We're so close, friends. Spring is just around the corner and making her presence known with sunny days and >50-degree temperatures. There are tiny yellow crocuses blooming in my backyard, and when I spotted them last Thursday I giddily ran inside to grab my camera. I've spent several mornings over the last week outside walking up a mountain and back...in short sleeves. I am even contemplating slipping sandals on today for my afternoon errands. Sandals! This incredible weather has me wanting to spend every moment outside, basking in the warmth and sights and smells of a budding new season. It has me thinking of gardening, the smell of the earth and the feel of dirt under my fingernails. We've ordered the seeds for our tiny plot (and a much bigger one...a project I am excited to share with you once it gets rolling!) and Brian and I have a big date next weekend weeding and mulching and amending.
One of the first harvests we'll have this spring will be cilantro. It really is the perfect opening crop because it compliments spicy fare so well. I tend to favor food with a little kick this time of year...I'm thinking it has something to do with the drastic temperature swings we see around here, with warm days sliding into very cool nights. A zippy soup that warms from within is quite welcome after the heavy, thick, potato-based stews we consumed to warm us all Winter. This recipe is a favorite, with spicy tomato broth and bite-size, cilantro-laced meatballs. It usually only takes a slight rise in temperature for Brian to request it on the menu, and it stays there until Spring slips into Summer.
PS: I am ignoring the fact that they are calling for sleet and snow tonight, choosing instead to concentrate on the lovely 60-degree hike I went on this morning in the sunshine. If I ignore it...it won't happen. Right?
This soup is quite quick and easy to throw together on a weeknight after work. The most time-consuming task is forming the meatballs, but even that doesn't take terribly long. To speed up the process make them the night before and cover tightly with plastic wrap. The soup itself keeps for a couple of days, but is best the day it is made. Over time the meatballs and rice tend to break down a bit.
Mexican Meatball Soup with Rice and Cilantro
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 3/4 cups chopped onions
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 small bay leaves
- 5 14 1/2-ounce cans beef broth
- 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
- 1/2 cup chunky tomato salsa (medium-hot)
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1/4 pound bulk pork sausage
- 6 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup long-grain white rice
- Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add 1 3/4 cups onions, 2 garlic cloves and bay leaves; sauté 5 minutes. Add broth, tomatoes with juices, salsa and 1/4 cup cilantro; bring to boil. Cover and simmer 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, combine ground beef, pork sausage, cornmeal, whole milk, egg, salt, pepper, cumin, then remaining 1 cup onions, 2 garlic cloves and 1/4 cup cilantro in medium bowl. Mix well. Shape meat mixture by generous tablespoonfuls into 1- to 1 1/4-inch balls.
- Add rice and meatballs to soup and bring to boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until rice and meatballs are tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls and serve.