This weekend was the opening of the Grant Park Farmers Market.
What a fabulous place! Here is what I had for breakfast.
So delicious! There were tables full of fresh pastries, pastas, cheeses,
granola, ice cream, and locally grown fruits and veggies. Of course my favorite was the best looking table of all, Turtle Bend’s table!
As you can see, Mecca and Adam brought a beautiful array of leafy greens to share with the community.
And that’s my super-excited-to-grab-my-bags-of-goodies-from-those-awesome Lowes-face.
Adam and Mecca have harvested several kinds of kale from their farm, and it is spectacular.
Last winter when I tried my first Georgia grown kale,
I experimented with grilling it (bad idea- turned right into charred nothingness), sauteing it (good, but not great), and just straight up boiling (eh). Ultimately, I found contentment in a combination of sauteing the kale leaves for a few minutes with onions and garlic, and then adding broth and allowing the kale to achieve more of a braised state. Braising is a method of cooking usually applied to tough cuts of meat, that starts with a dry sear or a quick cook in oil or fat, followed by adding some sort of liquid, This affords the time necessary to break down the connective tissue, yielding a soft, tender, “falling apart” kind of meat. The same methodology works for kale, since it is a bitter leafy green that needs time to shed its sharpness and show its softer, sweeter side.
Kale is a super food. Its nutritional value is pretty much off the charts. It helps prevent cancer, has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits, and aids your body in its effort to detoxify the system. Kale is a food you can certainly feel good about eating.
At the end of last season, I vowed to create a soup that showcased kale in all its glory. I had in mind an Italian Wedding Soup. Of course, I never follow the rules…so my version is a little different. As the weather has cooled back down a little bit, it’s a perfect time for this satisfying bowl of yumminess.
The blissful union of meat and leafy green vegetables with a light broth = minestra maritata, or married soup, which was mistranslated into English to be Italian Wedding Soup. A soup that is apparently never served at Italian weddings. Huh. Now we know.
Mine started with a meatball making party.
3/4 Lb ground beef
1/4 Lb pork sausage
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
handful fresh TB parsley, chopped
1/2 Cup homemade or store bought breadcrumbs
1 Cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 t granulated onion
pinch of Italian seasoning, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes
good pinch of salt and pepper
Then, I combined the ingredients without over-mixing
and began to roll golf-ball sized meatballs.
I seasoned some flour with salt and pepper, and then rolled each ball lightly in the flour to coat.
They kinda look like little donut holes. I do not recommend eating them in this state.
Next, I crisped up the meatballs in a hot pan with a bit of olive oil.
And once they were perfectly browned, I set them aside and built my soup.
Should I let you guess what it started with?
One diced Georgia Vidalia onion, of course, with a pinch of salt. I removed most of the oil from the meatball pan and only left about a tablespoon to cook the veggies and create a base for the soup.
Once the onions were soft, I added 5 cloves of pressed garlic and stirred for about a minute.
Meanwhile, I grabbed each leaf of kale by the bottom of the stalk, and ran my hand up the stem to pull off the leaves. Then, I cut the leaves into large ribbons.
And then I added the greens a little bit at a time to the pan to saute.
I just used tongs to turn the greens as they wilted, and then I added more to the pot as more room became available.
After all the kale had softened and mingled with the onions and garlic, it was time to add 8 – 10 cups of broth. Mine was homemade,
just by simmering tops and ends and skins of veggies with chicken bones, water, and salt and pepper.
But you can totally use a boxed broth if that is convenient for you.
I added two rinds of Parmesan cheese to the pot,
since I always have them in my fridge and they are great for flavoring soup. If you don’t have any rinds, you can just add about 1/2 Cup of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Then I seasoned the pot with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. I let the soup come up to a boil, and then I reduced the heat to medium low and let it simmer for awhile- 20 – 30 minutes at least.
Next, I went rogue on the Italian Wedding Soup. Instead of adding pasta, which can become mushy in soups- and I detest mushy pasta- I decided to go with navy beans. They hold up incredibly well, add protein, and look pretty in the soup too.
I also added my meatballs to the pot so they could infuse the broth with their goodness.
And lastly, I added a big can of fire roasted diced tomatoes.
And I stirred it all together.
Then, I tasted, seasoned again- this time adding a pinch of sugar to bring out the sweetness of the tomatoes, and let the components of the soup “become married” to one another over time. How long you choose to simmer the soup is totally up to you- I’d say at least 30 minutes. Be sure to taste your kale, as you want that bitter sharpness to be a thing of the past.
When you are pleased with the flavor and consistency of your soup, you are ready to serve. Just ladle a few meatballs and plenty of kale and broth into a bowl. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley, and enjoy this bowl of comfort food goodness by itself, or with a sandwich for dunking, or paired with a crisp salad.
Buon appetito, my friends.
I hope you have fun in your kitchen this week. Feel free to reinvent a dish you have a hankering for- and make it uniquely yours!
Happy cooking and eating,