Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Meatball soup.

We are having some very nice late summer weather, what I guess one would call Indian summer. I just now looked up "Indian summer" on Wikipedia since I have no idea where the term comes from, and it says, among other things that "traditionally, Indian summer can only be a true Indian summer after the first frost, generally a killing frost, of the season."

We are still far from frost weather, so I guess we're not in Indian summer here. Just lovely September weather, still warm-to-hot in the day-times, but mostly cool and breezy at night.

I made up a big pot of soup on the weekend--it was too warm for soup, but in my mind, which is still tuned to the weather of Ohio and probably always will be, soup weather happens long before the weatherman here in Virginia reacts accordingly. And besides, with a raging case of fall allergies, soup seemed indicated and was in fact very soothing to my nose and throat.

This soup is from a cookbook I picked up in May at the Fresh Market, which is a small chain of grocery stores in the Midwest and Southeast that specializes in organic and imported foods, hormone-free chicken, fancy condiments, and bulk nuts and spices. They released a cookbook for their 25th anniversary, and it was on sale, so I grabbed it on a whim.

Well! I have never experienced a cookbook like this one before. Every single thing I've cooked from it has been not just good, but delicious. It's very impressive. So here's the soup I cooked from it this weekend:

Italian Turkey and Spinach Meatball Soup

1 pound ground turkey
1 (10 oz.) package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1 cup Italian style dry breadcrumbs

2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1 cup green pepper, diced
8 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning***

3 (32 oz.) cartons chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 ounces pasta shells
croutons and Parmesan cheese for garnish

In mixing bowl, combine turkey, spinach and breadcrumbs. Roll mixture into small meatballs (1") and set aside.

In large Dutch oven, melt butter and olive oil over medium-high heat. Add carrots and cook for five minutes. Add celery and cook for five more minutes. Add onions and green peppers and cook until slightly tender. Add mushrooms and Italian seasoning, and cook until mushrooms are browned. Add chicken broth and bay leaves. Allow soup to come to a simmer, add meatballs, and cook over low heat for 2 hours.

Add pasta to soup and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Garnish bowls of soup with croutons and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Serves 12-14.

***I have a packet of Italian seasoning that I don't think I've ever used before, but when I pulled it down and took a whiff, it smelled too much like thyme, which I only like in small doses, and sage, which I don't think belongs in Italian seasoning at all. So I made my own:

1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried marjoram
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seeds

I know that doesn't come to 2 tablespoons, quite, but I thought it was plenty of spice.

We ate some of the leftovers for dinner tonight, and I think I can make it stretch to lunch tomorrow, too.