Hot Soup for Cold Days

Christmas Tree 2

Week of Christmas  December 25 – 31, 2017

Christmas:                           Mère Hanna’s Crabmeat Hoelzel, , Fingerling potatoes with sour cream sauce and Smoked Trout Roe, Warm Bar Nuts, Prime Rib, Rosemary Potatoes, Haricots Verts with Caramelized Shallots, Caesar Salad, Blue Cheese Plate with Walnuts, Raisins, Apples and Pears

claire and eleanor

Clair Anne and Eleanor Wren Stewart (cousins) – could not resist putting this picture in again

Tuesday:                              Stewart family party:  Pizzas, Fried Zucchini, Warm Bar Nuts, lots of cookies and Katie Stewart’s fudge (superb).

prime rib hash

Wednesday:                      Prime Rib Hash

meatball soup bowl

Thursday:                            Meat Ball Soup

Friday:                                  Spaghetti with Kale (Alice Waters)


Mackintosh’s Toffee – Imported from Toronto by Judd Gordon.  Excellent for hammering in nails and, if you are very patient and have no fillings, as a sweet

Saturday:                             Bulgogi Salmon with Green Salad (WSJ)

New Year's Dinner

New Year’s Eve Dinner:  Steve, Tim, Patsy, Beez, Me, Rick, Ceil, Annie (Hilda taking picture)

New Year’s Eve:

Oysters on the Half Shell, Salumi Platter, Hilda’s Chicken Live Paté with Green Peppercorns, Annie’s Asparagus wrapped with Prosciuto
Winter Pork and Fruit Ragoût with Rice, Caesar Salad
Ceil’s New Year’s Trifle       Stilton, Walnuts, Raisins and Apples

“I feed on good soup, not beautiful language.” – Moliere

“It is the schlemiel’s avocation and profession to miss out on things, to muff opportunities, to be persistently, organically, preposterously and ingeniously out of place.  A hungry schlemiel dreams of a plate of hot soup and [if one appears, hasn’t] got a spoon.”  – creative paraphrasing of Maurice Samuel

The last two weeks were replete with the wonderful celebration of Christmas, great parties, visits and gifts from family and friends, prime rib, oysters, champagne and more wine, liquor and beer than our recycle bins could manage in a month.  We have hosted 5 parties (one admittedly small) at our house.  We have had some sacred and high times and a lot of comfortable laying around with the family.

But right now it’s colder than I can remember in my lifetime.  I have had to rescue the dog from the backyard because his paws were freezing.  And I, a devotee of gym trunks and sandals around the house at all times of year, am just now wearing corduroy pants and a sweater.  I think we all know that it’s time for some warm and simple foods to fortify us against the cold – especially, steaming bowls of soup with some toast for dunking.  And this soup should be eaten in a room with a roaring fire in the hearth.

You’ll have to supply your own hearth, but I’m going to give you the most savory, satisfying soup you’ve had in a long time.  (I’m willing to lend my gym trunks and sandals until Spring – and hey, before you cook this soup, check on the dog to make sure he’s still moving.)

I would like to tell you that this soup is called savory beef-vegetable.  But, in point of fact, Alex Guarnaschelli (you need her book, “The Home Cook”) calls this “Beef Meatball Soup.” You are welcome to call it anything you wish, but if you don’t cook this, you’re a schlemiel.

BEEF MEATBALL SOUP (Recipe below picture)

meatball soup pot


Meatballs – about 30 minutes (can be done ahead of time)
40 minutes to cook the soup and couscous, concurrently

NOTE:   This looks complicated – it isn’t.  Basically, you make some meatballs, create a soup-base and cook some couscous (very easy), then combine, reheat and serve.


Serves 4 as a main course, 8-10 as an appetizer [A note on measurements.  We used double the amount of ground beef, and also doubled the items in the meatball recipe, but not elsewhere. As for the actual measuring of ingredients – I often wing it.  I mean 4 cups of chicken broth is clear, but who measures 1/8 teaspoon of grated nutmeg?  What’s a medium onion or garlic clove?

For the meatballs:

8 ounces ground beef (we used a full pound)
2 1/2 cups of freshly grated parmigiano (we doubled – but if you’re using cheese you bought in the store pre-grated, use 1/2 to 2/3 the amount of freshly grated)
1/2 cup dried bread crumbs toasted (regular bread crumbs are better than panko in this instance – you’re looking for filler, not crispy coating)
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg
2 medium garlic cloves, grated
Kosher salt
1 large egg, beaten

For the soup base:

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium carrots, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 large celery stalks, cut into 1 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium yellow onion, halved and sliced
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 teaspoons hot paprika (heat is important in this recipe – if you don’t have hot paprika, make a mixture of about 40% cayenne, 60% sweet paprika)
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
1 bunch of fresh thyme
4 cups chicken stock

For the couscous:

1/2 cup Israeli or Middle Eastern couscous
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

For Serving:

1/4 cup grated parmigiano (we used more)
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 small serrano chile,cut into rounds (we used a large serrano)

Make the Meatballs:

Spread the beef out on the bottom and sides of a large bowl.  (A Guarnaschelli:  “Having more of the beef exposed in a thin layer will make it easier to season the meat evenly.”)

Sprinkle with the parmigiano, the bread crumbs, nutmeg and garlic, and season with salt.  Add the egg and blend ingredients by hand, but don’t over-mix.

Roll into small meatballs. Alex’s advises small cherry tomato size – we made a bit larger, but then, we are meatball lovers.

Arrange in single layer on plate or sheet pan and refrigerate.

Cook the Soup Base:

In a large pot, heat canola oil over medium, then add carrots, celery, onion, paprika, cayenne, 1 tablespoon of salt and garlic.  Cook until onions become translucent, about 9 minutes.

Now add the thyme and the chicken stock and bring to a gentle simmer over low heat, skimming the surface and discarding any oil or foam that rises to the top.  Simmer for about 18 minutes  until the vegetables are very tender.  (If you’re making the base ahead, simmer for 15 minutes, then reheat and simmer before assembling the soup.)

Cook the Couscous:

In a medium pot, bring 3 cups of water to a simmer over medium and add the couscous.  Season with 2 teaspoons of salt and add the butter.  Cook, stirring from time to time until couscous is cooked al dente – about 10 minutes.

Now drain in a colander and pour into a bowl and combine couscous with the parsley and season with another teaspoon of salt.

Finish and Serve:

Adjust seasoning in soup base.

Discard thyme.

Drop the meatballs into the soup, return it to a simmer and cook until the meatballs are cooked through (8-10 minutes for our larger sized, about 5 minutes for the tinier meatballs Alex likes.)

Now stir in the couscous, the 1/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, the vinegar and the slices of fresh chile.  Taste again for seasoning and serve.


Amaryllis (spectacular gift from Hilda) with Christmas frog on piano

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