Gourmet magazine is really gone. I kept hoping (along with a million other readers) that someone would rescue it from the brink, swoop into their corporate NYC headquarters with a bunch of cash and magnanimity, and keep us all afloat. No such luck. The publishing world has substituted Bon Appetit for the remainder of my subscription. As much as I'll always miss Gourmet (a big part of my life for 30 years), I still have recipes and photos in my mailbox, and I'm not grieving enough to send the replacement issues back (for Pete's sake).
Especially after making this soup. I realized I haven't been trying new recipes lately. I've been improvising with fridge contents; pulling out old standbys; and getting a little bored. When I cook something for the first time, I actually follow the recipe--sort of. One can witness The Leftoverist with her measuring spoons, double-checking the spattered magazine. I suppose it's like my favorite jazz metaphor--you can't improvise until you know the score. Once the soup is made roughly according to the directions, I'll add other things to taste or file away the recipe for improvisation later. I have a kind of muscle memory when it comes to cooking--my body will remember what my brain can't.
This soup is warming, healthy (especially since I subbed turkey for beef), and satisfying in every way. The crunchy tortilla strips and fresh cilantro on top compliment the soft, garlicky meatballs, and you'll need nothing else for dinner--no bread, salad, or other such nonsense. That's a New Year's phenomenon I can toast to.
Turkey Zucchini Meatballs in Spicy Broth
Serves six hungry people. Have I mentioned before how much I love rice in soup? Yum. The original recipe called for ground beef and beef broth--I thought chicken stock and ground turkey sounded better. And I spiced it up quite a bit--a lot more garlic, some salsa from the fridge. I had some delicious chile powder from New Mexico (thank you, Ellen!), but you can use whatever blended stuff you have around. The fried tortilla strips sort of make the soup (in my un-humble opinion), but you can use purchased tortilla chips. You'll need your biggest soup pot for this.
1 large jalapéno, seeded and finely chopped
1 1/2 lbs. ground turkey
3/4 c. coarsely grated zucchini
1/3 c. finely chopped onion
1/3 c. panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 Tb. ground cumin
1 1/2 ts. dried oregano, crumbled (preferably Mexican)
1 ts. coarse kosher salt
2 Tb. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
3 Tb. chile powder
3 ts. ground cumin
2 qts. chicken stock
1 ts. dried oregano (preferably Mexican)
1 1/2 c. coarsely grated zucchini
1/2 c. long grain white rice
1/2 c. purchased fresh salsa (I like TJ's Salsa Especial)
1/3 c. chopped fresh cilantro
juice of one lime
4 Tb. vegetable oil
6 corn tortillas, cut into 1/4" strips
chopped fresh cilantro
For meatballs: Gently mix all ingredients. Using moistened hands and scant tablespoonful for each, roll meat mixture into 1" meatballs. Arrange on a cookie sheet and put in the fridge.
For soup: Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Add chile powder and cumin; stir one minute. Add broth and oregano; bring to a rolling boil. Reduce heat to very low and cook 10 minutes.
Stir zucchini, rice and salsa into broth. Increase heat to medium and drop in meatballs, one at a time. Return soup to simmer and cook gently until meatballs are cooked through, stirring occasionally and adjusting heat to avoid boiling, about 20 minutes. Add cilantro, lime juice, and salt to taste. Add more lime juice if desired. If the soup needs a litte thinning (in your expert opinion), add a splash of water.
For toppings: Heat vegetable oil in heavy skillet over medium heat for 1 minutes. Add half of tortilla strips. Cook until crisp, gently separating with tongs, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer strips to paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining tortilla strips, adding more oil if needed.
To serve: Ladle soup and meatballs into bowls. Top with tortilla strips and cilantro.