In the spirit of March and St. Patrick’s Day, here is a recipe that is neither Irish nor spring-like, but is very, very green. It corresponds with one of my monthly goals to eat/drink more green every day, and just happens to be oh-so-delicious.
This is one of those rare recipes that I make once every week. Meatballs are a staple around my house — they’re easy to make double or triple batches of, they’re great for emergency meals and can go with just about anything, and they make a great snack on the go. Yes, I consider meatballs a snack.
But really, anything bite-sized can be a snack, regardless of whether it’s made of meat or cheese or vegetables or fruit or nuts. Can you manage it with your fingers? Is it portable? If the answer is yes, it’s a snack. Introducing my favorite:
I started playing around with this flavor combination when I needed something unusual to jazz up standard bland ground chicken. I’d been using the standard Italian seasoning with my beef meatballs, and I’d tried a variation on a Tex-Mex theme with ground chicken before, a sort of unsatisfying blend of fresh cilantro and not enough salt. I don’t know what it was that led me to try Asian spices exactly — it could have been that I know Andrew loves them, but additionally we don’t get much of those flavors where we are. There are no Thai or Indian restaurants in our town, and only a few places that could be said to remotely pass for “Chinese.” So I took matters into my own hands. A blend of savory alliums, whimsical five spice and a decadent chew factor from roasted sweet potatoes made these into something indeed very unusual, but pretty addictive too. My best move yet was to include fresh shredded spinach into the mix — this lends the meatballs a definite green tinge but is an excellent way to squeeze in more veggies if you have picky eaters or an already-full plate.
Additionally, these meatballs can take a hit from any leftover vegetables you have forgotten in your fridge. Steamed broccoli, roasted golden beets, any squashes or greens or little bits here and there can go straight into the meatball batter and into the frying pan to emerge golden, savory, and tasting much more exotic than before.
Asian Chicken Meatballs
2 lbs. ground chicken
2 c. fresh baby spinach
1 small sweet potato, diced and roasted
1 small onion, diced and caramelized
5 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp. dried basil
2 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Tbsp. coconut aminos
2 tsp. Chinese Five Spice powder
salt + pepper
coconut oil, ghee or bacon grease
Gather roasted vegetables. Dice and caramelize onion in a saucepan with plenty of fat. In a food processor, pulse fresh spinach until shredded. Add egg, ground chicken, spice, fish sauce, coconut aminos, garlic, caramelized onion, vegetables, and plenty of salt and pepper. Pulse until combined. Dont’ be afraid to heavily season these meatballs — they need plenty of salt and spice to draw out the savory flavors in the meat.
If the meatball batter is too wet, add 2-3 tsp. coconut flour and mix to combine.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large skillet, heat coconut oil/ghee/bacon grease. Form meatball batter into small balls and brown on all sides in the pan. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes in hot oven, until cooked through.
Serve with spaghetti squash, roasted vegetables, or braised bok choy for a satisfying meal (and a snack later).
(P.S. It’s pretty difficult to photograph meatballs and make them look appealing. Sorry about that.)