Summary: Making soup with leftovers. Nothing else tastes this good or is so good for the budget. While I doubt I can ever make this exactly again, the basic idea of beef broth + black beans + meat balls is one I definitely have to remember.

Serves 8-10 (or 6 generously with leftovers for a good lunch)
Time to make: 1 hour (total). 45 minutes prep time;
could have been faster but I was fussy and disorganized.

Equipment:

  • Cutting board & Chef’s knife
  • Pairing knife
  • Frying pan & spatula
  • Big soup pot & spatula
  • Immersion blender

Notes:
It was a circus. Three-rings, no waiting.

Here I stood, in the center of a milling crowd. The stock was chillin’ and completely ignorant that it would soon be boiling. There was a lone carrot amidst the crowd. His posse had left him, and while he was a big fellow and pretty tough, he still looked strange all alone. The celery saw him and wilted. It was obvious she had a thing, but he was oblivious to it. The jalapeno was fresh, but no one seemed to mind. The onions were red. With what I never figured out, but they were sweet to me, at least.

The mushrooms fresh while the green onions were old and withered. The black beans were stirring in their own juices, and pretty tough to boot. The potatoes, red wine, tomato paste, and meatballs – frozen. I think they’ve been hanging out with the stock for too long. The parsley was fresh while the cilantro was definitely on the way out. The tin of tomatoes was just there. It didn’t initially interact with anything.

So, how did this crowd of nobodies, forgotten souls, and aging ingredients become Mexican meatball soup?

Simple really, I cleaned out my fridge and freezer, gathering everything that was so low in quantity that it could no longer be the star of the meal or so old it shouldn’t be left alone. This meal is definitely an ensemble cast. The recipe is provided more to prove that you really can make a good soup from a disparate set of sources. I doubt I’ll casually have all the ingredients again in the same quantity.

  • The stock is homemade from beef bones for a Pho Bo. The stock itself was highly aromatic, fairly thick and flavourful.
  • The meatballs were homemade following Marc Bittman’s Italian Meatballs recipe. They were a bit black on some sides (I cooked them with the pan too hot).
  • The tomato paste and red wine were frozen in ice-cube like shapes in my freezer; leftovers from a time of plenty.
  • The cilantro and celery were dying in my crisper, and the carrot was the last one in the bag.
  • The black beans were homemade with lots of cilantro and cumin.
  • The cauliflower was starting to turn, so I cut it up for snacking. About 1/2 a cup wouldn’t fit in the container — so it went into the soup.
  • I’m part of a VG and this week I got red onions, instead of yellow this week. What the hey.
  • The green onions were well past their prime, but always make a good soup topper.

Everything else was added because I had it. I do actually have other things in my pantry and soup; not everything went into the soup… but it certainly felt like it.

Pros: very tasty, especially on a cold winter night. It also smelled really good and used up a lot of vegetables that would have otherwise spoiled.

Cons: I should have let the mess (beans+tomatoes+broth) cook down for about 1/2 an hour before I started cooking or held off on about 1/2 the broth, or thickened it somehow. Maybe the beans and tomatos should have been strained first? Either that or serve it with a really good (day old) bread.

Ingredients

1 carrot, peeled and finely diced
3-4 stocks celery, leaves removed & diced
2 cups baby potatoes, frozen
2 cups black beans (do not drain or rinse)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 red onion, finely diced
1 bunch cilantro, to taste, finely diced
1 bunch parsley, to taste, finely diced
2 tablespoons red wine
2 tablespoons butter, divided
24 meatballs
6 button mushrooms, large dice
6 cups beef stock
2 tablespoons tomatoes paste
1 jalapeno pepper, diced fine & seeds removed.
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup cauliflower, finely diced.
Romano cheese, freshly grated (topping)
Green onions, sliced (topping)

Instructions:

  1. Put the beef stock into a very large pot. Turn up the heat and bring it to a gentle boil.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Remove the potatoes and set aside.
  4. Add 1/2 the butter to a frying pan. Dump in the carrot, celery and red onion (mirepoix) and the jalapeno pepper. Mix regularly until the onion becomes translucent.
  5. Add the mireaupoix to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  6. Put the remaining butter into the frying pan. When the butter melts, add the mushrooms. Stir to coat.
  7. As the mushrooms start to change color add the red wine.
  8. Cook until almost all the liquid is gone.
  9. Add the mushrooms to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  10. Open the can and add the diced tomatoes to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  11. Add the meatballs to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  12. Add the black beans (and juice) to the frying pan. Bring them to just below a boil.
  13. Using the immersion blender, mash the black beans into a paste. Stir to incorporate.
  14. Add the paste to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  15. Add the tomato paste to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  16. Add the parsley, cilantro, and cauliflower to the soup. Stir to incorporate.
  17. Cover and allow the soup to come to a gentle boil. Cook until the cauliflower is soft (about 5-10 minutes).
  18. Serve with grated Romano cheese and sliced green onions.
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