Garlic chive is one of vegetables I started to grow due to a lack of organically grown supply at my local market. It is important for me to know where food comes from and how it is grown (or treated) before it comes to my kitchen, and ultimately ends up on my plate. That’s one of two reasons why I started my garden, beginning with a 12 x 15’ community garden plot and expanding to my current front and back yard spaces. The other reason? I LOVE growing plants, and I love talking to my plants. Besides, how can I go back to conventional produce after tasting freshly-picked tomatoes still warm from the sun’s energy or sweet, brightly coloured carrots that I have just dug from the ground myself and which possess the concentrated flavours of home?
Garlic chive is a staple ingredient in Japanese/ Chinese cuisine; toss it into miso soup with thinly cut abura-age (deep fried tofu), stir-fry with pork liver and mung sprouts, or combine with cabbage for gyoza or to create aromatic dumplings.
Nira-Tama was my childhood favourite when my grandma used to make it, and later became a before-pay-day meal when I was in a college. Now with home-grown garlic chives, it has become an easy, quick and nutritious dinner solution when I am in a hurry.
Nira-Tama with Ankake (Sweet & Sour Sauce)
I used an ankake recipe that I had jotted down on a piece of paper so many years ago and that I recently rediscovered in my cooking journal. It is probably from my colleague in Tokyo who made amazing meatballs that were dunked in this sauce.
6 eggs, room temperature
Salt and pepper
1 bunch garlic chives, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 ½ tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
1/3 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons good quality ketchup
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 teaspoons corn starch
Make ankake by placing all the ingredients, except the cornstarch, in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and cook for a few minutes to dissolve the sugar and salt.
In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch well with 3 teaspoons of water. Add to the boiling sauce and stir constantly, cooking for a couple of minutes. Cover and remove from heat.
Place a well-seasoned or non-stick medium sized pan (mine’s a 9-inch skillet) over high heat and warm up the oil until smoky hot.
In the meantime, whisk the eggs in a medium bowl and add a hearty pinch of salt and pepper.
Sauté the garlic chives in the pan until wilted. It will only take a minute or two. Then spread the chives evenly on the pan.
Pour the eggs over top, swirling to cover the chives and ensuring that the mixture reaches to the edges of the pan. Turn the heat down to medium, cover and cook until the bottom of the eggs become golden.
Flip carefully with a heat-proof spatula, being careful not to break the eggs. Cover and cook until raw egg whites have just set. Don’t overcook because you want to keep the eggs nice and fluffy!
Serve hot with ankake on a large platter or cut into pieces for individual plates.
Where is your sacred place where you can calm your mind, relax, be alone, disconnect the noise, think through daily happenings, or seek solace? For me, it is my garden. I may crawl under a fruit tree or hide behind a lush growth of raised beds in order to find a peaceful space now and then.
A few years ago, I got a little ahead of myself and had too many gardens to look after (thanks to my friends who trusted me and offered me their piece of land). This caused me to have to divide my attention amongst each garden. It goes without saying that I did not have time to truly appreciate any of them, but instead felt constant frustration and pressure to catch up with the growth of the vegetation.
After dropping all the other gardens in order to concentrate exclusively on my own garden at home, I began to truly re-appreciate the reality of having a garden. I spend more time there now, especially when I need to calm my mind. Stroking the leaves of herbs, feeling the grass on the back of my feet, thinning spinach seedlings, eating, weeding unwanted plants and picking slugs (oh, so satisfying!), listening to birds, feeling the warmth of light, smelling the air… I cannot list all that I experience in this space. It is sacred. It is a natural medicine. I hope everyone out there can have access to such a place or find their own place to call sacred where they can be themselves…alone.
Lemon Herb Salt
Herb salt is so easy to make yet so useful, and makes a great homemade gift for your foodie friends. You can use any herb of your choice, aside from those mentioned below, as long as it has a solid texture (eg. rosemary, oregano, lavender and even lovage). I use herbs that have begun to spill onto a garden pathway, out of control! Use for any recipes that call for salt, but if you perform this substitution you might want to omit garlic and lemon.
Makes a small jar
2 garlic cloves, peeled and sprouts discarded
2 tablespoons Kosher salt
½ to 2/3 cup mixture of marjoram, sage and thyme
Lemon zest from 1 organic lemon
Wash the lemon and herbs well and pat dry. Strip leaves from the herbs and discard or compost hard stalks.
Roughly chop garlic on a large cutting board. Add the salt and continue to mince garlic until it becomes fine textured. This will transfer the aroma of garlic to salt.
Grate lemon over the mixture, add herbs, and continue to mince.
Spread the salt mixture on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and dry until garlic and herbs are crisp. I place weights on the corners of the paper so that I prevent the salt mixture from being blown away by accident, especially when I dry it outside.
Store in an airtight container.
Halibut with Lemon Herb Salt
2 pieces halibut, washed and patted dry
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon Herb Salt
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
Sprinkle black pepper and lemon herb salt both sides of the halibut pieces.
Warm up a well-seasoned or non-stick pan over medium high heat, and add the butter and oil.
When the butter is hot, fry one side of the fish until it turns golden, pressing gently down on the pan in order to encourage the herb salt to stay intact.
Flip and repeat until the centre of the fish becomes opaque and flakey.
Serve with green salad.
I don’t know where you live in the world, but as a West Coast resident, for me soup is by far the most essential culinary staple. I turn anything in my garden into soup, especially when I have bits of this and that on hand. Recently, I’ve found lonely beets stored in the root cellar (in my case, a container filled with peat moss) that already sprouted from the top. These are very reliable when we urban gardeners don’t have much else to turn to during garden transition times. I transform my beets into fresh juice in the morning and hearty soup later in the day. My mizuna is too tiny, radishes are too skinny, peas were dug up by birds—over time I have come to the realization that when everything is just starting to grow, it is good to have stored food.
Caramelized Onion and Beet Soup
I strongly recommend that you wear dark clothing, or at least wear an apron to prevent your clothes from being stained with all that brightly coloured juice! For the topping, I happened to have basil sprouts handy in my kitchen but if you can’t find them, almost any other type of sprout works. I prefer basil because it provides a special flavour punch when you first sip this soup, which is also topped with delicious almonds and sour cream.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion, sliced thinly
2 heaped cups beets, peeled and cut in chunks
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups water
1/3 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper
Sliced almonds, lightly toasted
Basil sprouts (or any sprouts available)
Place the oil and butter in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium high heat.
Sauté the onion, constantly turning until it caramelizes and gives off a sweet aroma.
Add the beets and sauté until well coated with oil, for about 5 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium low, cover with a lid and cook until beets are tender. Skim off the foam that appears on the surface occasionally.
Let the soup cool a little bit and then transfer to a blender and proceed until pureed. Place the soup back in the pot and add the Parmesan cheese. This is also the time to adjust the consistency of the soup by adding more water if you like. Bring to a simmer and adjust with salt and pepper.
Serve hot and top with the sour cream, toasted almonds and basil sprouts.