by Matt on November 6, 2008

Soup revised

Let’s make a deal:  I promise not to get all emotional on you here and
take you on a fast track down a sentimental freeway if you promise to
stay with me during this post’s entirely. A deal? Great. Thanks.

So a little over a month ago you may remember that I managed to successfully pull off an
appearance on the Martha Stewart show without fainting, stumbling on my
words or discovering a sudden loss of bladder control. Hey, when you’re
standing next to Martha herself it could happen, no? What many of you
may not know is that immediately after wrapping up the show and
watching Martha eat hot dogs from the green room I was invited to head
over to her other magazine for a blogger playdate in the test kitchen
by Everyday Food’s Editor  Deb Puchalla. I joined a few other of my
blogging idols to meet the staff and cook in the test kitchen and my
experience was the icing on the cake of one of the best days of my
life. Truly.

Keeping in the spirit of Everyday Food, the
digest-sized magazine that focuses on creating simple, flavorful and
quick meals with great ingredients, I  pondered long and hard about what to make. Knowing
autumn was right around the corner and that I’d have to feed a crowd I
knew I couldn’t rely on our usual weeknight meals because they are
either too elaborate or too mindnumbingly quick. Forget a recipe for a
long, slowly braised shank and also forget my go-to PB&J sandwich.
Those would not do.

I remembered my grandmother’s Albondigas, a Mexican meatball soup.  It
encompassed everything  — it feeds a crowd, never takes me longer than
25 minutes to prepare, is amazing the next day, can be personalized and
adapted depending on one’s taste, and it was something I’d be happy and
proud to share. I remember my grandmother in the kitchen where she
worked her magic on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day, and while I
know I’ll never be as great a cook as she was I do hope I have at least
one-tenth of the skill and love she put into her food. Why of course
it’s cliché, this grandmother-as-culinary-idol, folks, there’s a
reason for it. To think of her and to share her cooking helps her
legacy live on and I can’t think she’s somewhere beyond pinching my lil
fat cheeks as I share her recipe with the folks from Martha Stewart.
Never in my wildest dreams!

Now I understand everyone has their own version of something as basic
as a soup or even meatball soup, and that’s what I find so amazing
about this simple recipe. Adding chopped herbs on top, a dollop of sour
cream or hotsauce and it instantly becomes your own. Some recipes add
mint to the meat mixture while others include more vegetables. You
really can’t detract from its simplicity and perfection. To say it’s
Mexican Soul Food of the highest order certainly wouldn’t be an

You begin with ground beef or a blend of pork and beef (my personal
favorite). The ground meat is then seasoned, mixed with cooked rice and
egg and dropped into a broth. As they cook the rice absorbs the liquid,
resulting in a light, fluffy and moister-than-moist meatball. No dry
flavorless balls here, folks. And the broth itself couldn’t be easier:
stock, tomatoes, garlic, onions, a few herbs and that’s it. Of course
it’s better made with homemade stock but premade works in a pinch.
Serve it along side crusty bread or fresh warm corn tortillas. Add a
few slices of fresh avocado on top for contrast. And like most soups it
just gets better as it sits and has time to develop its favors. And the
best part? Inevitably one or two meatballs will break and make their
way around the soup, resulting in those little bits of meat that season
the entire broth.

Albondigas Meatball Soup
Here’s the very simple recipe handed down from my grandmother. Its
simplicity is key here but it can be dressed any way possible — a
spoonful of salsa, a splash of vinegary hot sauce, chopped cilantro or
even green onions. It’s great served with fresh corn tortillas and like
most soups is even better the next day. Depending on what type of meat you use (you could even use ground turkey), some skimming of the soup’s surface may be necessary.

For The Meatballs
1 lb ground beef (or a blend of pork and beef)
1 medium onion, diced small
1/2 cup cooked white rice
2 or 3 small cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons oil
salt and pepper

the onions and garlic with the cumin and oregano over medium heat,
until translucent and cooked, about 5 minutes. In a big bowl add the
onion mixture and cooked white rice to the ground beef along with 2
whole eggs. Mix well, season with salt and pepper and form into small
meatballs, 1 to 2 tablespoons each.

For The Soup
6 Cups Chicken Stock
1 large tomato or 1/2 can of stewed tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper

the onion, garlic and tomato until the tomato begins to break down,
about 3-5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower the
heat and drop in the meatballs very gently into the hot liquid. Cook
over medium heat, covered, for 20-30 minutes. Season the soup with salt
and pepper to taste.  To serve, top the soup and meatballs with chopped
cilantro (or parsley if you don’t do cilantro) and serve with fresh warm corn tortillas or even a crusty


And now are some snapshots from my afternoon spent at the offices and test kitchen of Everyday Food. The world’s biggest hugs of gratitude go out to Deb Puchalla who has singlehandedly bridged a gap between traditional print and this new-crazy-scary world of blogging. She’s shown a few of us that both can exist and even complement each other and she’s brought the readers into the magazine and truly listened. You are simply the best, Deb.

Here I am getting busy in the test kitchens of Everyday Food. Note the fancy Everyday Food apron! Damn I’m really going bald.


SO. MANY. BOOKS ! The test kitchen has their own “little” library of cookbooks and in fact there were books EVERYWHERE. I’d love to show you the rest of the offices at Martha Stewart but there was simply too much proprietary information all over the place and photos were not allowed. But we did get to see the inside of the ribbon room. Yes, I said ribbon room. I really did.


Adam and Associate Editor Emma Feigenbaum share a quiet moment in the corner while my sister Angela snaps away. I want to thank the entire staff for letting us invade and disrupt their workspace as well as being lovely and gracious hosts. Speaking of lovely, can you believe that Emma? Look at her. STUNNING. And just as nice as can be.


Soup’s on! Everyone samples the soup while Food Editor Sandy Gluck works cilantro duty. The only bad part about the day was that I did not find a picture of me and Sandy together, and oh my god she is amazing and I could have hung around and chatted with her until security came and took me away.


Editor Deb Puchalla, Assistant Editor Susan Streit, Senior Editor Kristen Evans (foreground), Senior Associate Editor Charlyne Mattox and Associate Editor Emma Feigenbaum. Again, a big giant thanks for hosting us bloggers and for showing us around as well as my sister and best-friend Angela for taking the images.

It was one of the best days of my life, no kidding. It’s great to meet a bunch of people who are truly passionate and open about what they do.

(and of course a big giant THANK YOU to Deb!)