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What a Combo! Soup and Meatball Gathering for 25

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My father will often put two foods together and exclaim “What a combo!”  Sometimes these combinations are brilliant–like potato chips and chocolate and sometimes the combinations are more challenging (usually involving kimchi), but the phrase is used so often in my family that it has become an adjective.

I was thinking about this phrase while deciding what small bite to serve for soup night. My mother suggested the Turkey and Zucchini Burgers with Green Onion and Cumin from Yotam Ottolenghi’s book, Jerusalem. Who doesn’t love a meatball? I thought. And why stop there? In honor of the late Marcella Hazan, I decided to make her classic Meatballs and Tomatoes from The Essentials of Italian Cooking. As my father might say “Soup and meatballs—what a combo!”

My soup gatherings often start small and get bigger until I don’t know how many people are actually coming. I alternate between panic that no one will show  (a scenario that has led to inviting random strangers while running errands) and dread that there is not enough food.  One of the best things about soup is that you can always round it out with bread, cheese, salad or in this case, meatballs.

A forecast of 81 degrees and a case of late summer tomatoes inspired double batches of gazpacho from the Bi-Rite cookbook, Eat Good Food and Joanne Weir‘s Smoked Ham, White Bean, and Tomato Soup from Soup’s On! and triple batches of each kind of meatball. 

Friends brought wine, cheese, and cookies for dessert.  As it turned out, about 25 people showed up and we had enough food (including a few bowls of soup and meatballs leftover for lunch the next day).

Below are the recipes as well as my basic big batch soup and meatball gathering strategy. Do you throw soup gatherings? We would love to hear from you.

What are your favorite “what a combos?!”

meatballsraw

Big Batch Soup and Meatball Party Strategy:

Sunday soup and meatball night:   A an early evening Sunday gathering is a lovely ritual and most importantly, gives you Saturday to prepare.

Soups for all: I recommend making double batches of 2 or 3 kinds of soup–one meaty stew, one vegetable minestrone (usually vegan) and one bean soup. If people offer to bring a soup, always say yes!

Gather your sous-chefs especially small children: It is so much more fun to throw a party with a team–People love to be a part of the action!

Organize your refrigerator: This may seem like a simple step, but clearing out space is essential when throwing any party, especially when making dishes ahead of time.

Shop ahead; make ahead: Chose recipes that can be made ahead of time. I recommend shopping the day before and cooking off at least one soup (preferably a stew that is better the next day). Again, make sure you organize your refrigerator so you have room to keep things overnight. Making food ahead of time leaves more time for worrying that there isn’t enough and gives you the opportunity to make more ;).

What else to serve: Hand held edibles and small bites that don’t don’t require big plates like empanadas,  crostini, polenta squares, flat breads and roasted vegetables.

How to serve: You’ll need bowls of course (mugs will help in a pinch!) and little bamboo/paper plates and stacks of napkins are ideal for small bites. You can set everything out on the table along with mason jars filled with silverware.

Invite your guests participate: I usually ask 2 to 3 people to bring cheese, bread, salumi, and olives and another 2 people to bring simple desserts like cookies (again, no plates!)

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JOANNE WEIR’S SMOKED HAM, WHITE BEAN, AND TOMATO SOUP

Joanne’s Weir generously donated include this recipe for our book, Soup’s On! I doubled the amount of beans in her original recipe to make a version that is more like a stew. Deliciously smokey with the flavors of ham and bacon, this soup is an all season go-to!

Weir Smoked Ham Soup

Pick over the beans and discard any damaged beans or stones. Rinse. Put beans in a bowl, add plenty of water to cover, and refrigerate for about 3 hours. Drain the beans and place them in a saucepan with the parsley stems, thyme, bay leaves and cool water to cover by 2 inches. Simmer uncovered until tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Drain the beans, and discard the parsley and thyme stems and bay leaves.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and onion, and cook until the onion is soft, 10 minutes. Add the garlic, and continue to cook 1 minute. Add the stock, ham hocks and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and cook until the ham just begins to fall from the bone, about 1 hour. Add the beans, and continue to simmer until the ham falls easily from the bone, about 1 hour more.

