Friday, January 6, 2012

Do you, Escarole, take Mini-Meatball, to be your partner, in soup?

I'm still continuing my "healthy soup" week, to help us all bounce back after extravagant holiday eating! I started with Swiss-chard, continued with leeks, and now it's time for escarole! Escarole is a member of the endive family, and is the flat leaf variety known as Chicorium endivia var latifolia. Besides being high in fiber and rich in essential vitamins and minerals, escarole is believed to reduce high glucose and LDL cholesterol levels. In addition, it is said to help rid the body of infections. It's a super green and very popular in Sicilian cuisine!

To utilize this ruffly leaf, I chose to make Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata), which has nothing to do with weddings, rather, the "marriage" of flavors. There are numerous versions of this soup, but I chose to make this recipe from Saveur magazine. It was different from versions I've made before, by including shredded chicken and adding some tomatoes to the stock. It may not be for everyone, but I liked it and feel healthier already!

Italian Wedding Soup (Minestra Maritata)

Serves 8 (great leftover for lunch)


1, 3 1/2-4 pound chicken (I used 4 chicken thighs instead)
2 carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 ribs of celery
2 cups canned whole peeled plum tomatoes
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup acine de pepe (frog's-eye) or other tiny round pasta
1 bunch escarole, washed and coarsely chopped (if you can't find escarole, use Swiss-chard or spinach)
1/2 pound ground beef, pork, or whatever you prefer
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons dry bread crumbs
1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmigiano-reggiano
1 tablespoon freshly grated Romano cheese
Leaves of 2 sprigs of flat leaf parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano


Put the chicken, carrots, celery, tomatoes, 14 cups of water, and salt to taste into a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that rises to the surface, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until chicken is just cooked through, about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a small pot of boiling salted water until just tender, 5-7 minutes. Drain, rinse, and set aside. Put escarole and 2 tablespoons water into a large skillet, cover, cook over medium heat until wilted, 4-5 minutes and set aside. Gently mix ground beef, egg yolk, bread crumbs, cheeses, parsley, garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper together in a large bowl, form into 1/2" meatballs, and set aside or refrigerate until ready to use.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a large bowl and set aside to let cool. Strain the broth through a cheesecloth-lined colander into a clean medium pot, discarding solids. Shred the chicken meat and set aside, discarding skin and bones.

Bring broth to a boil over high heat. Add the meatballs, reduce heat to medium, and simmer until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Add the shredded chicken, escarole, and pasta. Season to taste with salt and pepper, simmer for 15 more minutes, to let the flavors "marry."

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