Monday, December 22, 2008

Lunch for a Sick Husband on a Cold Day, Or, How Karl Learned To Stop Kvetching & Love Syrian Lemon & Vegetable Soup With Meatballs...

"If they didn't have enough oil, why didn't they just invade another country?"

So last night, I was invited to my first Hannukah party ever. Yes, EVER. I know, none of the people present could imagine that was true, but I assured them it was. It is!!

Miss Noelle and Mr. Myron were the excellent hosts, and there were beautiful Latkes and Goulash with egg noodles (butter and caraway!!) and... homemade Jelly Doughnuts.

All I really have to say for myself is that I tried not to embarass both myself and my hosts with how much sour cream I put on my excellent, crispy latkes, and I pray that no one ever teaches me how to make my own jelly doughnuts. I cannot fathom how that knowledge might impact what is already a losing battle over the size of my ass... Please Jesus, just let me settle for the once-a-year Hannukah invite.

This got me thinking, though... about a cookbook I bought after visiting Aaron's mom Debbie in Evanston a few years ago. It was my first time to Evanston, and he was taking his then-girlfriend (my friend Nicole) home to meet his mom for the first time. (It went fine -- they are now engaged...) Debbie had a great cookbook collection, and one book that really interested me was Jewish Cooking In America by Joan Nathan. It was chock full of all of these fucking excellent Old World recipes that no one (no one that I know, anyway) makes, these days. Or if they do, they aren't inviting me over when they are making them. (hint hint.) Syrian, Turkish, Moroccan, Russian, German, Hungarian... you get the picture. Beautiful, immigrant grandmother food-- not necessarily difficult, but sometimes time consuming. One of these recipes involves a few of my favorite things: Lemony Vegetable Soup with Dried Mint and Kibbe Hamda (meatballs) served over a little rice.

My husband woke up this morning with a terrible head cold and went back to bed. As he was sleeping away, I decided this was exactly the day to make this soup, so I popped over to the store and grabbed some ground beef and a head of escarole.

Everything else I had in the house: Celery, potato, onion, garlic, rice, lemon, and some allspice. I added escarole because it's such an excellent partner of both meat and lemon, and also, some dried oregano because, well... because I felt like it.

I pretty much followed her recipe, making the meatballs with the ground rice and stuffing them with reserved ground meat, allspice and celery leaves.

I should have salted the whole thing more, though. I chopped up onion, garlic, carrots, potatoes, and celery and simmered them for 20 minutes, then added dried mint, a pinch of oregano and lots of lemon-- juice of 2 lemons and simmered for 10 more minutes.

Then I brought it to a boil, added the meatballs and escarole, covered and boiled for 10 more minutes, and voila. Lunch.

I also made some rice to pour it over. It was nice and brothy but still very substantial, and so aromatic. Next time, I will either use all ground lamb and add a little nutmeg, or 1/2 lamb and 1/2 beef. I will also not overwork the meatballs next time... I also think it might be nice with a little bit of chili flake or aleppo pepper - just a touch. The heat would brighten up the whole dish, especially with the added zesty influence of the lemon.

And the sick husband? So happy. The soup, and a glass of eggnog and he toddled back to bed feeling full and loved.

As Borat says. "Success!"

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