Monday, August 03, 2015

Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls

This was such a delicious soup. It took a while to make but anything difficult in cooking is usually worth the effort. Perfect for when the weather gets a bit warmer, but light enough with the eggplant balls(not sure why they are called veggie balls) instead of meatballs. And you could even omit the pasta if you wanted to.

Italian Wedding Soup with Veggie Balls

1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 small carrot, cut into chunks
4 clove garlic, peeled
2 oz fresh basil
⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
3½ quarts cold water
1 head escarole, cut into ½-inch shred
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves cut into ½-inch shreds
1 lb zucchini, cut into ½-inch pieces
2 parmesan rinds
2 tbsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
1½ lb cheese tortellini

1 large eggplant, unpeeled
salt, to taste
1 cup + ⅓ cup panko breadcrumbs, divided
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp minced parsley
1 garlic clove, minced
freshly ground black pepper
1 large egg, lightly beaten
extra virgin olive oil, for frying(I baked mine)

First, start the soup. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, and basil. Pulse until it forms a smooth paste, called a pestata.
Heat the olive oil in the soup pot over high heat and scrape the pestata into the pot. Cook, stirring until the pestata has released liquid and started to dry out a bit, about 5 minutes. Pour the cold water into the pot, scraping up the pestata from the bottom of the pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer the broth, covered, for about 15 minutes. Stir in the greens, zucchini, parmesan rinds, and salt. Return to a simmer and cook, covered, for 25 minutes, and uncovered for 20 minutes. Add the tortellini in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
While the soup simmers, prepare the veggie balls. Cut the eggplant into 1-inch cubes. Bring 2 quarts of water with 1 tbsp of salt mixed in to a boil over high heat. Add the eggplant and boil, uncovered, for 10 minutes, or until eggplant is cooked, pressing them down into the water regularly. Drain in a colander and push out as much water from them as you can using the back of a spoon. Finely chop eggplant.
In a bowl, combine the eggplant, 1 cup of panko, cheese, parsley, and garlic. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Mix in the egg.
Roll the eggplant mixture into small balls that are about 1-inch in diameter and set them on a platter. Put the remaining panko in a small bowl and roll each ball in the breadcrumbs to coat evenly. Set the coatedballs on a clean tray.
Pour the olive oil into a 10-inch skillet to a depth of ½ inch. Turn the heat to medium and when the oil begins to shimmer, put a test ball in the skillet. If it sizzles immediately, then the oil is hot enough. When the oil is ready, carefully put the balls in the skillet in a single layer.
Fry, turning gently with a spoon, until browned all over, about 3 minutes total. Remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with the remaining balls until all of them have been cooked.
Divide the soup evenly among 8-10 bowls and serve topped with the veggie balls.

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