Soup Is On!
By Dennis Linden
Just in time to help take the chill off September’s seasonal changeover from summer to fall, Carlos Preciado, a member of Melissa’s Business Development team, submits his version of the famed Albondigas Soup using a farm cart full of fresh veggies from the fall harvest.
“My family enjoys Albondigas soup on cold days,” Carlos explained. “For me it’s always been my go-to comfort food, probably because it brings back childhood memories of my mom, who made the dish a lot when I was growing up.”
While Albondigas Soup has been a part of the culinary fabric of Mexico for centuries, often described as “Mexican soul food,” the dish actually has a North African Arabic flavor influence from the Islamic kitchens of 6th Century Moors who occupied Spain for some 700 years. Those centuries of rule impacted Spanish culture, including its cuisine. Though albondigas translates as “meatballs” in the Spanish language, the Moors brought with them an ancient Middle Eastern soup featuring lamb meatballs in deep-fried dough. Over time, the Spanish spin-off of this recipe used beef meatballs, fresh tomatoes and a few other fresh veggies that simmered in regional spices. This dish remained on Spanish menus long after the Moors were driven out of area in the 12th Century. The soup was then introduced to Mexico under the conquering influence of Spanish Conquistadors who, much like the occupying Moors, left their own culinary mark on the New World. Today’s Mexican albondigas traditions developed from this historical soup lineage.
Carlos’s recipe has all the ingredient requirements that make for a classic albondigas soup—namely, a bit of rice and mint in the meatballs, fresh green beans, tomatoes and few other very simple veggies for flavoring—plus he spices things up a bit with a sprinkles of both Melissa’s Hatch Powder and Garlic Grinder. Also his addition of Baby Red or Ruby Gold® potatoes brings another texture to the dish that works well with the meatballs and adds a stew-like body to the soup. However, the absolute BEST part of preparing this recipe is the aroma! Carlos’s suggestion of simmering the soup for a few hours to maximize flavors becomes more difficult by the minute as a mouth-watering smell begins to seep out of the kitchen, permeating the entire house and tugging at one’s appetite with promises of the warming goodness that is brewing. While the flavor results were well worth the wait, enduring that tantalizing fragrance for hours was both warm and comforting as well as excruciatingly tempting for way too long! Ha, I admit to actually leaving the house just so I could enter again and get another hit of what the essence of preparing albondigas is all about!
The recipe itself is pretty straightforward and easy to follow. It should be noted that I found it necessary to double up on the original 32 ounces of broth that Carlos called for in his recipe as the liquid cooked away very quickly. In fact, although I reflected this measurement increase in the recipe below, I again found it necessary to add even more broth a few days later when reheating this wonderful soup for a second and third tasting. I believe that the rice is the culprit that keeps absorbing all the liquid, so I will start with even more broth next time; and there will definitely be a next! It was grand to have, on command, a convenient pot of hearty albondigas soup in the ‘fridge for about a week – so thank you Chef Carlos for several delicious lunches that seemed to just get a little tastier with each reheat!
Carlos Preciado is a seasoned fresh produce professional who, after a successful twenty-three year career in the fresh produce procurement and merchandising division of a large Southern California chain store operation, made a jump from the retail sector to Melissa’s in 2014. Now on the other side of the sales desk, so to speak, Carlos is using his local knowledge and regional contacts to develop new business for the company.
“My role with Melissa’s is working with our local team and together help drive our business in Southern California,” said Carlos, adding, “We have a passionate team that is on the move daily to maintain and also secure new business.”
Away from the office Carlos likes to be in nature to stay fit and healthy. He spends much of his time hiking and/or mountain biking the local trails of his neighborhood in the Chino Hills with his two dogs, Legend (a bull dog) and Lady (a boxer). He also is working on a personal goal of someday conquering the 12-mile trek to the top of Mt. Wilson in nearby Sierra Madre, which he vows is only a matter of time. Carlos has two grown children, Karina, 23, who just graduated from the University of Missouri and Vincent, 19, now attending San Jacinto community college. And although he did not identify her by name, Carlos did brag most passionately that he is engaged to “a super woman” with a wedding planned for 2017! Obviously his new bride will not have to worry about who does the cooking. Buen provecho!
Ingredients - Meatballs:
2 pounds Ground Turkey
¼ cup Uncooked Rice
1 teaspoon Paprika
1 teaspoon Melissa's MY Grinder Garlic & Herb Sea Salt
1 teaspoon Onion Powder
1 teaspoon Melissa’s Hatch Powder (Hot)
1 teaspoon Cumin
10 Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
½ cup Fresh Carrots, minced
½ cup Zucchini, fine diced
½ cup Bread Crumbs
Ingredients – Soup:
64 ounce Beef Stock
2 cups Zucchini, sliced into thin rounds
1 package Melissa's Baby Red Potatoes (option Ruby Gold® Potatoes)
1 cup Fresh Green Beans, cleaned/trimmed
1 Perfect Sweet Onion, chopped
2 cups Celery, chopped
2 cups Carrots, rough chopped
1 can (14.5 ounces) Stewed Tomatoes
Combine turkey with all spices, veggies and rice into mixing bowl. Add bread crumbs and egg into this mixture to help the meatballs stick together. Shape into small rounds about the size of a golf ball; then carefully drop each ball into a pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Pour broth into a large pot. Add stewed tomatoes and heat to a boil, then add the parboiled turkey balls.
Toss the vegetables and potatoes together in a large mixing bowl until thoroughly combined, add this mix to the soup pot and cover. Simmer on low flame for at least one hour, two is optimum. The longer the simmer, the better the flavor as the ingredients have more time to marry. Add salt and pepper to taste at the end.