February… brrr. February… turn on the A/C. February… brrr again. Which is it today? Well, to tell you the truth, as I write this column today it is going to be both. I’m sitting here wearing sweat pants, a long-sleeved shirt, a sweater and socks. I’m bundled up in a blanket with my feet in a pair of warm fuzzy UGG slippers. And yes, I’m drinking hot chocolate, thinking about lunch. It will definitely be Brazilian soup/stew but, of course, by dinner time, we will have the fans going and quite possibly the air conditioner turned on. You’ve got to love our Houston weather!
Back to that soup/stew I mentioned. Since my original recipe, when I wrote it down for our daughters, was four pages long, I thought I better create an easier, quicker version. I edited and replaced a few ingredients and came up with a pretty good recipe. I decided to edit down my meatball minestrone soup as well. Both are great soups and now a bit easier to make. So before the weather turns again, “Please Join Our Table” as well ladle out a few bowls of steaming, flavorful soup served alongside a big crusty loaf of rustic peasant bread. You will want to sop up every bit of this savory broth.
Tuscan Meatball Minestrone Soup
I usually make my own meatballs – baked not fried – but if I don’t have homemade meatballs, I buy the best frozen, already baked, from my local grocery store.
2 medium onions, (one red, one white) cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 medium stalk celery, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
6 ounces (about 1 cup) green beans, trimmed and cut into 1/2- inch pieces
2 medium zucchini, (1 green, 1 yellow) cut into 1/2-inch cubes (do not peel the zucchini)
4 large kale leaves, thick veins removed, bruise the leaves and course chop
1/2 (14-ounce) can whole tomatoes with their liquid
10 large meatballs
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper seeds
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Greek seasoning
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/8-inch-thick slice salami, minced
8 large fresh sage leaves, no stems (optional)
1 1/2-2 cups green cabbage, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup tightly packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, no stems; reserve 2 tablespoons for top of soup
1/4 cup tightly packed fresh basil leaves, no stems, chopped
1 20-ounce can drained pinto beans (rinsed and drained), half of them pureed in a food processor
1 cup uncooked small pasta of choice (such as macaroni or penne), I always use imported Italian
1 cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (optional) or any hard cheese of your choice
Set aside about one third of the onions. In a 6-quart pot, combine the rest of the onions and all the ingredients up to and including the tomatoes. Cover with 1 inch of water. Season with salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a low simmer. Simmer 45 minutes. While that is simmering, pour about 2-3 tablespoons of the EVOO into the bottom of a 10-12-inch skillet. Set over medium-high heat and add the reserved onions, salami, sage leaves and a handful of the cabbage. Saute about 4 minutes. Stir in the spices, garlic, parsley and basil. Cook another minute. Blend the sautéed ingredients into the cooked vegetables along with the meatballs, remaining cabbage, the beans with their puree, the kale and water to cover everything by about 1 inch. Simmer slowly another 45 minutes. Add more water as needed so the soup is a thick broth consistency. Season to taste, stir in the pasta, and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm with olive oil, freshly ground black pepper, and pass the cheese. This soup tastes even better the second day.
Note: if I’m also serving this the next day, I prepare the pasta separately and pour the soup over the pasta per serving.
My Easy Brazilian Soup or Stew
This soup is still a bit time consuming but Oh my gosh!; it is so rich and yummy. When researching this, I noticed all recipes call for red palm oil, but because of the deforesting of other trees to plant red palms, I elected not to use it.
4 tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
Juice of 1 lime
1 onion, chopped (1 1/2 cups)
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
3 Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional)
3 cups fish stock or 2 cups vegetable broth and 1 cup of bottled clam juice
1 cup white wine
1 14 1/2-ounce can coconut milk (not low fat)
3 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
2 thyme sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried thyme
1/2 to 3/4 pound wild sea scallops
1/2 to 3/4 pound wild cod or any firm fish fillets, cut into 2-inch chunks
1/2 to 3/4 pound wild gulf shrimp, shelled and deveined (save shells and heads)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves (no stems), coarsely chopped
1/3 cup toasted coconut, for garnish (I found it in the health food snack section of H-E-B)
2 limes, sliced into sections
Green onions sliced, for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish
Cooked white rice for serving in the same bowl as the soup
Whisk 2 tablespoons of oil and lime juice in large bowl. Add fish and sprinkle generously with salt and pepper; stir to coat. Let stand 15 minutes. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in large pot over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, garlic and crushed red pepper; sauté 5 minutes. Mix in tomatoes and wine, reduce liquid to 1/2. Add the fish stock, 1/2 of the coconut milk and all the seasonings. Simmer for 35-40 minutes. Add the remaining coconut milk, scallops, shrimp and the fish with the marinade. Simmer until shrimp and fish are just opaque in center, about 5 minutes, then add the chopped cilantro. Season stew with more salt and pepper if needed. Transfer to bowl with cooked rice. Sprinkle with remaining cilantro and green onions. Top with toasted coconut and pass the lime wedges to squeeze on top of the soup.