Friday, October 25, 2013

Wedding Soup: Or, What to Feed an Angry Pancreas

Recently, I got to take a field trip to the ER.

Now, it takes a fair bit of pain for me to concede defeat and even go to the normal doctor. And, to be honest, I was afraid I would get there and get a lecture on why women my age should not try to do P90X. And get laughed at. But, I have never managed to pull a muscle, not know it, then wake up 12 hours later in pain on the scale of childbirth (and I know from experience) and not be able to breathe. So, off to the ER at six am on a Sunday.

"Oh, my. Your pancreas is angry," said the ultrasound tech. "And look at all those gallstones."

The ER doctor put things in terms I understand clearly. "You should have surgery. Life's too short to go without truffled Gouda."

So surgery it is in a few weeks when my organs are not so worked up. In the meantime, I get to eat bland food and make surgery jokes with my family. My brother offered to take my gallstones for some odd reason. And, I had fun offering my kid the mutinous non-essential organ for show-and-tell once its out.

I also have been making soup. Soup that's good enough and comforting for even my most angry digestive organs.

Wedding Soup
For meatballs:
1 lb. ground veal, or ground turkey
1 lb. ground very lean beef or bison
1 lb. ground lean pork
2 tbs. basil
2 tbs. parsley
1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup grated Parmesean (unless you can't eat cheese like me, then you can just wish it were in here)
1 egg
pinch of salt and couple turns on the pepper mill

Mix well. Roll into dime-sized balls, placing on tray. Imagine an Italian grandmother over your shoulder making you do them over if they exceed the size of a dime even a tiny bit.

For soup:
44 cups chicken stock
3 or 4 parmesean rinds, optional (I miss cheese)
2 small heads escarole, or 6 oz. spinach if you can't find escarole cleaned and chopped
pinch of red pepper flakes
8 oz. Acini di Pepi pasta
½ cup grated parmesean, optional (did I mention how much I miss cheese?)

Heat stock until it boils. Add pinch of red pepper flakes. Drop in meatballs (carefully) a few at a time until all are added. Add parmesean rinds, and turn down heat to simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. You will need to stir occasionally to prevent the cheese rinds from sticking. Add escarole and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add pasta and simmer again for 20 minutes. Sprinkle in parmesean and stir to blend.

A few notes. The reason this soup is called Wedding Soup, so I am told, is that the cost of using all the different meats meant it was only served on special occasions. Variations on this would be to also add two cups of cooked, shredded chicken AND/or drizzle in an egg mixed with the parmesean to add more body to the soup. The flavors of all the meats and the parmesean rinds make a rich and satisfying broth. Use good parmesean, you will be rewarded with great flavor. Save your rinds, you can use this trick to add flavor to any soup. Save them for when you can eat cheese.

No comments: