Spring may have arrived but nobody told Old Man Winter about it, at least not where I live. I had to scrape ice off my windshield yesterday morning and, judging from the time the furnace clicked on this morning, it’s cold out there again. At least we don’t have several feet of snow like some areas of the country. Despite the blooming daffodils and birds chirping in the leafless trees, it’s still soup weather around here.
Easter is early this year and although our local produce isn’t ready yet I found very nice spring vegetables in Whole Foods, and I couldn’t resist adding asparagus, leeks, peas and spinach to my shopping cart. If I am still making soup at least I can make a lighter version with the vegetables we wait for this time of year. I associate fresh peas and asparagus with Easter dinner because they were my mother’s favorites and were always on the dinner table for one of our favorite holidays. This soup recipe is from a past issue of Bon Appetit, is very light, and is full of the wonderful fresh flavors of Spring.
I have included ingredients for home made meatballs in the recipe (they are delicious), but I took a shortcut this time and made my meatballs with Aidell’s Chicken Apple sausage. I removed the casings, formed the chicken into small meat balls and sauteed them in olive oil. The apple flavor adds a nice, delicate sweetness to the soup. Before I made the soup I simmered the chicken stock with the lower halves of asparagus spears I didn’t use in the soup, spinach stems, extra parsley, chives, and 2 cloves of garlic for about 30 minutes. I strained it, seasoned it with salt and pepper and added it to the pot with the sauteed leeks.
With a little prep work this recipe goes together in minutes. Ingredients are added in the order of their needed cooking time and the whole process can be done in 15 minutes. Don’t restrict yourself to these vegetables. Experiment with what you find at your farmers’ market. The clear broth in this soup would show off the beautiful colors of rainbow chard or carrots and I know fennel would be delicious and so fragrant. I think I would like some basil and a hint of fresh mint as well.
- ¾ pound ground chicken
- ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons chopped chives
- 1 large egg, lightly whisked
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 leek, white and pale green parts only, sliced into ½ inch rounds
- 6 cups chicken broth, preferable homemade
- ¾ cup small pasta - I used small elbow macaroni
- ½ pound asparagus, cut into 2" pieces
- ½ cup peas, fresh or frozen
- 1-1/2 cups packed baby spinach
- Parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 2 tablespoon fresh chives, coarsely chopped
- Mix chicken, breadcrumbs,2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, chives, egg, salt and pepper to taste in a medium bowl. Form into ½" diameter meat balls (makes about 24).
- Heat oil in a pot over medium heat. Cook meatballs until golden brown all over, about 5 minutes.(They finish cooking in the soup). Transfer to a plate; set aside.
- Add leeks to the pot, stirring occasionally until transparent, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and 2 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in pasta and carrots; simmer until pasta is al dente, carrots are tender, and meatballs are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook until wilted. Add peas and cook 1-2 more minutes. Adjust seasonings.
- Ladle into bowls. Garnish with chives and grated Parmesan cheese.