I was born and raised in Washington State, in a small town across the water from Seattle. When I was the tender age of 13, my parents decided to start a small organic culinary herb farm. My father had recently retired as a nuclear engineer and he and my mother, who both loved gardening, wanted to share their produce with others. This was in the early nineties when the notion of culinary herbs and "organic" were definitely NOT in vogue. I remember going with my mother to the local grocery stores and witness her talking to the produce managers trying to convince them that they needed to supply fresh, local and organic herbs to the community. The answer was usually "no!" and "why?" because they said, people have dry herbs to cook with. Plus, fresh herbs were perishable. Well convince them she did! By the late nineties, my parents little farm was supplying most of the grocery stores in the Puget Sound and the surrounding cities. We also sold to many of the local restaurants. My mother and I probably have picked, cut and bunched thousands upon thousands of herbs. We would also cut delicate little herbs, lettuce greens and flowers that made up our organic mesclun salad that we sold to upscale restaurants.
Now this was not my "idea" of a great life and as a teenager, I loathed working in the garden, especially in the early mornings. I never appreciated the hard work my parents instilled in me at a young age. Also, cooking with herbs and eating them was super uncool. My friends had their white breaded PB&J sandwiches, cute little bags of chips, fruit snacks and of course, capri sun drinks. I was the kid who's lunch composed of homemade wheat bread that crumbled, homemade organic fruit leather that was thick and chewy and yes, I drank raw milk from the local dairy farm which I carried in a thermos. Weekends and evenings were spent in the garden tending to the plants, fruit trees, berries, and of course the herbs.
It wasn't until my adult years that my appreciation of herbs and gardening grew. Now, I love all things plants, flowers, trees, working in the dirt and of course growing and cooking with culinary herbs. All those super uncool things my parents did back when I was a kid (growing and eating organic produce, drinking kombucha tea, making and eating fermented foods etc) are all trendy now. We even had a composting toilet in our airstream travel trailer...no joke! Yes, we also traveled in style and I didn't even know it at the time.
I hope to inspire others to grow a garden, learn to cook with herbs and spices, experience and appreciate different foods and flavors and of course support and buy from your local growers.
THE SAVORY BROTH
8 cups of chicken broth/stock
2 large green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 garlic cloves, smashed
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, cut into very thin slices
2 lemon grass stalks (2-3 inches) smashed
6 large shrimp shells
1/2 lemon juice. Squeezed into broth at end
1/2 tsp of fish sauce if broth is not salty enough..TASTE FIRST!
To make soup broth, combine chicken stock/broth, green onion, garlic, ginger, lemon grass and shrimp shells into a large pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. This will allow the flavors to infuse into the broth while you prepare the meatballs.
CHICKEN or PORK WONTON MEATBALLS
1/2 cup of shiitake mushrooms finely chopped (can be fresh or frozen)
6 large shrimp, peeled, deveined and finely chopped until you have a chunky paste
(use shells for soup broth)
1 pound of ground chicken thighs or pork
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 TB coconut aminos
1/2 tsp fish sauce (can use salt as substitute)
2 TB coriander powder
2 tsp ginger powder
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
4 baby bok choy - cleaned, cut in long 1/2 inch strips. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in medium cooking pot. Add baby bok choy to boiling water for 10 seconds and take out. Put aside for later use.
Add finely chopped shiitake mushrooms, chopped shrimp, scallions, cilantro, coconut aminos, fish sauce, coriander powder, ginger powder, ground pepper, and sesame oil to a large mixing bowl.
Use hands to squeeze and mix ingredients evenly. Mixture will be sticky!
Form mixture into 1 to 1.5 inch balls. Place meatballs into a large cast iron skillet and brown each side over medium heat.
To finish soup broth, remove aromatics from broth either with a strainer or tongs.
Add meatballs and juices in the skillet to the broth and simmer for 1- 2 more minutes.
Serve over a bed of steamed baby bok choy.
Can add a squeeze of lemon juice, hot pepper and diced cilantro for garnish.
ENJOY! Don't forget to drink the broth from the bowl.