If you live anywhere in the US other than, say, Los Angeles, chances are you've heard the phrases "record lows" or "extreme cold" or "drastic drop in temperatures overnight" or "help me I'm dying" or perhaps even all of the above. The first three probably by your local newscasters and the last, if we're friends, by me.
I can deal with the cold, usually. I ride it out. But this winter has been a shift, even for me. Getting out of bed in the morning is hard. I've seriously considered canceling plans because of the weather. It's not you, it's me. And the fact that it's -19 before the windchill.
I might be exaggerating with that last one. The freeze has officially gotten to my brain.
So what to do? There's still a few weeks before spring officially gets here (and even then, it usually takes awhile to warm up to us again), and there's only so many sweaters I can wear at once without passing out. Hot chocolate will do the trick for the moment, but if you really want to warm up from the inside out, the answer is always a big bowl of soup.
I was never a big fan of Italian wedding soup. I don't know why. Probably because the only version of it I ever had came out of a can. And there's nothing particularly appetizing about tiny, source-unidentifiable gray "meatballs." But when I came across this vegan adaptation in Thug Kitchen's cookbook, I knew I had to try it.
For this recipe, you will need:
For the white bean balls:
1/2 large yellow onion
1 1/2 cups cook cannellini beans
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 cup nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce (I used low-sodium)
1 teaspoon all-purpose seasoning (this is a favorite)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
For the soup:
1/2 teaspoon olive oil
1 carrot, chopped
2 rib celery, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup small pasta, dry (I used whole wheat pearl couscous)
4 1/2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 cups kale, chopped (or another favorite leafy green)
Salt and pepper
Fresh parsley, chopped
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Prep one large baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. In a large bowl, mash up your beans until they become pasty. You can used the back of a fork to get this started, but as the Thug Kitchen folks recommend, eventually it's best to get a little hands-on. Add in 1/4 of your chopped onion, your bread crumbs, garlic, nutritional yeast, olive oil, soy sauce, seasonings and zest. Mix it all up (hands, people, hands) and get everything evenly distributed. If it feels a little dry or the mixture isn't sticking together, add a touch more olive oil.
Form your paste into meatball-size balls (hold the meat, please!) and place them on your prepared baking sheet. Bake them for about 30 minutes, turning them over halfway through, until they're golden and slightly crispy on the outside.
While you're waiting, you can get started on your soup base. In a large soup pot, heat your oil over medium heat. Add the other 1/4 of your onion, your carrots and celery and sauté together until the onion starts to brown. Add your garlic and pasta (I know, no liquid yet) and cook for another minute, stirring constantly. Add your broth and continue to cook until the pasta is ready (according to the package instructions). Finally add your lemon juice, kale, salt and pepper and remove the pot from the heat.
Spoon your soup into bowls and top each serving with several white bean balls and a generous dose of parsley - not as a garnish, but for added flavor!
This soup really did it for me. It was unique and filling and just holding the steaming hot bowl was almost enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy again. Almost.
Spring, is that you?