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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Gettin' Our Soup On: Sopa de Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

Nothing's better than soup on a cold winter's day, right?

Snowy weather = soup weather, right?

The 6th annual National Soup Swap Day was January 21st, 2012.

On January 20th, it looked like this at my house:

Which would be great for swapping soup, if we didn't live at the tippity top of this:

How high is that snow, you ask? Higher than a dachshund.

(A friend of mine pointed out that we didn't really need to have a leash on Xena, Warrior Princess Dog since she obviously wasn't going anywhere...) 

So... I called off the Swap for the 21st, and pushed it back a week until the 28th. We don't get snow very often here in Washington State, and when we do, we're really not that prepared for it. I love where we live, but if you don't a have a 4-wheel drive vehicle you're not getting anywhere near my house in the snow.

But, by last night, the snow was cleared and swappers were ready to do their thing. There were 6 of us in all, and we had a great time. At the end of the evening, I had scored some great soups! Residing in my freezer right now are a Shrimp Gumbo made in the Northern Louisiana tradition using file powder as the thickening agent. Nestled nearby is a Spicy Taco Soup made with elk meat (!!), and a Root Vegetable Bisque with parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes, and carrots. And if that wasn't enough, I also scored a comforting Corn and Bacon Chowder (can't ever go wrong with bacon) and a gorgeous Purple Cabbage and Sweet Potato Soup made with coconut milk and peanut butter!

Lunch is going to be seriously tasty for awhile.

As for myself, I made Sopa de Albondigas, or Mexican Meatball Soup.

I fell in love with this soup while I was making it. The broth alone was so good I could've just sipped it all day long. I really think it has beaten out White Bean Soup with Kielbasa and Kale as my new favorite!

And it doesn't even have KALE in it!!!!  Who knew?

Sopa de Albondigas (Mexican Meatball Soup)

1 lb. lean ground beef
1 lb. lean ground pork
2 large eggs
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 c. chopped cilantro
1 t. dried oregano (preferably Mexican oregano if you can find it)
1/4 t. ground pepper
1/2 c. long-grained rice, uncooked

2 T. vegetable oil
2 large onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, pressed through a press
1 t. dried oregano (again, preferably Mexican oregano)
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
12 c. chicken broth
2 chipotle peppers, chopped, plus 1 T. of the adobo sauce it comes in
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 large carrots, shredded
3 medium red potatoes, diced
1/4 c. chopped cilantro

To make the meatballs whisk the eggs in the bottom of a large bowl. Add the garlic, cilantro, oregano, and pepper and whisk together. Add in the meat and rice and mix together thoroughly. You're probably going to have to stick your hands in there to get it all mixed up. Form into small balls, around 1" in diameter. I actually used my small cookie scoop to portion them, then rolled in my hands to finish forming. Place on a cookie sheet, and when they're all formed put the whole tray in the fridge to firm up a bit while you make the broth.

For the broth: Heat the oil in the bottom of a large soup pot until shimmering. Add the onions, and sautee until tender and translucent, around 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and cumin, and sautee another minute. Add all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the potatoes and cilantro. Bring the broth to a boil, stirring occassionally. Reduce heat slightly and let broth simmer around 20 minutes.

Remove meatballs from fridge and add to the simmering broth, one at a time. Do this gently and carefully so you don't splash the broth all over the place. Add the potatoes, and simmer the soup for 30 minutes. Check meatballs for doneness - they should be cooked through and the rice should be tender. If it's not there, continue simmering until they are done. Adjust seasoning as needed, stir in the cilantro, and serve.

Garnish with any of your favorite Mexican accompaniments: diced avocado, fried tortilla strips, diced green onions, and sour cream. Or forget all of that and just eat it as is! (That's my preference.)

This makes a LOT of soup because I was making it for swapping. If you don't particularly want 26-28 cups of soup, feel free to halve it. :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Green Eggs and Kale: Kale Soup with Poached Egg

You do not like kale.
So you say.
Try it! Try it!
And you may.
Try it and you may, I say.

-paraphrased from Dr. Seuss

I have been obsessed with the idea of this soup for some time now. Literally obsessed. I had this vision of a vibrant green soup with a poached egg floating in it, and I couldn't shake it. And truly, I tried to shake it, because the people that live in my house are getting pretty sick of the kale parade. But it wouldn't go away.

Plus, I really like poached eggs.

And double plus, I'm home alone today and there's no one here to stop me from making it! Ha!

I couldn't really find any working recipes out there for a blended kale soup. Left to my own devices, I simply went with what worked well in my head. (Potentially ugly, I know, but it turned out okay this time.)  I opted to use mild cannellini beans to both slightly thicken the soup as well as add protein. A generous 1/4 cup helping of dijon mustard went into the pot as well. That might seem like an odd ingredient for a soup, but it works really well with the kale, and it mellows during the simmering stage. In fact, you may even find that you want to add one more dollop at the end to bring it back to the front.

