Friday, February 22, 2008

escarole and orzo soup with meatballs

escarole and orzo soup with meatballs

You know those stories about when you were a kid that your parents can’t get enough of? That they’d go on. And on. And on about to their friends, your friends, prom date and future in-laws? Because apparently, when you were little you were cute. I mean, really cute. And you did cute things. And those cute things were hilarious. And still are, nearly 30 years later.

grating parmesan

Well, apparently long before I had achieved actual literacy, I went for the next closest thing: memorizing books. But I used to call it–start cooing now, please–“rememorizing” because doesn’t that make more sense, as you must “remember” it? Honestly, it still does. So, as the story goes, I came into my parents bedroom one morning and told them I had learned to read and I would demonstrate with my Favorite Book In the Whole World, Snow, a Dr. Seuss book. “Snow, snow, come out in the snow. Snow, snow, just look at the snow….” It didn’t take them long to figure out I was neither looking at the book, or likely, holding it right side up but, oh, were they charmed.

some fancy orzocarrots

Of course, this isn’t a story about how cute I was when I was four (though the correct answer is “very”), it’s about that favorite book: Snow and the fact that even today I still adore snow, but this winter, with just an hour of snow here or there has been an utter disappointment. Seeing as it is now late in February, I was getting convinced that it simply wouldn’t snow this winter until this morning at about 6:30 when I woke up, saw all of the rooftops outside our window draped in white and was so excited I could not get back to sleep. Even better, I had plans to bring my camera to work today so I had a chance to take a few quick pictures in Madison Square Park with our new lens. I could have stayed there all day, you know, if the Shake Shack was open. But even the view from work isn’t half bad. It’s a snow globe out there and I can’t wait to get back in it.

Which, really, is a perfect time to tell you about a soup we made last week. Seeing as I am a sucker for anything with the word “wedding” in it, be it an excuse to smash cake in someone’s face, bake cookies or in this case, put meatballs in soup. Of course, traditional Italian Wedding Soup (also known as Minestra Maritata or Pignato Grasso) is said to have little to do with happily ever afters, but the marriage between meat and vegetables in a soup. Associated with southern Italy, but more often parts of the Northeast, most recipes today have pork, a leafy green and some form of pasta in it, typically tiny ancini de pepe confetti. This soup is a riff on that, with turkey meatballs so good, I’d encourage you to make extra to serve with a future spaghetti dinner, escarole (though unable to find it, I used swiss chard), orzo and carrots in chicken stock.

turkey meatballsescarole and orzo soup with meatballs

I’ve been pretty slackish about making dinner lately, but this was one of those things that go me over it, albeit briefly, as it could be done in a reasonable amount of time on a weekday evening. Or a snowy night, tucked in with a good movie and some dreamy chocolate pudding.

Escarole and Orzo Soup with Turkey Parmesan Meatballs
Adapted from Bon Appetit, February 2003

If desired, grate a little extra Parmesan cheese for passing; a sprinkling over the soup will echo the flavor in the meatballs.

Makes 4 main-course servings.

1 large egg
2 tablespoons water
1/4 cup plain dried breadcrumbs
12 ounces lean ground turkey
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

8 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 cup chopped peeled carrots
3/4 cup orzo (rice-shaped pasta)
4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about 1/2 medium head)

Whisk egg and 2 tablespoons water in medium bowl to blend. Mix in breadcrumbs; let stand 5 minutes. Add turkey, Parmesan cheese, parsley, garlic, salt, and pepper; gently stir to blend. Using wet hands, shape turkey mixture into 1 1/4-inch-diameter meatballs. Place on baking sheet; cover and chill 30 minutes.

Bring 8 cups chicken broth to boil in large pot. Add carrots and orzo; reduce heat to medium and simmer uncovered 8 minutes. Add turkey meatballs and simmer 10 minutes. Stir in chopped escarole and simmer until turkey meatballs, orzo, and escarole are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Rewarm over medium heat, thinning with more broth if desired.)

Ladle soup into bowls and serve.


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