Monday, January 25, 2010

Soup Season

The month of January has always been soup season for me. It's the coldest month in the desert and the busiest month for my public relations company as it is chock full of events, galas and charity fetes. This means there is not a lot of time to spend cooking elaborate meals and dinner means heating something up that is warm and soothing to the soul. It is a time of cooking mass quantites of soup to freeze and reheat on demand, and one of my all time favorites for this purpose is the Mexican meatball soup called Albondigas.

What makes the flavor of albondigas soup distinctive is the chopped mint in the meatballs and the combination of whatever vegetables are in season at the time. If fresh mint is not available, you can use a couple teaspoons of dried mint from herbal mint tea. Also, you can substitute ground turkey meat for the ground beef.

Albondigas Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 quarts of chicken stock or beef stock OR water OR a mixture of both (we usually use half stock half water as the meatballs will create their own stock)*
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1/2 lb of string beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup of raw white rice
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1 raw egg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
A dash of cayenne (optional)
1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled, or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
*If using prepared stock, be sure to use gluten-free stock if you are cooking gluten-free.

1 Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed pot (5-qt) over medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add broth mixture and tomato sauce. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots and string beans.
2 Prepare the meatballs. Mix rice into meat, adding mint leaves and parsley, salt and pepper. Mix in raw egg. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.
3 Add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Add the peas towards the end of the 1/2 hour. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste.
Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Serves 6-8.

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