Every July, I have a big cooking weekend to stock the freezer with lots of yummy scrummy. The goal is to not need to actually cook again until autumn. Well, not entirely, but any supper I can fake by plopping a frozen brick of something into a saucepan and getting out of the kitchen while the stove is hot is a good supper.
Mmm... A rainbow of good-for-you vegetables and just enough meat to satisy your inner carnivore.
This recipe is my reworking of the Mediterranean Meatball Soup that appears in a Better Homes and Gardens Special Interest publication called Our Best Diabetic Recipes. Carbs are not my friend, and these magazines often inspire me to up my vegetable consumption in a fancy and interesting way. (These magazines also include an alarming number of recipes that call for fat-free Cool Whip and other forms of Better Eating Through Chemistry, so be warned.)
Although this soup is chock-full of goodness I was surprised to find that the original version wasn’t all that delish, and the barley sucked up so much liquid it resembled porridge. Ew. My version below gooses the flavors and provides enough liquid to keep it brothy. I also substituted frozen bell pepper strips and frozen spinach for the fresh called for in the magazine recipe. Lazy? No, just realistic. I choose my conveniences carefully.
Off to a colorful start!
Frozen veggies usually work fine in soup — but I will never, ever stoop to using that pre-chopped garlic from a jar, because it doesn’t taste like anything at all. It smells but it doesn’t taste.
My other main tweak is I altered the meatball ingredients in the direction of more moistness and fewer carbs. The original recipe called for 3/4 cup of breadcrumbs and the meatballs were tough. Reducing the crumbs and adding a grated onion improved the situation dramatically.
Don't forget to rinse canned beans. I don't know what that slime is, but let's not ingest it, okay?
Better Homes and Gardens specified a can of Great Northern beans, but any variety of white bean will work fine. Because they taste so much earthier and beanier I usually prefer to cook big batches of dried beans and store portions in the freezer until needed, but the cupboard was bare so I picked up a can of Trader Joe’s white kidney beans. (The frozen peppers are also from TJ’s. Love that store!)
When reheating this soup throughout the summer, I plan to throw in other Mediterranean flavors such as diced artichoke hearts, black olives or the season’s amazing fresh tomatoes. I think a fresh sprig of rosemary won’t hurt, either.
Mediterranean Meatball Soup
Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens
½ cup whole wheat breadcrumbs (or RyKrisp crackers of All Bran cereal that’s been run through the Cuisinart)
4 cloves garlic, minced (divided)
1 small onion, grated
3 teaspoons fresh rosemary or 1-1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary (divided)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 pound lean ground beef or turkey
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
2 red, green and/or yellow bell peppers, cut into bite-size strips
1 small onion, chopped
3 cans beef broth (14oz each)
2-4 cups water, as needed
1 can white beans, rinsed and drained (15oz)
¼ cup pearl barley
4 cups fresh baby spinach leaves or 5-6oz frozen spinach
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil.
In a large bowl, combine breadcrumbs, egg, 2 cloves garlic, grated onion, half of the rosemary and black pepper. Add ground beef and mix well. Shape mixture into 1” meatballs and place on lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside.
In a biiiig soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Saute carrots, bell peppers, chopped onion and the remaining garlic until onions are translucent.
Add broth, beans, barley and the remaining rosemary. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer until barley is tender. Add water if you require more soupiness.
Add cooked meatballs and spinach and heat through.