Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Kale and Meatball Soup


I really love dishes that are packed with greens so good that you're shoveling them into your mouth with gusto.  I imagine this is exactly how Popeye felt every time he downed those gobs of spinach that looked so strangely appealing to me as a child (but so did that pizza in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).   

I wish, like Popeye, that I could really knock someone or something out.  Lately I've been struggling with some anger issues (food-triggered anger issues).  And I'm not talking frustration or anxiety, but seriously mind-numbing anger.  Since I've been trying very hard to get back into shape and closely monitoring my diet, I've also been really beating myself up over every slip.  Nights have by far been the hardest.  When 9pm rolls around and it's been three hours since your last meal (because I can't make it past 6 to eat dinner now that I'm running again), it's almost impossible to avoid a visit to the fridge to quietly eat cheese alone.  

Obviously I'm not very good at impulse control - if it's in the house I'm going to eat it - so the more I can make large amounts of guilt-free meals, like this soup that can be portioned, frozen, and eaten throughout the week, the safer we are all going to be as a society.

I'm trying to remember that the beginning of new challenges are always the hardest bit, but I have a creeping feeling that this anger over my eating habits is really a mask for the growing discontent that the monotony of winter can bring on.  Waking up this morning to yet another snow storm and white-knuckle driving to my over-worked place of work was just psychologically brutal.  I know much of the U.S. is feeling the same way.  I had a vivid dream last night that I showed up for work and found some sort of magic school bus going to Paris, so of course I called in sick last minute and took bus to Paris (?#!).  The only other part I remember is being alone a riding to metro to neighborhoods I haven't seen before, just glad to be alone and away.    

Enough with the pity party - here's what you need to know about this soup: It's hearty and healthy with an Italian/Tuscan theme going on, but amped up with jalapeno in the base and cayenne in the meatballs.  I've pondered how it would work out vegetarian, and I think it would be just fine.  The meatballs certainly add a rich roundedness to the soup that balances the acidity and freshness of the vegetables.  While I wanted to keep the posted recipe paleo, I did reheat the leftovers on the stove top and cooked basmati rice in the broth. That was real good. Don't hold back for a second on how much kale and spinach to add.  Pack in as much as possible to add heft.  I can't say it's quite enough to kick the winter blues, but it certainly doesn't hurt. 

Ingredients (makes 5-6 servings):
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp. coriander
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. paprika
  • 1 large can (28 oz.) whole, stewed tomatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • 3 cups of kale, roughly chopped
  • 3 cups of spinach, roughly chopped
  • salt to taste
Meatball Ingredients (makes about 1 dozen):
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp. fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tbsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tbsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil

Combine the beef, egg, parmesan, and spices in a large bowl, and shape into 2" meatballs.  In a large frying pan, heat the oil and sear the meatballs on all sides, turning about every 3 minutes.  They don't need to be cooked completely through, but you want a good, flavorful crust.
While the meatballs are frying, dice and mince the onion, garlic, and jalapeno for the base of the soup.  In a large pot, heat the olive oil and cook the base (seasoned with salt) over medium heat for about 7 minutes, until soft.  Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and paprika and stir.  Add the tomatoes, crushing them up, along with the juice from the can.  
Once the base of the soup is at a simmer, transfer the meatballs to the pot.  Deglaze the frying pan with a little water and add to the pot, to get all the flavorful crust from the meatballs into the soup.  Add the six cups of water and bring to a boil.
Taste the soup and season with salt, if needed, then add the kale and spinach.  As soon as the greens have cooked into the soup and it has returned to full heat, it is ready to be served.


  1. This recipe is incredible! It's also super easy to make. Thanks for sharing it.

    I've made it twice now. The second time I cooked it for a group of friends at a pitch-in. It's been two months since our pitch-in and I am still getting requests for your recipe. It's that good :)

    Also, I made it with cabbage instead of kale the second time. Turned out just as delicious.

    1. I'm so glad you and your friends liked it! The cabbage substitution is such a good call...I love cabbage in hot soup!

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