Monday, August 24, 2009

Roasted Vegetable Stew with Turkey Meatballs

The past couple of days have been hazy hot and humid, the three h's that seem to be making up what is left of our incredibly short summer. But even as my air conditioner chugs a long, my thoughts have been turning towards the brisk days that Fall will bring. One of my favorite things in the fall/winter is holing up on a cold day and making a big pot of soup that I can enjoy throughout the week for lunch. There is something so comforting about homemade soup, and it can be so healthy as well!

Yesterday, I envisioned a big pot of roasted vegetable soup-chock full of nutritious vegetables, and some turkey meatballs for some added protein. Off to the grocery store I went, and picked up loads of fresh veggies- Brussel Sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, carrots, onions, celery, spinach, a couple ears of corn and cherry tomatoes. I also picked up two cans of beans- black and Cannelloni, as well as a box of vegetable stock- I know "lazy". Back at home I went to work breaking down all the veggies- I cleaned up and sliced the Brussel Sprouts into quarters, cut down the broccoli and cauliflower into manageable pieces, the same with the carrots and the celery, and then I sliced half the onion into rings. I laid all of them out on a flat baking sheet, and then tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and chopped rosemary. I popped this into a 400 degree oven, and let them roast for about 8-10 minutes. I pulled them out when they still had some bite to them, but had wonderful aroma of the herbs and the roasting. What a great aroma it all had!

As I waited for that to cool so that I could start in on the soup, I turned my attention to the turkey meatballs I wanted to add into the soup. I love the idea of adding some sort of good protein to soups and stews as it just can make them so hearty and filling. Turkey meat is always a great alternative as well- not only does it have all that great nutritional protein, but its super lean (especially breast meat) and therefore doesn't contribute unnecessary fat to an other wise healthy meal. I chopped up just a couple of slices of onion, a bit more rosemary, and parsley and then combined that with a mixture of bread crumbs and crushed water crackers as well for texture, poultry seasoning and more crushed red pepper flakes- just a few. Then I added in just a bit over a pound of ground white breast turkey meat, and one egg. Once all was mixed together, I formed small balls and then placed them into a hot fry pan with just about a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the bottom. As I have extreme concerns about germs, I let them cook, turning them to each different side until they were full browned, for about 8 minutes or so, then I pulled them out of the pan, and let them rest.

The vegetables were sufficiently cool at that point, and so I put them into my trusty Cuisinart, with a couple of handfuls of raw cherry tomatoes, and pulsed them til they were ground completely-I then began to add the vegetable stock to the mix to thin it out. Then I added half a can of the Cannelloni beans, and pureed them into the mixture to make it a bit creamier. Once it reached my desired consistency, I transferred the soup to a big pot, added the rest of the beans, a few big handfuls of baby spinach leaves, the raw kernels of corn that I had cut off the ear, the meatballs, and then heated slowly til it was simmering, and the flavors were fully mixed. Big pot of soup for the week done!
(the picture really doesn't do it justice...)

The result? A tasty- yet very filling soup...well more stew-ish really. Thick and hearty this is one that will be perfect on a very cold day in January, and in my very air conditioned office as well. Leaving the spinach, beans and corn whole, meaning un -pureed, creates a really nice texture combination- and those corn kernels are such a nice sweet surprise to a soup that is incredibly earthy, and has a nice bit of kick from the doses of crushed red peppers. The variety of veggies really meld together so you cant necessarily pick out one in particular, though you can see the nice bright spots of orange from the carrots throughout. The flavor really highlighted is that lovely roasted idea...a little charred, but really just deep flavors. The meatballs add a whole other flavor dimension bringing in that brighter parsley taste, and a bit of the sage from the poultry seasoning. Pretty tasty-though when I make it again, Id prefer a creamier texture- so perhaps a bit longer in the Cuisinart, maybe a bit more fat to it- as it is there is very little fat to it aside from any olive oil that the veggies retained from the roasting, and maybe a longer blend with more of the beans?

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