When I have (what I think to be) a unique recipe idea and then find that idea somewhere on the internet, it makes me both happy and sad - happy that the idea is good enough to already be out there and sad that it's already out there. Fortunately, I typically adjust the ingredients enough and add an unusual accompaniment, such as this foraged nettle salsa verde, to make the recipe all my own. The nettle was a volunteer in my snap pea patch and works great as a bright, yet earthy, pairing to the light-bodied and savory tsukune. Remember to be careful when foraging or harvesting stinging nettle - it stays true to its name! Tsukune recipe adapted from here. Serves 4-6.
1 bunch stinging nettles, about 2 cups packed leaves after blanching
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
About 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 tablespoon water
1.5 pounds ground chicken, preferably dark meat, divided
1 cup minced scallions (about 4)
1.5 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
About 1 tablespoon grapeseed or other neutral oil
Shichimi tōgarashi, for garnish
Bring a large pot of water deep enough to submerge the nettles to a boil. Submerge the nettles and cook for 3 minutes.
While nettles are cooking, prepare an ice water bath. Transfer the nettles using tongs to the ice water, cool, then drain and squeeze out excess water. Remove very large or tough stems from the nettles, discard, and blend the remaining leaves and smaller stems in food processor until chopped. Add shallot, garlic, and salt and pulse then incorporate vinegar and water until a texture resembles a coarse salsa. Set aside or refrigerate if preparing more than one hour before making meatballs (can be made up to 24 hours in advance).
Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 1 pound ground chicken and cook, stirring frequently breaking apart pieces, until chicken is opaque and just cooked through, about 2 minutes.
Combine cooked chicken, remaining raw chicken, scallions, and miso in a bowl. Mix together with your hands until a homogenized, sticky mixture forms. Divide mixture into 16-20 meatballs of the same size. Whisk together soy sauce, brown sugar, and sesame oil and keep nearby for use in the next step. If your salsa verde is in the refrigerator, this would be a good time to bring it out to allow it to come to room temperature.
Heat enough grapeseed oil in a large sauté pan to lightly coat pan on medium high. Add meatballs and cook on one side for 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Drizzle half of soy mixture over meatballs then flip, turn down heat and cook another 2-3 minutes, turning occasionally so that all sides are well-cooked.
Serve meatballs over nettle salsa verde with a drizzle of the remaining soy mixture and sprinkling of shichimi tōgarashi.