By Chef Ella Freyinger

February 2021

Serves 4-6

Please, make these meatballs. They are truly delicious - which may partly
come from the nostalgia embedded in them. If you live in Los Angeles you have probably been to one of the many Korean spas and likely eaten in between your soaks, scrubs and meditations. At my personal favorite of the spas (we all have one) there was a healing soup like no other. A small bird stuffed with dates, jujubes, rice, ginseng and a few other secret ingredients. The flavors and medicine in this dish filled your body with love and warmth which is exactly what these meatballs are meant to do. Grounding, warming, centering, like a warm hug from your grandma.

Ingredients

  • FOR THE MEATBALLS
  • 1 pound ground chicken (I prefer a 50/50 light/ dark blend)
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 medjool dates, pits removed and sliced
  • 1 cup steamed greens, liquid strained (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground ginseng
  • 1 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped and divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄4 cup quinoa flakes (or plain breadcrumbs)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 1⁄2 tsps Kosher salt
  • FOR THE POLENTA
  • 3/4 cup of polenta
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 cup coconut milk 
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • FOR THE PESTO
  • 1 bunch cilantro, chopped (leaves and stems)
  • 1⁄2 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1⁄2 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt

Steps

  • FOR THE MEATBALLS
  • Preheat oven to 450° F. Place a skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and onion. Sauté until translucent and beginning to caramelize around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Transfer to a plate to cool.
  • In a medium bowl place the ground chicken, dates, greens, ginger, coriander, ginseng, kosher salt and half the cilantro. Gently fold together. Add the egg and quinoa flakes. Fold again to combine. Make sure to mix lightly as this will create light and tender meatballs.
  • Grease a baking sheet with olive oil. Take about 2 tbsp of the meatball mixture and lightly roll into a ball then place on the baking sheet. Continue with the remaining mixture. Drizzle the meatballs with olive oil and sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.
  • FOR THE POLENTA
  • Bring the chicken stock, coconut milk and water to boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Reduce to medium. Gradually add the polenta, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle simmer and cover. Whisking every 10 minutes until the polenta has absorbed most of the liquid, about 35 minutes. Add the butter and stir to combine. Season with salt to taste.
  • FOR THE PESTO
    Place cilantro in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until the cilantro is finely chopped. Add the walnuts, yeast, cumin, salt and lemon and pulse until the walnuts are finely chopped. Add the olive oil and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Place the polenta into shallow bowls. Add meatballs to the center of the bowl and drizzle with cilantro pesto.
  • Enjoy!