At the Kitchen Table – Meatballs
Recently, I was perusing through Classic Spanish Cooking by Elisabeth Luard to educate myself about an upcoming trip to Spain this summer. I wanted to try to make some of the dishes that we might eat in Barcelona and to attempt to pronounce (and remember) some of the Catalan/Spanish names so that I could have a little edge when I was ordering tapas. Let’s face it, it’s all about eating!
So one morning, I began testing recipes in Luard’s book just for fun. I was completely drawn in by the short, easy recipes and cooking methods. Fresh ingredients were key, of course, but the simplicity of the dishes made me want to try several for dinner that night. I salivated over recipes like Garbanzos Tostados Picantes, crunchy oven baked garbanzo beans with nothing more than olive oil, salt and chili flakes baked in a low temperature oven for an hour. What a great idea! The Sardinas a la Parilla or broiled sardines with salt and served with lemon, depend completely on the freshness of the fish, which I found at Whole Foods fresh that day from the Monterey Peninsula. Then I found a recipe for Albondigas en Salsa or meatballs in tomato sauce and I was taken in.
Meatballs conjured up making Swedish meatballs with my mom from a recipe that our neighbor Helen gave to her. It was my favorite dish growing up and it was fun to help her make it. I remember finely chopping the onions and garlic and sautéing them before mixing and rolling it into raw meatballs. For some reason, I loved to feel the cold sticky meat on my hands. Mostly, I was just glad to be in the kitchen with my mother.
Mom used simple cooking methods too. Opening cans of Campbell’s consommé and cream of mushroom soup was no trouble at all and it added a béchamel-like creamy sauce to the meatballs. The whole thing was then ladled over plain egg noodles. It was my favorite and it still means comfort food to me.
With Spanish cookbook in hand and the meatball recipe at the ready, I decided that it was time to discover my own inner meatball. So, with ground chicken, ground turkey and various spices and herbs, I conjured up those kitchen moments with mom and made mini meatballs that would be the main ingredient in a tomato based soup, also inspired by Spanish cooking.
I am halfway to Spain in my mind and hoping to be able to recreate some wonderful dishes to share on my return. For now, here is the tomato soup with pimenton (Spanish Paprika) and of course, meatballs.
Albondigas en Sopa
This soup is so versatile, it could have anything in it, like seafood, but it happens to be delicious with meatballs.
1 can Fire-Roasted Tomatoes (Muir Glen)
2 cups chicken stock
2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
_ small jar of roasted red peppers, slivered
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 TBS pimenton
_ cup finely chopped fresh parsley
_ cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1 LB both ground chicken and turkey
1 egg, beaten
2 cups breadcrumbs
1 glove garlic, finely chopped
4 green onions, finely chopped
1 TBS cumin
4 TBS freshly chopped fresh cilantro
salt and pepper
flour for dusting
oil for frying
Make the sauce first, by sautéeing the onions and garlic in olive oil. Then add the slivered peppers and herbs. Add the cinnamon, cumin and pimenton and stir. Then add the canned tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir together and let simmer for about 30 minutes.
Sauté the onions and garlic and let cool. Then mix all the meatball ingredients together. Have a small bowl of water nearby when working and a plate with flour for dusting. Dip your fingers in before spooning up some of the meat. Drop in the nearby plate of flour for dusting. When you have rolled all of the meatballs, sauté them in an iron skillet and brown. They don’t have to be cooked all the way through. Add them to the broth and cook for at least 15 minutes. Taste and season to your liking. Serve with a crusty piece of bread.
Inspired by Classic Spanish Cooking by Elisabeth Luard
Tricia O’Brien writes the Vegetable of the Month column for the Oak Hill Farm newsletter and lives in Glen Ellen. You can visit and follow her blog at www.cafetrix.blogspot.com.