Want to know a little secret? Soup is my friend. It comforts, soothes, warms and satisfies me to my fuzzy little core. Whether what’s in my bowl is meaty, deliciously brothy, thick and hearty or better yet, a combination of all of the above, paired with generous slices of warm, rustic bread or crisp croutons, it makes for a complete comfort meal in my book. Soup is my first go-to when my loved one's bellies need filling but time is scarce, and my energy low; it’s the fare that allows for simple, healthy, home-cooked goodness to shine through with all of the flavor and love of a long-simmered meal. It calls on my creativity to run wild for unique combinations of items to become the best of friends, all thrown into the kettle together and married to be at their most flavorful. What an incredibly inviting aroma my home takes on when a large pot of soup bubbles away on the stove, as anyone who enters is greeted with savory wafts fit to make their mouth water, creating a longing to sit and share in the meal. And the longer soup sits, the more intense and deep the flavor. Ever notice how a soup prepared two days prior tastes that much more flavorful than when freshly made? Nice bonus. The possibilities are endless when "soup’s on".
My husband has long been a fan of “Albondigas”, a spiced, Mexican meatball soup; it gave me the idea to create my own rendition of a meatball soup with fresh herbs, lots of vegetables, white beans and lightly spicy meatballs. Simmering on low allows for all the deep flavors to develop and for the consistency to thicken, making for a filling and perfectly substantial and delicious meal -it’s an entire entree ladled into a large bowl to be happily enjoyed with a nice, big spoon! Want to know another little secret? One of the things I most relish is when I can steal a little relaxing moment after a long day to get all curled up on the couch in a comfy blanket, feet tucked up underneath me and my hands around a toasty-warm bowl of this gently steaming, savory elixir. Throw in a good Travel or History Channel show (Pawn Stars, anyone?), and I’m a happy girl. Beautiful seasonal vegetables containing their own natural sweetness paired with textured ingredients create this rustic soup begging to be sopped up completely with good, crusty bread until every drop is enjoyed. And enjoyed it is.
Yes, soup is my friend. It inspires that “good” silence found around a table when people are in the midst of enjoying a truly satisfying meal; that silence when everyone’s face is in their bowl, sipping up the hot goodness, taking pleasure in eating in that moment rather than speaking. Then again, good food seasoned with lots of love always has a way of creating “good” silence, doesn’t it? And that’s the REAL secret.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Rustic Vegetable Soup with White Beans and Spicy Herbed Meatballs
Ingredients: ( serves about 8 )
1 pound lean ground beef
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons dry Italian Seasoning
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup milk
½ cup breadcrumbs (Panko breadcrumbs work best)
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
4 ribs celery, diced
2 parsnips, peeled and diced
½ fennel bulb, thinly sliced (about ¼ cup’s worth)
1 tablespoon dry Italian Seasoning
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoons pepper
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups hot beef (or chicken) stock
1 (15 ounce) can small, white beans
3 tablespoons basil, finely chopped
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 cups kale, chopped to bite size
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
½ cup shaved Parmesan cheese
1 loaf crusty, rustic bread
-In a large bowl, gently combine all meatball ingredients with hands until well mixed through; roll into bite-sized meatballs, and set aside while beginning the soup.
-In a large soup pot set over medium heat, add the butter and the oil; once melted together, add the onion, carrots, celery, parsnip and fennel; stir gently and allow to sweat for about 3-4 minutes; next, add the Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and minced garlic, and allow to become aromatic; once fragrant, add the hot beef (or chicken) stock to the pot, and gently stir to blend all ingredients; allow for soup to begin to simmer and gently bubble, and then begin adding the meatballs into the hot soup; once all are added, give a gentle stir to move the meatballs around a bit; next, add the white beans, and allow to simmer on medium-low with the lid slightly askew for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
-After 45 minutes, turn off heat from under soup; add the basil, parsley, kale, lemon juice and zest, and give a gentle stir to incorporate; allow soup to sit for 5-10 minutes.
-Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with a generous sprinkling of the shaved Parmesan cheese and enjoy with a thick slice of the crusty bread.