Dill Watercress Herbal Soup with Bok Choi and Meatballs
I was inspired to make a special herbal soup my grandmother used to make. Some of the touches are updates or my own additions. But most of the idea and basis for the soup is entirely owed to my grandmother's ingenuity. Eastern Europeans will recognize it as the beloved sour dill soup we had as children, usually made by grandma. I updated it for richer times and my gluten free needs. My grandmother's soup may have been simpler than this, but it was equally delicious. At the close of 2020, we could use a healthy soup to keep up our strength.
I started with the Meatballs that we make routinely at home. Doug is a master at making these and they're a staple at our house. It takes a very short time to make them and they provide us with a very long lasting reward. We go out of our way to find organic and local meat choices whenever possible, and we encourage you to do so as well. It really makes a difference in flavor and, we think, nutrition.
The Bok Choi is a delicious texture addition to this soup that's almost like a dumpling. I'm really pleased at how that part of it turned out.
I was nervous about this soup, because remembered soups may not turn out as yummy as you thought. But I didn't need to worry, the strong flavors of the herbs came through. Dill and watercress are complementary flavors that positively sing together.
The bit of cream added not only makes the soup more "seemly" looking but it also marries the flavors by toning them both down into a quieter harmony. You can do without it though, if you can't tolerate dairy.
You should be careful to taste the soup before adding too much salt, especially if you're using home made broth. It's probable that the amount of salt I mentioned is too little. But, better that than too much.
So, let's get started!
Meatballs, Multi Purpose
1lb ground beef
1lb ground pork
2 pieces of gluten free bread soaked in milk (dairy free is ok)
-- we use Three Bakers Rye Bread, Simple Kneads, or homemade bread
2 tsp salt
2 tsp Italian seasoning
1tsp garlic pwd
1 tsp onion pwd
1 tsp ground fennel
Wear plastic gloves if you don't want your hands to get gooey. Mixing with your hands is the best way to mix this.
Prepare a sheet pan with a sheet of parchment paper. Start oven, set to 365 F and allow to preheat.
Soak the bread in the milk and then mash up, it will help to keep the meatballs from getting too hard and tough when they cook. You can skip this step, but your meatballs will be drier and harder.
Combine all ingredients with your hands until well mixed.
Form individual meatballs about 1 inch in width and place at least 1 inch apart on prepared pan.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Turn pan around.
Bake an additional 5 minutes.
These may be cooled and stored up to a week. Use for snacking, adding to soup, or spaghetti sauce.
Dill Watercress Herbal Soup w/ Bok Choi
Flavor notes, herbal, sour, savory, creamy, earthy, bright.
1 bunch, dill weed, minced just before adding to pot
1 bunch, watercress, minced just before adding to pot
--- well washed
2 cups homemade turkey broth (you can use any broth)
-- gravy mix is optional, but if you don't use it, consider making a gluten free roux instead
2 small or 1 large onion, minced
1/2 large green pepper, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lemon's juice (without seeds)
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons Schmaltz (chicken fat, usually saved and cleaned from roasting chicken)
-- substitutions here would be prepackaged duck fat from Whole Foods, or collected bacon drippings
1 Tablespoon Olive oil (extra virgin is ok in this case, it won't burn)
1 Baby Bok Choi cleaned and separated into stalks
1-3 Tbsp half and half or cream (added at the end of cooking)
If you're making roux, do it now, using the schmaltz. Fry the onion and pepper in oil and fat until softened, then add garlic and fry another minute. Turn down the heat. Chop the greens, and add to the pot. Turn up the heat to medium-high. Stir until greens wilt a bit.
If using gravy mix, combine it with the broth. Add broth and stir. If there's not enough liquid, add a bit more, there should be about 4 cups of soup at this point with the wilted vegetables and liquid combined.
Squeeze 1/2 lemon's juice into soup, though a strainer to keep the seeds out. Stir in.
Bring to a boil, add Baby Bok Choi stalks and Meatballs. Stir and allow to boil about 5 min.
Add cream, stir and turn off heat.
Ready to serve.
I served it with biscuits, but it's equally good with a good gluten free bread.
Storage: This soup doesn't store very well. If you have leftovers, refrigerate. Then use it the next day, and brighten the flavor with a new squeeze of lemon juice before serving.