Gourmandistan was fortunate enough to escape most of the massive snowstorm that engulfed America’s east coast in the past few days. However, several inches of snow and a somewhat ice-clogged creek have reminded us that, as in winters past, we may become stranded at home with no food options but what we have on hand.
With an eye towards the ugliness that February might bring, Michelle brought home some beef, veal and pork and spent some time making a batch of multipurpose meatballs, which we first used in a lovely beef, barley, kale and mushroom soup. Their next appearance may be in a batch of lasagna (we have some ricotta and mozzarella that need using) or perhaps in a warming bowl of pho.
Other than leaving out assertive spices such as oregano or coriander, there were several touches that made this batch of meatballs special, if ethnically unspecific. Michelle thinks sautéing onions and garlic before mixing them into the meat makes for a more delicate flavor. A batch of homemade hot dog buns Steve deemed only semi-good made for some exceptionally light and fluffy breadcrumbs, which also made these meatballs very tender. Added red pepper flakes provided a bit of heat, which should be welcome no matter what cuisine we choose to work within.
Hopefully we will continue to have a mild winter, and will not be forced to endure weeks of isolation as we did last year, when our propane reserves ran so low we could no longer use our stovetop. But even if the worst weather again passes us by, we will no doubt dip into our cache of meatballs, making something delicious in (or in spite of) the cold.
Cook mushrooms in 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet. Use relatively high heat to get a good sear on the mushrooms, tossing frequently. Season with salt and pepper. When mushrooms are browned, reduce heat and add 1 tablespoon sherry. Toss until sherry is absorbed. Set aside. In a soup pot, cook onions in remaining 1-1/2 tablespoons of olive oil, stirring occasionally. When onion is soft and lightly colored, add garlic, celery and carrots. Season with salt, pepper and some red pepper flakes. When vegetables have softened slightly, add beef broth. Simmer for 15 or 20 minutes. Add remaining tablespoon of sherry and meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes. Then add kale and simmer for about 4 minutes more. Add reserved mushrooms and let them heat. Taste for seasoning. To serve, place about one-fourth cup of cooked barley in each bowl. Then, using a slotted spoon, add meatballs and vegetables to bowls. Pour broth over. *We try to keep meatballs in the freezer over the winter months, saved in packages of 6 or 8 medium or more of the mini ones which can be pulled out to use on pizzas, for sandwiches, with pasta, in soups or in Michelle’s favorite, Spanish meatballs with almond sauce. There is no recipe as such. Just mix together ground meat (the traditional mix of veal, pork and beef is good), some finely chopped onion and garlic that has been sautéed in oil and cooled, a lot of chopped parsley, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, an egg or two, some tomato paste and some sort of liquid (cream, milk and/or stock) to moisten. Roll the meatballs and freeze on a tray. Once frozen, they can be vacuum sealed and re-frozen in small packages without sticking together.
BEEF AND BARLEY SOUP WITH MEATBALLS, KALE AND MUSHROOMS