One of the first signs spring has arrived in my garden is the proliferation of lemon balm…everywhere. In 2009 I bought a potted lemon balm plant at the Grandin Village Community Market (as it was called then) from a wonderful gardener and baker named Betty. I think her farm name was Otter Creek Farm. We were both vendors at the newly-opened market and my young son used to ride his scooter from our booth to Betty’s with $3 for one of her amazing baguettes. I was new to herb grading then and planted the lemon balm plant smack on the middle of my new herb garden.
Well, from that one lemon balm plant I now have about 20 square feet of creeping lemon balm that has overtaken my daughter’s fairy houses, other herbs in the garden and is now creeping through our back yard. I think of Betty every time I harvest it. I use it in teas and tea blends and to make a simple syrup for sweetening herbal infusions. When I came across this recipe giving me another way to use my abundance of lemon balm I had to try it.
This recipe is a variation of Rosa de la Foret’s Lemon Balm and Orange Chicken from her book Alchemy of Herbs. Until I read her book I never thought of lemon balm as a culinary herb but it is perfect here with the orange chicken. Her original recipe includes garden-fresh green beans and carrots. Given lemon balm’s lengthly season this recipe would be great in the middle of summer when we need a cooling refreshing flavor on our tongues.
I’ve added seasonal edible blooms too. We love eating blooms in our home and usually use them for decorations on sweets or as garnishes for salads. The colors from the purple redbud and yellow kale blooms really add beauty to this quick and seasonal dish.
Lemon Balm Chicken with Spring Blooms
Two boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 TBSP sesame oil
1/2 red onion, sliced thin
1 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
toasted sesame seeds
For the marinade:
3/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup tamari
1 TBSP sesame oil
1 TBSP grated ginger
For the garnish:
1/2 cup fresh lemon balm leaves, stems removed and leaves chopped
mustard or kale blooms
Make the marinade by whisking all ingredients together. Set aside.
If you want bite-sized chicken pieces like in the picture, chop the chicken into 1-inch pieces. You could also marinate the whole breast pieces and cook and then slice the cooked chicken. Marinate the chicken with 1/4 the marinade and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
Heat a skillet over medium-high heat, add the sesame oil and sauté the onions for a few minutes and then add the chicken to the pan. Sauté until the chicken is done, as little as 5 minutes for bite-sized pieces, about 15 minutes if using whole breast pieces.
When the chicken is almost done, reduce the heat to medium-low and add the rest of the marinade and cook until the sauce thickens and the chicken is cooked through.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/2 cup of the lemon balm leaves and sesame seeds.
Sprinkle the remaining lemon balm leaves and the petals of the redbud, mustard, arugula or other edible flowers on the top. Serve over rice and enjoy.
*** This dish is so beautiful and inviting my assistant couldn’t resist sneaking a nibble as I was photographing this dish***