Wednesday, March 14, 2012
ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP
I already have a recipe for a meatball soup, but this one from the Kitchn won me over with its kale (I can’t get enough kale!), and particularly with its promise of “cheesy egg ribbons.” It turns out that although those things are great, the meatballs are the real stars here. When I reached the “season to taste” step at the end of the cooking process, I kept tasting little sips of broth and worrying that it seemed a bit bland. I should have just tried one of the meatballs before I reached for the salt shaker again, because boy howdy they were packed with flavor. (Instead, I ended up oversalting the soup a little in my paranoia. Next time, I’ll either add some red pepper flakes with the onions and garlic, or just toss in a bit of extra cheese at the end to help along the flavor of the broth. The lemon juice squeezed in at the end did give it some zip, but my lemon was small and my impulse would have been to use more if I had it.) For making the meatballs really sing, I credit the fresh oregano, and especially the last-minute addition of lemon zest I decided upon after seeing it casually mentioned in the post that accompanied the original recipe. (In fact, I think the lemon zest should be mandatory; it was my favorite part!) The soup as a whole was just dandy, nicely brothy, slightly creamy, and packed with greens, but every time I bit into one of the meatballs it took everything up another level. As its name suggests, this soup is an excellent marriage of elements, warm and comforting enough for winter but light and perky enough for spring, and balanced enough to please both carnivores (A) and vegetable lovers (me). Even though my soup repertoire is growing lengthy, there’s definitely a place in it for this.
¾ pound ground pork (or chicken, turkey, or beef)
½ cup dry breadcrumbs (I used panko)
3 large eggs
½ cup grated Romano cheese, divided
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, divided
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1 teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to taste
Grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken stock
1 bunch kale (I used Tuscan) or other greens (such as chard or escarole), trimmed and torn into bite-sized pieces (about 6 lightly packed cups)
1. Combine the ground meat, breadcrumbs, 1 egg, ¼ cup of each cheese, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and lemon zest in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, then form the mixture into ¾-inch balls. You should have at least 30 meatballs, depending on how large you form them.
2. In a large skillet, heat 1–2 tablespoons oil (depending on the fattiness of your meat; 1 tablespoon was plenty for my pork, but you might want more for a leaner meat such as turkey) over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs in batches, and cook, turning, until browned all over, 3 to 5 minutes. (If they are still a bit pink in the middle, don’t worry; they will continue to cook in the broth.) Remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set them aside on paper towels to absorb excess oil.
3. In a 4-to-6-quart soup pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until onions are tender and garlic is soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the greens, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the meatballs and cook another 5 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, combine remaining 2 eggs and remaining cheeses in small bowl and stir with a fork to blend. Slow pour the egg mixture into hot soup, stirring constantly in one direction. Cover and simmer just until egg bits are set, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.
Serves: 6 to 8
Time: 1½ hours (The soup-making part doesn’t take long, but I find it time-consuming to form meatballs; maybe you can do it faster. If you made the meatballs ahead of time and froze them, this could be a very quick and easy weeknight meal.)
Leftover potential: Great.