Today’s post is long, but it’s worth it. I make pesto with a mysterious herb! I grill skinny eggplants! I make scrumptious, juicy meatballs and cook them in a light lemony sauce! I reference Silence Of The Lambs!
Seriously, this food is yummy. Please read on. To entice you, I’m posting a picture of my final plate.
Taking a full week off between jobs in the middle of August meant a mid-morning trip to Union Square to stock up on farmers' market goodies. I bought a TON of stuff - most of it was very carefully planned, but a few were pure impulse buys after browsing and squeezing and smelling. One such impulse buy was shiso.
The signage at the particular vendor said that shiso has a cinnamon/clove smell and a basil flavor with spicy cumin aspects. The smell was definitely spicy/sweet, but still very herbal. I took the advice of the woman who rang me up and made a basil-shiso pesto.
My friend Timothy spent almost a year in Japan teaching and 99% of his emails that year ended with, 'There is still no cheese here'. The 1% of emails included, 'I found cheese - it's over $20.' As a tribute to his dairy-less experience, I kept this pesto cheese-free as well.
- 2 packed cups red shiso
- 1 packed cup basil
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1/3 cup hazelnuts (you could use any mild, creamy nut that you’d like, but I had hazelnuts in the pantry)
- 1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- sesame oil is included in the picture, but I decided not to use it, worrying the flavor would be too aggressive
Why fish sauce? I wanted something that would replace the salty bite of cheese in standard pesto. A little goes a long way with the stuff, but 1/4 teaspoon worked perfectly. I zapped everything together in a food processor. And then took a picture of the final product in my dining room because I had natural light available.
I live for pesto, particularly non-traditional pesto flavors, and this one is really unique. The shiso really brings a spicy flavor - it’s more zing than hot heat, but it is very bold. I liked the saltiness from the fish sauce, the brightness of the rice vinegar, and the mild crunch of the hazelnuts. I only allowed myself a few sample tastes before popping this in the fridge.
A second market impulse buy led to the other half of this meal - fava beans. Silence Of The Lambs is one of my all-time favorite movies but I've never eaten favas in my entire life. I saw them and grabbed a handful. On the subway ride back uptown, I recalled a recipe from Jerusalem for a meatballs and fava beans dish. I Googled it on my way to the store and grabbed what I could - you’ll see that I left a handful of things out (mostly herbs and spices).
Behold: these are fava beans.
You start out by blanching them and removing skins? There's a very complicated paragraph in the recipe about this. No skins came off of mine. So basically, I took the beans out of the shells and I quickly blanched them and added them into the sauce later on down the line. I simplified. A lot.
As I've mentioned before, I love all of the recipes I've made from Jerusalem, but they without fail take a long time and are usually made from tons of different ingredients. This dish was no different. I'll post a full list of the official recipe’s requested ingredients at the end of the post, but here is what I used:
For the meatballs:
- 1/2 lb ground sirloin
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1 small onion
- 1 tablespoon chives, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- lots of fresh black pepper
- 2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 shakes cloves (very technical, I know)
- 1 teaspoon chopped capers
- 1 egg, beaten
- breadcrumbs added until desired consistency (so exact)
I mixed up the meatball ingredients by hand and rolled them into ping pong-sized balls. I seared them in oil on two sides.
For the sauce:
- fava beans, removed from shell and quickly blanched
- 2 thyme cubes
- juice of 2 lemons
- 1/2 cup chicken stock
- 1 1/2 cups sauvignon blanc (because what else do you do with wine received as a gift that you don't like to drink? also I ran out of stock)
- more chives, with a rougher chop
I melted the thyme cubes, then added the stock only to the pan. I also noticed at this point that the recipe called for green onions/scallions, audibly cursed, and threw in the rest of the chives I’d purchased. They’re in the onion family.
I really need to read recipes start to finish before I start. Or, maybe, before I go shop for ingredients.
Anyway, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Then, add in the meatballs, the lemon juice and wine, cover again and simmer. The recipe says to cook for 25 minutes - they also made twice as much meat as I did. Around 15 minutes, I took a temperature reading and the meatballs were perfect.
While the meatballs simmered, I brought the shiso pesto back out from the fridge. I know, remember the pesto I made? This is a long freaking post so if you’ve made it this far, (A) thank you (B) feel free to take a stretch break. I tried to stay within the same Japanese theme as the pesto and put it on top of grilled Japanese eggplant. The skin on Japanese eggplant is much thinner than ‘regular’ eggplant so these cook a lot quicker. I bought two at the market, halved them, scored them, and heavily salted them for about 20 minutes or so.
I took zero photos of this on the grill. You understand what grill pans look like, yes? One grilled, I spooned some of the shiso pesto all over the top.
And I plated (bowled?) up the meatballs, fava beans, and delicious, lemony, herby sauce.
And then, actually using plates, plated up dinner.
Yum, yum, yum. This was rich but light at the same time. It was just the perfect bite. Juicy meatball, tender eggplant, and the bright flavors from the lemon sauce and shiso pesto. This was a Happy Tummy meal for me.
And yes, Mom, you can see in the blurry background of this picture - I did serve fava beans with a nice chianti.
The actual full list of ingredients from Jerusalem:
4 1/2 tbsp olive oil
2 1/3 cups / 350 g fava beans, fresh or frozen
4 whole thyme sprigs
6 cloves garlic, sliced
8 green onions, cut at an angle into 3/4-inch / 2cm segments
2 1/2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups / 500 ml chicken stock
salt and black pepper
1 1/2 tsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill, and cilantro, to finish
10 oz / 300 g ground beef
5 oz / 150 g ground lamb
1 medium onion, finely chopped
scant 1 cup / 120 g bread crumbs
2 tbsp each chopped flat-leaf parsley, mint, dill, and cilantro
2 large cloves garlic, crushed
4 tsp baharat spice mix (1 tsp black peppercorns, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 1 small cinnamon stick, 1/2 tsp whole cloves, 1/2 tsp ground allspice, 2 tsp cumin seeds, 1 tsp cardamom pods, 1/2 whole nutmeg grated -- put these in a spice blender and zap)
4 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp capers, chopped
1 egg, beaten