Cabbage and Meatball Soup

Sometimes good food happens when you least expect it.  You know what I mean; you look around the kitchen, survey the refrigerator and pantry, start putting ingredients together, and voila, you have lunch.  This soup is the result of making something out of a few humble ingredients, and having it turn out quite well.  Root vegetables and brassicas are the work horses of the winter pantry, and I always have them on hand.  Added to turkey broth (lots of that in the freezer after Thanksgiving), and simmered with a few little meatballs, they yielded a tasty and hearty soup.  A sprinkle of fresh parsley and some rye bread croutons added color and crunch to the bowl.  So take some time to make a pot of soup and enjoy a healthy lunch or dinner.  It will help balance the excesses of the season, and take care of some of those leftovers.

Cabbage and Meatball Soup
(serves 4)
1/2 large onion, cut in small dice (about 1 cup)
1 large carrot, cut in small dice
2 medium celery stalks, cut in small dice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
5 to 6 cups chicken or turkey broth, homemade or best quality low-sodium from the market
1/2 small green cabbage, thick core removed, and sliced into narrow strips
1 small bay leaf
a generous pinch dried thyme leaves
kosher salt
freshly ground white pepper
8 ounces ground beef sirloin or ground veal
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon dried dillweed
1/4 cup fresh, soft breadcrumbs
3 to 4 tablespoons cream
rye bread croutons
chopped fresh parsley
Heat the oil and butter in a 4 quart soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the onion, carrot, and celery with a large pinch of salt, and stir.  Cook until the vegetables have softened and browned just a little at the edges.  Add about 2/3 of the minced garlic (reserve the remainder for the meatballs).  Cook and stir until the garlic is fragrant.  Add 5 cups of stock and raise the heat to bring the liquid to a brisk simmer.  Drop the sliced cabbage into the pot with the bay leaf and thyme.  Lower the heat and simmer the soup, with the pot lid ajar, until the vegetables are just tender.  While the soup simmers, make the meatball mixture:  In a medium bowl gently combine the ground meat, garlic, allspice, dill, a good pinch of salt and several grinds of pepper, the breadcrumbs and 3 tablespoons of cream.  Mix together thoroughly and add another tablespoon of cream if the mixture seems dry.  Scoop the meat into meatballs with a small dessertspoon and roll them in your moistened hands.  Place on a dinner plate as you finish each one; you should have about 18 small meatballs.  Check the soup pot and add another cup of broth if you think the soup is too thick.  Keep the soup at a gentle simmer as you add the meatballs to the pot.  Let the meatballs cook in the soup for about 8 to 10 minutes, or until cooked through.  Stir the pot gently and do not boil the mixture or the meatballs will fall apart.  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and serve with a sprinkle of fresh parsley and rye bread croutons.

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