Thursday, September 15, 2011

September Daring Cooks Challenge: "I Do!" Italian Wedding Soup

It was right at 100 degrees again here yesterday...yes, in mid September! Fall STILL hasn’t come to central Texas, so I’m still being stubborn and pretending that it has! Couple that with this month’s Daring Cooks Challenge and my still-recovering tummy, and I’m featuring a winner of a recipe today: Italian Wedding Soup. Thanks for all your kind get-well messages...I’m feeling much better, but still not feeling 100% quite yet. I'm back to work and managed to get into the kitchen last night to make a big pot of yummy soup that was hearty enough for Michael, but still ok for me to enjoy as my stomach continues to get better.

Our Daring Kitchen Challenge for September was to make homemade stock and a soup of our choice. I make a lot of soup during the cooler months -- usually homemade chicken noodle, gumbo, or chowder. I wanted to do something a bit different this time, so I made a big pot of Italian Wedding Soup using Ina Garten’s recipe as a guide. It features flavorful bite-sized meatballs, homemade chicken stock, wine, lots of healthy veggies, and orzo pasta. Luckily, I had made my homemade chicken stock earlier in the month and froze it. With that step out of the way, this soup was ready in just over an hour...and most of that time was spent simmering.

The other part of our challenge this month was to serve some kind of accompaniment to our soup. Since I wasn’t feeling up to baking anything from scratch, I cheated a bit. I simply used refrigerated garlic bread sticks...I brushed them with melted butter and sprinkled parm-reggiano and Woody’s Rosemary-Sage salt on top before popping them into the oven. They were quite tasty! I’ve said it in here before: there’s no shame in using convenience products, especially during the work week! This batch made enough soup for us to have dinner last night, lunch today...and freeze two small containers for a dinner some busy night later in the month.

"I Do!" Italian Wedding Soup
adapted from Ina Garten

Step 1:  Make the meatball mixture by combining the following ingredients in a bowl: 3/4 lb. ground turkey, 2 turkey Italian sausages (removed from the casing), 1 large egg, 3 tbs. milk, 1/2 cup panko or other breadcrumbs, 1/2 cup parm-reggiano, 2 finely minced garlic cloves, 2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of fresh black pepper. Use clean hands and mix until just gentle to your meatballs and they'll come out nice and tender in return!!

Step 2: Add 1 tbs. olive oil to a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add 1/2 large diced yellow onion, two sliced carrots, and two sliced stalks celery. Cook until the onion is softened...about five minutes, stirring a few times to make sure they cook evenly. 

Add 1 tsp. dried Italian seasoning and 1 tsp. salt to the veggies and give a stir. Then add 1/2 cup red wine and 8 cups chicken stock. I used homemade stock as part of this month's challenge, but a good-quality boxed stock can also be used to save time. Stir to combine.

Step 3:  Add the meatballs to the soup. They should be bite-sized...about 1 inch in batch made about 36 meatballs. As they cook, they will float to the surface. Their juices give the soup a really nice, meaty flavor! Cover the pot, lower the heat to med-low, and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Step 4:  Once the soup has simmered, the meatballs will have floated to the top. Add 1/2 cup orzo and 6 ounces baby spinach that have had the stems trimmed. Give it a stir and let the soup simmer for 8-10 minutes, until the orzo has cooked.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls...making sure to get a bit of each veggie and some meatballs. Just before serving, sprinkle with a bit more of the parm-regianno. As you can see, his soup is a meal in a bowl. All you need to complete the meal is some warm bread sticks.

This soup is super filling thanks to the pasta and meatballs, and it’s a great way to sneak in some healthy veggies! I’m not normally a spinach lover, but it tasted great when combined with the other ingredients in the soup. The soup tastes even better the next day, after it’s rested in the fridge overnight and the flavors hang out and mingle a bit!! If it’s already cool where you live, this will be an IDEAL dinner. If you’re like me and still running the air conditioner, even in the evenings? You can be a rebel...

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