
erranding, and doing the general Sunday get-it-together-for-the-week chores. I always wish there could be an extra day between Sunday and Monday. That way, once all the catching up has been done, there’d be one more day to enjoy. Lemme know if you figure out how to make that possible…
Anyway, it’s just a few days before the Jackson Lowe CSA begins, so I am here to offer a few ideas with regard to this week’s big brown bag of goodness. As always, the dishes Adam and I create and share with you are meant to highlight the fresh ingredients at hand and honor the season. Please feel free to tweak any recipe to suit your liking, only make one part of a meal you see here, or simply use a particular method we employ to reach your own creative end.
And if you’re a reader out there who is not in the CSA, but just looking for a delicious dinner, I’m thrilled you’re here too! You can certainly find all of these ingredients in your local market or even in your neighborhood Asian grocery store.
In the first bag, we have…
When I saw JL’s brand new bok choy,
my brain went immediately to stir fry- which makes sense, because bok choy is known as Chinese cabbage- and Chinese cuisine and stir fry go hand in hand. Throw in some shunkyo radishes,
native to Northern China, and it was all sewn up for me.
But then I started second guessing myself and asking Adam loads of questions… Is stir fry too boring to share as the first recipe of the season?!?! Should I dress these veggies up differently, rather then following my gut?? Should I roll something up inside of the bok choy? No, no no. First of all, following my instincts is (almost) always the best way to go. Secondly, vegetables of Chinese descent, that were pulled out the ground in Rockmart, Georgia the same day I get to cook them, are not boring in the least. And hey, why not provide a not-so-run-of-the-mill protein to serve with the stir fry? That would spice things up for sure! Phew. It was settled.
So, I give you Asian Turkey Meatballs and Stir Fried Veggies with Peanut Sauce and Brown Rice.
We were using brown basmati rice, which takes a little while to cook, so we went ahead and started that portion of the meal first.
I rinsed one cup of rice, using a mesh strainer, and measured out 2 cups of homemade chicken broth. I drizzled a little bit of olive oil into my small pot and heated it up to medium. When the oil was hot, I added my rice, a pinch of salt and freshly cracked pepper and stirred for about 30 seconds to a minute. I wanted the rice to get nice and toasty- a light golden brown. Next, I poured in my broth
and brought it up to a quick boil. I reduced the heat to low, covered the pot, and set my timer for 40 minutes (typically just about the time the rice has absorbed all the water and I can turn the heat off and let it stand). Then we were ready to move onto the meatballs!
For the meatballs:
1 lb ground turkey
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch hunk of ginger, peeled and minced
1 serrano or jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
2 scallions, chopped pretty finely
handful cilantro leaves, chopped
1/3 Cup pistachios, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 T rice wine vinegar
1 T low sodium tamari or soy sauce
1 t chili paste
juice of a lime
1 T cornstarch to start
pinch of salt and pepper
1/2 Cup sesame seeds, black or white or mixed, **for rolling onto the outside of your meatballs**
canola or peanut oil for pan frying
Once we had finished our chopping and mincing, we combined all of those ingredients in a large bowl.
Then we added the egg, lime juice, tamari, rice wine vinegar, chili paste, cornstarch, and a good pinch of salt and pepper.
I got in there with my hands and incorporated the ingredients, not to over-mix, just to evenly distribute all of the flavor.
Next comes a super important part- the tester. You can’t taste the mixture in this state with raw egg and turkey. Nope, that wouldn’t be safe. But you don’t want to roll up a whole mess of meatballs that are lacking salt or could use a little bit more spice. I believe that fresh food is inherently variable. A bunch of scallions picked from the earth on different days, especially from different farms or regions, can have varying levels of moisture and intensity. So, it’s critical to taste your food along the way, even if you’re making a recipe you’ve cooked before, and tweak the flavors to get them just right on that particular day. I think of it as being respectful of those ingredients and enhancing them lovingly.
Go ahead and heat up a large skillet, with a good layer of canola or peanut oil along the bottom, to medium heat. Form a golf ball sized round from your turkey mixture. When your oil is hot, place your meatball in the pan.
Cook for a couple of minutes per side, allowing the meatball to brown. If it’s browning too quickly, turn your heat down a bit.
When your meatball is browned and cooked through to 165° in the middle, remove your meatball- it may look more like a meat wad at this point- to a paper towel lined plate and let it cool a minute. You’ll want to move your pan off the heat for a few minutes. Taste your meatball and assess. Maybe your meatball will be perfect. It should just explode with flavor in your mouth. At this point, you can add more salt and/or pepper, you could add a splash of tamari- which will give you more salt and more moisture, or up the ante on lime juice or vinegar if it needs more tang. If your meatball isn’t sticking together well, you can mix in a little more cornstarch. Once you’ve tweaked, it’s time to get rollin’.
Put that pan back on the heat and roll up a slew of meatballs. Then, delicately roll each meatball in sesame seeds to coat them well.
Sometimes, I roll the meatballs on a cutting board full of seeds, sometimes I hold some seeds in my hand and roll the meatball around in my hand. Whatever works for you!
