Note: Today's column is the final edition from our good friends Pam Brandon and Anne-Marie Denicole, the Divas of Dish. Their first column appeared here on June 20, 2009, and twice monthly since then they've offered wonderful, reliable recipes, expert cooking advice and entertaining tips. Like many of you, I looked forward to each new column and followed the easy instructions with the hope that the results would be as beautiful as the photo of the Divas' finished product. The 140 so past columns are always available on the Divas of Dish pages here on SJO. And, of course, there is the cookbook that started it all, "Culinary Confessions of the PTA Divas."
Some would argue that soup is best served on a chilly winter day, but we disagree. In all its salubrious glory, soup is a year-round pick for your health, waistline – and wallet. Perfecting the pot is an opportunity to clean out the fridge with a deliciously creative spin.
A single one-pot wonder per week, teaming with fresh veggies, legumes and whole grains (think bulgar, quinoa and farro) is your go-to lunch on the fly, or a cozy, casual supper curled up with a book, a glass of wine--and a nice big spoon.
Mex-Asian Chicken Meatball Soup with Crispy Tortilla Strips and Fresh Salsa
1 pound ground chicken
Coarse salt, to taste
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon agave nectar
4 scallions, thinly sliced, green and white parts
1 tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup cooked white rice
6 cups chicken stock
1 small onion, halved, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons ginger paste, or 1 (2-inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced
4 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
1 bunch scallions, sliced
4 Roma tomatoes, finely diced
Coarse salt and cracked black pepper, to taste
1 serrano chili, sliced
1 Fresno chili, sliced
2 tablespoons sweet onion, finely diced
Drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil
Drizzle of lime juice
2 cups canola oil
8 to 10 corn tortillas, sliced into batons
Coarse salt, to taste
Fresh basil, cilantro, chilies and lime wedges, for garnish
In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine meatball ingredients and mix with your hands until ingredients are evenly distributed. If mix feels too wet, add a bit more rice. (The chicken will feel less firm than a beef meatball, but will tighten up quickly in simmering broth.)
In a medium to large soup pot, bring stock to a simmer and add remaining ingredients for broth. Simmer for 10 minutes.
Divide chicken mixture into 8 portions and form into meatballs. Gently lower, one at a time, into stock. Bring stock back to a simmer.
As meatballs cook, make salsa by mixing all ingredients. Gently toss and set aside.
After meatballs have cooked 15 to 20 minutes, taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If using fresh ginger, discard.
In a large, deep-sided skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Test to see if the oil is ready by tossing in a single tortilla strip; if it sizzles, start cooking; if it burns after a few seconds, turn down heat and wait for oil to cool a bit. Fry strips in 4 batches, careful not to overcrowd, tossing. When strips are golden, drain on paper towels and salt.
To serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with salsa, to taste, and tortilla strips. Garnish with fresh herbs and lime.
Diva confession: If you prefer your ingredients streamlined, there are deliciously simple ways to cheat. Make the soup as directed, then switch out the fresh salsa for your favorite variety, then add fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to taste. Bagged tortilla strips are miraculously transformed in a 400°F oven. For a crisp, nutty flavor, scatter on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.