On it's own, the soup tastes good. But it's when you break open the egg and swirl the yolk into the soup that the magic happens. Do not, under any circumstances, skip the poached egg!

Kale Soup with Poached Egg

1 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, put through a garlic press
1/4 t. dried thyme leaves
4 green onions, chopped (about 1/4 c.)
1 bunch curly kale, center ribs removed, leaves chopped
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. dijon mustard
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. ground pepper
poached eggs (1 per serving)

Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat until hot, but not smoking. Add onions and sautee, stirring frequently, until quite soft and golden brown, around 10 minutes or so. Add in garlic and thyme and sautee briefly, 30 seconds. Add green onions and kale and continue to sautee until the kale has wilted slightly, around 3-5 minutes.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pot (not the eggs) and simmer until the kale is quite tender, 10-15 minutes. Don't let it simmer forever, though, you want the kale to retain its bright green color.

Using an immersion blender, you can blend it all together right in the soup pot. Otherwise, let it cool slightly and puree it in batches in a blender. Return to pot and keep warm.

In a separate pan, poach however many eggs you need. I like 1 egg for about 1/2 c. serving of soup. If you want a bigger bowl of soup I would probably add another egg so the yolk doesn't get lost. Ladle soup into bowls and carefully slide poached egg on top of each serving.

And I would eat them in a boat.
And I would eat them with a goat…

And I will eat them in the rain.
And in the dark. And on a train.
And in a car. And in a tree.
They are so good, so good, you see!
So I will eat them in a box.
And I will eat them with a fox.
And I will eat them in a house.
And I will eat them with a mouse.
And I will eat them here and there.
Say! I will eat them ANYWHERE!
I do so like green eggs and kale!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

6th Annual Soup Swap - Coming to a Kitchen Near You?

Recently I followed a twitter link that took me to something wonderful called Soup Swap. Turns out a GENIUS named Knox Gardner (from Seattle!) came up with the idea... the basic principle of which is everyone comes to a central location with the same amount of soup. Taking turns, each person chooses a different container of someone else's soup and in the end everyone goes home with a variety. It runs pretty much exactly like the cookie swap parties that are so popular in the month of December. But with SOUP! I die.

 How could I not get in on that? Did you see the title of my blog? If I don't host a soup swap I'm pretty sure I'd have to shut down my kitchen.

The 6th Annual Soup Swap takes place on January 21st this year. I'm hosting one, and can't wait to see what soups show up on my kitchen counter. You could host one too!  Fellow blogger, Soup Chick has a great post about it today... read more about it and get great ideas for soups that freeze well.

Check back after the 21st for pictures and a report on how our swap went. Maybe I'll even be able to coerce some recipes out of my guests!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pass the Protein, Please: Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro

Recently, someone asked me if I had any vegetarian soups. I had to pause and think about that for a minute.

I'm not anti-vegetarian by any means. Before my surgery we had lots of meatless meals, usually centered around pasta. However, pasta on it's own isn't a great choice for me anymore, and on top of that, I consciously work at adding protein to my recipes wherever I can. That's why most of my recipes have two different sources of protein, and this one's no different: Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro. I add spicy sausage (a family favorite) as well as farro, which is a terrific whole grain that has a big-time chewy texture and a mild nutty flavor. Farro is also a great source of plant-based protein. It has 7 grams for every 1/4 cup serving, coming in even higher than quinoa or brown rice.  It really adds a special something to this earthy soup.

When it comes down to it, I guess I just don't think like a vegetarian when I'm creating a soup recipe. However, if you're a vegetarian, there are still options here. Usually one of the two proteins I add to my soups is plant-based, so you could simply eliminate the meat protein. In this soup, you could certainly skip the sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and you'd be good to go.

Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro

2/3 cup farro, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
24 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms (I cheat and buy the packages already sliced for me)
1 t. salt
1 lb. spicy Italian ground sausage
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken broth
1 T. red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking, add mushrooms and stir to coat in olive oil. Sprinkle salt over mushrooms. (This will help them give up more of their moisture so you can get them crispy.) Sautee mushrooms for 15 minutes or so. First they'll give up a lot of moisture, then that will cook off and you want to continue sauteeing them until they are browned and have crispy edges. When done, remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Sautee sausage in same pot, pressing with spoon to break up, until browned and cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add in onions and sautee until they are soft and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add in garlic and sautee briefly, around 30 seconds. Add carrots and celery and sautee until vegetables begin to soften, around 4 minutes. Add red pepper, thyme, and bay leaves and stir to coat vegetables.
Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with the reserved mushrooms and sausage. Drain farro and add to pot. Simmer soup until the farro is tender and chewy, around 30-45 minutes longer. Add vinegar, taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.