Monday, January 7, 2013

Italian Wedding Soup Part II

Italian Wedding Soup is my idea of the perfect meal. Full of luscious greens that have soaked up meaty, earthy broth, juicy, plump meatballs that fall apart in your mouth, soft carrots, celery and onions that have just enough bite to add some texture, and either a grain, rice or bean to keep things interesting. I just can't get enough of it.

I've made many versions of this soup before, but this weekend, I made a new version, and it is, hands down, the best one I've ever made or had. I modified a recipe that came out of my most recent issue of Eating Well. Her recipe called for ground turkey, but I had a pound of gorgeous, grass-fed, organic beef with a very low fat content that was begging to be used. Her recipe also calls for cabbage in the soup, and I didn't want cabbage messing with the rest of my greens. Lastly, her recipe called for kale or escarole, but I had a huge bunch of spinach and large bunch of collard greens, so I used those instead. And I must say, this is what collard greens were made for - this exact soup. Perfection!!

Italian Wedding Soup Part II

For the meatballs:
1 lb ground beef or ground turkey
1 cup fresh whole-wheat breadcrumbs (see recipe below)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the Soup:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion (1 medium)
1 cup chopped carrots (2 medium)
1 cup chopped celery (2 medium stalks)
8 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed
4 cups coarsely chopped spinach
4 cups coarsely chopped collard greens (stems and ribs removed)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. To prepare meatballs: Combine meat, breadcrumbs, egg, parsley, garlic, Worcestershire, fennel seeds, pepper and salt in a large bowl. Refrigerate for 10 minutes to firm up. With damp hands, shape the mixture into 32 (1-inch) meatballs (about 1 scant tablespoon each).

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cook the meatballs in the oven for 20 minutes. (I cooked mine in my mini-muffin pan ala AB-style.) Remove and set aside.

3. To prepare soup: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring, until the onion is translucent, 7 to 9 minutes.

4. Stir in broth, beans, greens and the meatballs. Bring just to a boil, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Top each portion with 1 tablespoon grated cheese.

Whole Wheat Bread Crumbs via Eating Well

Make your own whole-grain dry breadcrumbs. Rather than discarding the "heel ends" of the whole-wheat sandwich bread you use daily, collect them in a paper bag, seal and store until they're completely dry and crisp, usually a few weeks. When you've assembled a substantial amount, break them into pieces and whirl in your food processor to make fine crumbs. Bake at 250 degrees until crispy, about 15 minutes.

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