Even though it's summer, I still like to turn my stove on. I do. Because here in San Francisco, we still have dewy mornings. We still have bodies of fog that hang low and settle in like hoods at night time. Even when it's summer I rarely smell heat in the air; rather I smell cool spring rain. I am okay with turning on my stove; it suits me.
Another thing that suits me is cooking with Ariana. We make wedding cakes together, we make meatballs together. She is one of those people who can order well at a restaurant, seeing flavors by gut. It works out. We make meatballs in an attempt to leverage them throughout the week - though I always manage to offer them up to everyone and anyone out of sheer pride and excitement.
Our recipes are by feel, and by circumstance. We have a basic idea of what we want and then we throw in whatever strikes our fancy. If we're doing beef, I like to do a red sauce - a bold counterpoint. However, on this particular day, we used a lighter mixture of meat - turkey and pork -- and so I had ideas of something more understated - perhaps a bit more floral even.
A slight Grecian flavor profile: lemon zest, currants, brandy, and a fleck of cinnamon.
Instead of a sauce, I thought a soup, using Zuni chicken stock, Israeli couscous, stinging nettles, and trumpets mushrooms would be fitting. Think of it as a twist on Italian wedding soup - only Greek (ish). Andrew tried it and told me it was restaurant quality: a well edited soup, honed from great ingredients. I am proud to offer this up to you.
Grecian Meatball Soup w/ Stinging Nettles and Trumpet Mushrooms (Serves 6) - 2 Hours
Summary You will make your meatballs and as they bake, prepare the soup. The soup requires building the base in a large saucepan. You will then have to cook the mushrooms separately in a saute pan. You will also have to cook the Israeli couscous separately in another saucepan. Right before you eat, you will throw the stinging nettles into the broth, followed by the mushrooms and meatballs. You will serve this all over the couscous.
Ingredients - Meatballs and Soup listed separately
1/2 lb each ground pork and ground turkeySoup
1/4 c brandy
1/2 c fresh bread crumbs
1/2 c milk
1/4 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t salt
1/3 lemon, zested
1/4 c parsley, finely chopped
1 t oil (to saute)
1 dash of cinnamon
salt and pepper to taste
4 c homemade chicken stock - I like Zuni Stock
3 T olive oil, divided
1 celery rib, sliced 1/2 inch thick
1 carrot, slice 1/2 inch thick
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 meyer lemon rind, peeled with a vegi peeler
1/2 meyer lemon, sliced 1/4 inch thin
3 cups stinging nettles, washed
2 large trumpet mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch hick
1/2 c parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic sliced
1 c Israeli couscous
1 c boiling water
salt, pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 425F.
1. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs and milk to soak. In another small bowl, combine the currants and brandy to soak. Allow both to soak for 15 minutes.
2. In a small saute pan on medium, heat the 1 T olive oil and saute the onions for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes until soft. Season lightly with salt.
3. In a large bowl, combine the turkey, pork, eggs, 1/2 t salt, sauteed onions mixture, cinnamon, parsley, and lemon zest. Drain the currants and add them to the meat mixture. Drain the bread crumbs and add them to the mixture as well. With your hands combine the mixture until homogeneous.
4. Shape them into go balls - ping pong size. Place on a cookie sheet. When you have rolled them all out, bake in the oven for roughly 12-17 minutes. Please check on them as they may vary due to size.
5. In a large saucepan, heat 2 T olive oil on med-high and saute the celery, carrots, onion, garlic, and lemon zest for 4-6 minutes until soft. Pour in the chicken broth and lemon slices. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer.
6. In a small saute pan, heat 1 T olive oil on high. Saute the mushrooms. Don't move to much as to make sure that it develops a slightly golden crust, 5 minutes. Add in parsley and toss.
7. In yet another small saucepan, dry toast the Israeli couscous on high heat until some of the pieces have turned golden. Add the boiling water to the saute pan (it will sputter), cover and shut off the heat. Set aside for 13 minutes. Uncover and fluff.
8. 10 mintues befor eating, Throw the stinging nettles into the simmering stock and let cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and the meatballs to the soup and allow to simmer for 5 more minutes. Serve in a bowl over a mound of couscous.
A bit labor intensive, I know. So there is a red sauce option.
Saute 1 chopped onion, 3 chopped celery ribs, 2 chopped carrots in a large saucepan over medium heat in 4 T olive oil, 5-7 minutes. Add 2 32 oz. cans of good stewed whole tomatoes crushed, 3 anchovy fillets, 1/2 of fresh bread crumbs. Bring to boil and simmer an hour. Add milk if desired and continue to cook 10 more minutes. Salt and pepper to taste.