Remove the ham hocks and let them cool enough to handle, about 15 minutes. Discard the skin and bones, and cut the ham into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the ham and mint to the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls and serve immediately.

photo (15)SERIO’S GAZPACHO

Luscious and flavorful,  this gazpacho from the Bi-Rite Cookbook  Eat Good Food, by Sam Mogannam and Dabney Gough calls for whole tomatoes (no peeling or seeding!) which makes it faster and easier to make for a crowd.  While many gazpacho recipes rely on the addition of bread, this version uses olive oil instead, making it a good alternative for the gluten-free crowd. Use a light olive oil that is not too peppery and the season’s ripest and most flavorful tomatoes.

Serio's Gazpacho

Put the oil, vinegar, and Tabasco in the bowl of a blender and blend briefly. Add the onions, cucumbers, parsley, basil, garlic, and 3 tsp. salt and blend until smooth. With the blender running, add the tomatoes a few at a time. When the blender is about 3/4 full, pour out half of the liquid into a medium bowl. Continue to puree and add the tomatoes a few at a time until all the tomatoes are incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Pour the blender contents into the bowl and stir to blend.

If you want a super-smooth texture, pass the soup through a fine mesh strainer.

Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Whisk to blend, then taste and add more salt or vinegar as needed.  Garnish each serving with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

TURKEY AND ZUCCHINI BURGERS WITH GREEN ONIONS AND CUMIN

These herb and spice-laden meatballs  from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi will change your life. They are easy to make in big quantities, just make sure you don’t crowd the pan when searing in batches.   To make a richer burger, use ground dark meat. If you do not have sumac to make the yogurt sauce, it is still delicious without.
Sumac Sauce

First make the sour cream sauce by placing all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Stir well and set aside or chill until needed.

Turkey Zucchini Burgers

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F/220 degrees C. In a large bowl combine all the ingredients for the meatballs except the sunflower oil. Mix with your hands and then shape into about 18 burgers, each weighing 1 ½ ounces/45 grams.

Pour enough sunflower oil into a large frying pan to form a layer about 1/8 inch/2mm thick on the pan bottom.  Heat over medium heat until hot then sear the meatballs in batches on all sides. Cook each batch for about 4 minutes, adding oil as needed until golden brown.

Carefully transfer the seared meatballs to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper and place in the oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until cooked through. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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TOMATOES AND MEATBALLS

This meatball recipe from Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan, is a great project to do with lots of people, especially with kids who enjoy (and are often quite skilled at) rolling the balls in the bread crumbs. 

Tomatoes and Meatballs

Trim away the bread crust, put the milk and bread in a small saucepan and turn on the heat to low.  When the bread has soaked up all the milk, mash it to a pulp with a fork.  Remove from heat and allow to cool completely.

Into a bowl put the chopped meat, onion, parsley, the egg, the tablespoon of olive oil, the grated Parmesan, a tiny grating of nutmeg – about 1/8 teaspoon – the bread and milk mush, salt, and several grindings of black pepper.  Gently knead the mixture with your hands without squeezing it.  When all the ingredients are evenly combined, shape it gently and without squeezing into balls about 1 inch in diameter.  Roll the balls lightly in the bread crumbs.

Choose a saute pan that can subsequently accommodate all the meatballs in a single layer.  (or cook them in two batches) Pour in enough vegetable oil to come 1/4 inch up the sides.  Turn on the heat to medium high and when the oil is hot, slip in the meatballs.  Sliding them in with a spatula will avoid splashing hot oil out of the pan.  Brown the meatballs on all sides, turning them carefully so they won’t break up.

Remove from heat, tip the pan slightly and with a spoon, remove as much of the fat as floats to the surface. Return the pan to the front burner over medium heat, add the chopped tomatoes with their juice, a pinch of salt, and turn the meatballs over the meatballs over once or twice to coat them well. Cover the pan and adjust the heat to cook a quiet but steady simmer for about 20 to 25 minutes until the oil floats free of the tomatoes. Taste, correct for salt, and serve.

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