This traditional Mexican soup has been on my list of things to make for some time. Inspired by a former co-worker who made Albondigas soup for our kitchen staff family meal. Esteban was one of the best line cooks I have ever worked with. Quiet, methodical, clandestine. He had 10 plates working and made it look like two. An ex-wrestler, culinary grad with a great palette. The recipe was his grandmother’s. His simple, flavorful soup is one of the best soups I have ever tasted. My version has a different theme but my homage is still to the duo that perfected it.
Albondigas Soup Recipe
2 large onion
8 cloves garlic
4 cups kabocha squash
1 cup fresh chopped herbs (basil, tarragon, mint, oregano)
1/2 cup chopped mint
2 cups tomatillos or tomatoes chopped
8 cups stock or water
1 lb free range or organic ground beef or turkey
1 lb green beans
1 green onion
2 Hawaiian chile pepper
Peel and chop 1st four ingredients. Saute onion in a soup pot til soft and golden. Add carrots, squash, 6 cloves of garlic, and the 2 hot pepper and saute about 5 minutes until everything is coated with olive oil and heated. Add minced herbs to pot for 2-3 minutes. Add diced tomatillos or tomatoes. Let this combination saute for 10 minutes stirring frequently adding olive oil if needed. Add stock and bring to a soft boil. Add meatballs. Simmer 20 minutes. Garnish with a pinch of fresh chopped herbs.
Add 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup chopped mint, 1 minced green onion, salt and black pepper to ground meat. Mix thoroughly. Roll into small meatballs.
For the meatballs I used Princeville Ranch Beef, a family owned ranch just 2 miles from our home. It is not certified organic but the cattle are humanely raised and free of hormones and antibiotics. Local meat is not in abundant supply for retail purchase on Kauai. The supply has increased recently but is still limited. Princeville Ranch sells their beef at the Princeville Chevron. Yes I wrote Chevron. It is delivered on Thursdays and often sold out by Monday. Some ranchers and farmers only sell their beef and lamb to restaurants or wholesale. Kaneshiro Farms sells their pork and lamb wholesale directly and retail at Kojima’s store in Kapa’a and a handful of other stores. Moloka’i and Big Island beef are also available in various markets around the Island. The absence of federally certified slaughterhouses to process meat is the main reason there is not much available in the retail sector. The Kauai Grown website is a comprehensive and streamlined site for finding local meat and locally made products.
We love kabocha squash on Kauai because it grows so well and is one of the few squashes that will survive the nagging sting of the fruit fly. It also tastes so wonderful, somewhat of a cross between a pumpkin and a butternut squash. Hearty, not too sweet, versatile. It does take a bit of space to grow so if this is not an option they can be found at most farmer’s markets. If a kabocha is not available use a squash or potato grown in your area. Fellow farmers Jillian and Gary Seal’s have a CSA and just yesterday announced butternut squash in this week’s CSA boxes! They are at kauaifarmconnection.com located in Kilauea on a beautiful 12 acre working farm, the real deal! Organic Sweet potatoes grown in Kilauea can also be found at the Tuesday Waipa market at 2 pm and the Thursday Kilauea market at 4:30 from Ben Ferris of Kolo Kai Farms.
Herbs. Grow as many as you possibly can. Grow them in pots, on your lanai, in your yard, on your kitchen window sill. Parsley, marjoram, basil, dill, tarragon, mint, lemon basil, sage, thyme, rosemary, oregano, cilantro, lovage, sorrel, chervil. Having a stock pile of fresh herbs will change your relationship with food and with life. Herbs are the impetus that inspire me to create . They remind me of the close friends that augment the joys of living and provide comfort in times of doubt. Herbs will transform any doldrum into a celebration reminding me that life is a series of incremental moments each replete with their own splendor. This beautiful variegated Cuban Oregano produces large, luscious, pungent leaves. It is so pretty in the garden I would plant it as an ornamental even if it wasn’t edible.
One last note about this soup is in regards to using either tomatillos or tomatoes. Our one tomatillo plant has hundreds so that is what I used. I love their tart, crisp flavor that is unique and refreshing. Traditionally this soup calls for tomatoes but I am always willing to experiment with something that I have an over abundance of and take the chance that it will succeed.
Recently, I read a wonderful book by Tamar Adler, “An Everlasting Meal”. The Appendix of her book is titled “Further Fixes”, en entire chapter devoted to fixing kitchen disasters. The theme of the chapter is to take the risk, it can almost always be transformed into something else if the original intention failed. Taking the risk is how exciting flavor combinations come to fruition. It is being in the moment with intuition and understanding. It is listening to ourselves, our palettes, our ideas, trusting with confidence, expressing, and enjoying. More of a design for creating than following the recipe too closely. I have a friend that is almost 90 years old. He began painting some time in the last 20 years. He always tells me when he looks back on his life, he wishes he had made more mistakes, because that is when he learned the most.
A hui hou! Until next time!