Fry off your meatballs, using tongs or a spatula to gently coax them to make contact with the pan on all their curvy sides.
Be careful not to overcrowd your pan, or it will make flipping difficult. Also, if you’re running low on oil, pour more between batches and let it heat up before adding your next round of meatballs.
Preheat your oven to 225°. As your meatballs finish cooking, remove them to a paper towel lined plate. Then, you can place the cooked meatballs onto a sheet pan and keep them warm in the oven for a few minutes while you cook up your vegetables.
I wanted to keep my veggie list real short so that the star ingredients could effectively shine and not become muddled. If you are a party of one or two, you may want to only use half of your big, beautiful head of bok choy. We cooked the whole shebang, and it made enough stir fry for at least a family of four.
1 head bok choy (or half)
6 shunkyo radishes, sliced into thin discs – about 1/4 of an inch thick (save a few slices for garnishing)
3 carrots, peeled and cut into a small dice- about 1/2 inch
1 inch hunk ginger, peeled and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Cups or a couple handfuls mung sprouts (pictured below)
handful cilantro, chopped for garnish
First I cut off the bottom of my bok choy and filled my sink with cold water. I rinsed the bunch well to remove any farmy dirt. (Love that stuff!) Then, I separated my ribs from my leaves with a knife, just following the natural lines of the stems.
I chopped the ribs into bite-sized strips or chunks and cut the leaves into thick ribbons. I kept them separate, because the ribs take a smidge longer than the leaves to cook.
Adam chopped the other goodies and we got everything in place.
The key to successful stir fry is having every single thing you need ready to go before heating your oil. The stir frying process works best when it goes quickly.
So, let’s talk sauce.
Often with stir fry sauce, you’ll see cornstarch used to thicken the sauce last minute. Since we had already added cornstarch to our meatballs, I thought about it a different way. If I leave the sauce a little bit looser, the veggies take on the flavor, but I will have some liquid leftover…a perfect pool of juice just waiting to be turned into a peanut sauce for the meatballs. Dual purpose. I’ll explain.
In a small bowl, mix together:
the juice of a lime
1/4 Cup tamari
good squeeze of honey or agave nectar
about 5 shakes sesame oil
1 heaping t chili paste, or as much heat as you like
Stir to combine the ingredients well. Then taste. Adjust level of sweet/ salty/ heat to your liking.
Have 1/2 Cup of smooth peanut butter hanging out, getting soft on your counter.
Alright. Game on. Heat a large wok or high-sided skillet, with a light layer of peanut oil in the bottom, to medium high heat, leaning toward the high side. Let that pan get nice and hot. Then add your carrots and radishes.
Stir fry two minutes or so, stirring often. Next, add your bok choy stems.
Cook another minute. Then add your ginger and garlic to the mix.
I find that if I add the garlic and ginger too early on, they just burn and get stuck to the bottom of my pan.
Next, add your bok choy leaves, using tongs to turn and wilt the leaves. Once you’ve got all the leaves in there, add your mung sprouts and your sauce.
Toss to coat all of your veggies in the sauce, and cook just about one more minute. Use a slotted spoon to pull your veggies out of the pan and place them in a bowl for serving.
Lastly, turn the heat down to medium low and stir in your peanut butter. Use a whisk to make the sauce smooth. If you find it seizing up too quickly, you can add a splash of chicken broth or water. Taste your sauce carefully and adjust seasoning to your liking.
Time to plate!
Ladle a scoop of brown rice onto each plate or into each shallow bowl. Top with a heap of beautiful vegetables, and place a few meatballs on the side. Drizzle the meatballs with a bit of your peanut sauce. Garnish the top of your dishes with a couple slices of raw radish and chopped cilantro.
This was no average stir fry, my friends. The bok choy was hearty and reminiscent of collards in its slight bitterness. I couldn’t get over how wonderful the flavor was. The radishes- lovely and fresh, the carrots sweet. The mung sprouts added a bit of texture at the end. Those meatballs were unreal- I could have eaten about 20. Even though they are pan fried, the turkey is lean, they’re loaded with veggies, and the pistachios are super high in fiber. So, you can feel good about eating them. And they reheated extremely well for lunch the next day.
Mmmm. Now my mouth is watering!! Maybe yours is too! This stir fry dish could easily be served vegetarian style- just add peanuts to the mix for protein. If you’re not feeling like rolling lots of meatballs, throw some shrimp into your pan of veggies and cook them just until they are pink and firm. You could even grill up a a flank steak marinated in tamari or soy sauce, ginger, garlic, and mustard and slice the steak last minute to top your stir fried veggies. Really, the options are endlessly customizable.
If you’re in Mecca and Adam’s CSA, I hope you’ll find your first bag of vegetables to be like the gift that keeps on giving. I know I feel like it’s Christmas morning every single week when I unload mine!
And to all of you out there reading, I hope you’ve found a little bit of inspiration in something I shared that you can bring to life in your own kitchen and enjoy with those you love.
Happy cooking and eating to you,