You know it’s winter in Maine when it’s too cold to go outside no matter how many layers you put on. Salvation from the cold (and boredom) lies in the kitchen, and soup is hands-down my favorite thing to make.
Pawing through the cupboards and fridge one recent frosty day, I found my stockpile of homegrown kale in the freezer, which had taken over our veggie patch by July. Rather then overdose on kale chips then, I loaded up the freezer with bags of fresh greens, guessing (correctly) that my first winter living in midcoast Maine would find me in the kitchen…a lot.
Armed with turkey meatballs (I’d made them earlier and frozen those, too), fresh mushrooms, and the ironclad trio of carrots, onions, and celery, I got to work on this wonderful winter soup, guaranteed to warm you up on even the coldest of days. Adding fast and fresh bread made from store-bought pizza dough turns up the comfort factor of this meal, but still keeps it within a reasonable time limit for a weekday lunch or dinner.
Turkey meatball and kale soup
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, smashed and roughly chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 handful of mushrooms, chopped
12 turkey meatballs, see recipe below
1 bunch kale, washed, de-stemmed, and torn into small pieces (about 6 cups)
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste
1—2 tablespoons fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped (optional)
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
grated parmesan cheese, to taste (optional)
makes about 24 meatballs
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon milk
2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with cooking spray.
Combine remaining ingredients in a bowl and gently mix until evenly incorporated. Wet your hands (this makes it easier to handle the meat) and, using a tablespoon or small cookie scoop, form the meatballs. The number of meatballs may vary from 24 to 30 depending on the size of your scoop. Line them on the tray. Spray the meatballs with cooking spray and place baking sheet in oven for about 20 minutes, or until they begin to brown on the outside. If you make smaller meatballs — a great idea for kids — check them after 15 minutes.
In a deep pot, heat a tablespoon of olive oil till hot, but not smoking. Add onions, garlic, carrots, celery, and a pinch of salt. Sauté over medium-high heat until the onions soften, about 5–7 minutes. Add the mushrooms and kale, then stir in the lemon juice and zest. Add another pinch of salt and cook until the kale becomes bright green and slightly wilted. Add meatballs, then broth. (Start with 5 cups, increase liquid if needed.) Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20–25 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, grated parmesan, and parsley or cilantro, plus the red pepper flakes, if using.
Super-Simple Homemade Bread
I personally could live off of fresh, crusty bread, or pan, as my son refers to it from our time spent in Spain. There, a fresh loaf costs one euro, and could be purchased at any time of day, at any convenience or market store. Too much of a good thing is not always good, but as long as I limit my intake, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t allow myself a piece or two — okay, three — and I swear, no more.
I don’t have a bread machine, and don’t typically make my own. I know, I know — it’s not that hard. But it’s time consuming, and there are always a million other things on my to-do list. If you’re crunched for time, here’s a quick and simple way to impress your friends and satisfy your bread tooth. I still consider it homemade…well, mostly.
Multi-grain pizza-dough bread
1 ball fresh multi-grain pizza dough (whole-wheat dough may be substituted)
4 cloves fresh garlic, roughly chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan, asiago, or other hard, salty cheese
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil for drizzling, plus more for dipping
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
flour for dusting
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Cover your work surface — a pizza stone or baking sheet works best — with a thin layer of flour, leaving a bit on your hands. Work chilled dough into an oval, or whatever shape is appealing. Drizzle olive oil over the dough and, using your hands, spread it to cover the top portion of the dough. Top with chopped garlic, grated cheese, and a sprinkle of salt. Bake for 10–12 minutes, or until top is golden and crisp. Slice and serve immediately with your favorite olive oil or dip it in your turkey meatball soup. Delicious!
Photos by Kate Filloramo