Yes, you're right my dear friends. It's the end of June. The temperatures are squelchingly hot. My windows literally sweat with condensation during the day because of the temperature differences between my cool, comfortable house inside in comparison with the sauna/steam room that is the Okinawa summer. Egads, it's freaking hot. So why on Earth would you want to make soup in the middle of summer?
Let me explain: Right now I am back on night shift, and one of our nursing goals is to help promote normal sleeping cycles for our patients. Since we usually have to go into the rooms pretty frequently at night, we turn off most--if not all--of the lights in the unit. While it's great that it makes the patients nice and sleepy, it unfortunately has the same effect for the nurses. It gets pretty difficult and unappetizing to eat a cold salad or sandwich when all I want to do is curl up in my chair, steal a blanket from the blanket warmer and eat something comforting and warm.
Presenting this soup. Comforting and warm. Perfect. Easy to make.
Not to mention it tastes freaking phenomenal.
I bet that those of you who work in places where they keep the AC set at -50° during the summer will appreciate this recipe, too. If you still think I'm crazy for making soup during the summer... well, I guess I can't change your mind, but know this: It's not a heavy soup at all. Using broth instead of stock lightens it up, in my opinion, and using chicken in place of beef or pork makes it feel much less heavy than a soup made during the winter months.
If you're still anti-soup-in-the-summer, please please please at least give the meatballs a try. They're incredibly flavorful and delicious. Just shape them into small patties instead of balls and serve them as chicken sliders with toasted buns, your favorite burger condiments, and perhaps a lemon aioli or avocado dressing for some summer zing. Honestly, they need very little embellishment since they're so scrumptious on their own!
One Year-ish Ago: Chicken BBQ Pizza
Spring Minestrone with Chicken MeatballsAdapted from Bon Appetit
For the Meatballs:
12 ounces ground chicken
2/3 cup Italian style breadcrumbs
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley flakes (or minced fresh parsley if you prefer)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
For the Soup:
1 large shallot, diced
4 small ribs of celery (2 if your celery is large), diced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1 cup chopped mushrooms (I used 5-6 crimini caps)
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson's Organic Low Sodium version)
2 cups water
1/2 cup ditalini or other small pasta (I used orzo since it's what I had)
1/2 cup kale, woody stems discarded and leaves chopped (about 4 leaves)
1/2 cup baby spinach, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Splash of lemon juice, to taste
4 leaves fresh basil, chiffonade
Mix meatball ingredients except olive oil in a medium bowl. Form into small meatballs. Using a #60 disher, I was able to get almost 24 meatballs, but feel free to make them whatever size you want. Heat oil in a 3 quart size pot over medium-high heat. Cook the meatballs until just golden on all sides, about 2-3 minutes. They will finish cooking through in the soup. Transfer to a clean plate, and set aside.
In the same pot, add the shallot, celery and carrot. Cook until they begin to soften, stirring frequently, about 4 minutes. Add the bell pepper and mushrooms, continue to sauté another 3 minutes until mushrooms have darkened and softened slightly. Add broth and water, bring to a boil. Add the pasta and meatballs, and simmer until pasta is almost al dente, about 6 minutes. Add kale, spinach and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan, stir until greens are wilted and cheese is melted and remove pot from heat. Taste and season as desired with salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with basil. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.
*If making to freeze for future meals: Increase the cooking time of the meatballs to 5 minutes and cut the cooking time of pasta down to 3 minutes. Let soup cool on stove and ladle into tupperware containers. Freeze for up to 2 months, adding a bit more water or chicken broth into the reheated soup if needed.