The last thing we did before going into a self-made isolation/quarantine was visit our friend Beth to help take the cover off the hoophouse she’d been using for a pack shed for the past three years. My Carrot, Beth and her husband unstrapped and cut the ratchet straps, took off the end-wall cover, slid off the main cover and moved it all onto a trailer while I watched our dear friends’ lively, potty-training toddler. I made everyone Cinnamon Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs. Flowers were just popping out of the mulch landscaping around Beth’s house. Her greenhouse was also filled with onions. It all felt so beautiful, so normal.
I haven’t really seen anyone since. I went into the office for a half day two weeks ago, got Frontline for my pups from the vet (before they closed) and bought some emergency wine and beer (when I thought the liquor stores were going to close), and that’s it. In-person contact with six humans in 15 days. Our friends delivered groceries to us on our back door step and we talked through a glass door. Strange times my friends. I know I don’t need to tell you that, but I guess I will anyhow.
All of this strangeness has made my favorite energizing season of growth and possibility a little darker, a little more confusing, a little more still. I’ve been a lot more productive than I thought I’d be. I’m moving my body, getting a lot done, rearranging rooms, socializing, getting creative, and cooking. I’m definitely finding ways to enjoy this new normal and yet, I can’t quite wrap my head around what farming will look like this season. Every time I try, my mind just goes blank and forces me back into the present.
We seed chard and then a second planting of parsley. We take soil samples and submit organic certification materials. We push back crew member interviews, again, and decide to also push back the start date for our employees. I update the employee manual. I submit another grant. Our soil gets delivered and I lounge on top of the massive bag in ridiculous poses because I know the world doesn’t need more musings, but silliness instead. We receive packages of new equipment. We let it sit for a day, then unpack it and piece it together. We flag off the space for our new hoophouse shed.
We keep making preparations for another season. We keep moving forward. I don’t know why it feels so good to say that again and again, but it does. Our farm is marching forward. We are marching forward. We are not actually standing still. Our season is beginning, and much of it will probably look exactly like this– like moving and growing and watching change before our eyes when so much around us feels still. It’s still strange and it’s still unsettling, but at least we get to move.
Okay, enough of that. Let’s get onto the food!
This dish is inspired by Andrea Bemis’ Sesame Noodle Bowls with Lemongrass Meatballs. I have made her dish a million times and share it with my CSA members pretty much every single year, but recently decided I needed to simplify it. I don’t really like going to the store for lemongrass, I rarely feel like pickling things or making a cashew mayo on a weeknight, and I usually have a bunch of wilted greens in my fridge so I created my own parsed down version with the things that made sense for me.
Because I tried to make this dish really easy for you, I do feel a small amount of guilt that I still asked you to matchstick the carrots and radishes. I know I have been doing that a lot lately (see here, here and here). I also recognize that this particular style of cutting up vegetables is a little bit time consuming and kind of a pain in the ass, but I just really love this approach to using a raw veggie right now (so crunchy, so fresh, so tender) so I’ll probably keep doing it for awhile longer.
Please don’t distress. My obsessions usually ebb and flow rather abruptly so the matchsticks will eventually stop. I promise. In the meantime, I encourage you to invest in a mandoline so that you can at least get little thin slices easily and then just thinly cut a stack of those slices!
Anyhow, I hope you enjoy this opportunity to practice your fancy knife skills and eat a spectacular meal! I’m sending all my love your way and hoping you too are healthy, happy and finding a way to survive (and maybe even move forward) in this madness.
SOBA NOODLE BOWL WITH PORK MEATBALLS
Adapted from Dishing Up the Dirt
Takes 55 minutes
3 scallions (a leek or 1/2 onion would also work fine)
7 garlic cloves, divided
1/2 cup raw packed greens (kale, spinach, cilantro, parsley, lots of things could work here)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 pound ground pork
3 carrots, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 3 cups)
1 daikon radish, peeled and cut into matchsticks (about 2 cups)
2 tablespoons Canola oil
1/2 pound Soba noodles
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup tamari or soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1-inch turmeric, peeled and minced
- If using a food processor, cut the scallions into 2-inch chunks and toss into the bowl along with 4 of the peeled, whole garlic cloves, and raw greens. Process until everything is finely chopped. You may need to scrape down the sides with a spatula once or twice since there isn’t a ton in there. Add the fish sauce, sriracha and ground pork. Process until everything is well combined. If not using a food processor, mince the scallions, 4 peeled garlic cloves and raw greens, and toss into a large bowl. Add the fish sauce, sriracha and ground pork and mix until smooth.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Shape pork mixture into 20-24 meatballs (a little smaller than golf-ball size) and place on parchment. Chill in the fridge or freezer (wherever you have room) for 15 minutes while you matchstick all your carrots and daikon.
- Heat canola oil in a large heavy skillet (cast-iron works great here) over medium high heat. When it is just about smoking, add half of the chilled meatballs and reduce heat to medium. Cook, turning occasionally for about 10 minutes until well-browned on all sides. The oil may spit and splatter. This is a great time to use a grease guard or splatter screen if you have one. Repeat with second half of meatballs. You shouldn’t need to add any more oil for the second batch. When these are finished cooking, add already cooked meatballs to pan (it will be crowded) and place hot pan in oven to stay warm.
- Bring salted water to a boil over high heat. Add soba noodles and cook according to package directions.
- While the noodles are cooking, prepare your sauce by mincing your remaining 3 garlic cloves and then adding maple syrup, tamari, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, and turmeric to a large bowl. Add cooked noodles, carrots and daikon. Toss with tongs to combine.
- Serve immediately with warm meatballs on top! Feel free to add extra hot sauce, microgreens or minced herbs as you like.