Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Los Barrios Family Cookbook" - Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs - National Hispanic Heritage Month

Date I made this recipe:  October 24, 2016:  Better late than never to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15)

Los Barrios Family Cookbook – Tex-Mex Recipes from the Heart of San Antonio by Diana Barrios Trevino, foreword by Emeril Lagasse.  "Los Barrios, named one of Esquire's Top 100 New Restaurants in America."
Published by Villard (registered trademarks of Random House)
ISBN:  978-0-375-76097-6; copyright 2002
Purchased at Moon Palace Books, Minneapolis, MN
Recipe:  Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs (Fideos con Albondigas) – p. 147-148

Two words:  Toasted pasta!

Reader, who knew that toasted pasta would bring out so much flavor in this dish?  No I! (En Espanol:  Yo no!)

So as you can see above, I missed the window of opportunity to observe National Hispanic Heritage Month during its designated time, but I had this book queued up so I decided to run with it.

You should see the pile of "For your consideration" cookbooks I have on deck each week.  The cooking events for which I could use a book in my collection far outweighs my ability to use them.  I consider the fact that I made this recipe a week later a win.

The book itself is not unfamiliar to me as I often see it displayed as a "face out" (i.e. put on the shelf so you can see the cover) or an end-cap (shelves at the end of the aisle), but I never bought it.  And then I had occasion to visit Moon Palace Books in south Minneapolis and this time around, it came home with me.  Timing is everything.

Los Barrios is not only the title of this cookbook but a 30 year-old restaurant in San Antonio serving Tex-Mex recipes.  In the Acknowledgments section, the author notes that Random House approached them to write a cookbook when it's usually the other way around.  I commend them for their foresight.  Plus, even though Tex-Mex cuisine has been popular for some time, it was just starting to get a toe-hold in 1999, when this book was optioned.  Now, of course, there are many, many Tex-Mex cookbooks as well as cookbooks from several other "Hispanic" countries such as Puerto Rico, Cuba, South American, Central American and of course, Mexico.

When I delved into this cookbook, I was in the mood for something light and this fit the bill.  I also wanted to avoid a lot of spices, specifically chiles, as I don't have the taste buds for that.  Still, a full recipe of this soup calls for six serrano chiles.  You put them in the soup whole but I still held back on the amount lest my tongue start on fire.

The author notes that this soup – Vermicelli Soup with Meatballs "eats like a meal" which is one of the reasons I made it.  And she was right.  I used both a fork and a spoon to eat this delicious – and easy – soup.

So back to the toasted vermicelli---even though the instructions were pretty clear (heat oil, toss vermicelli back and forth until golden brown), I still had this niggling feeling that I was missing a step like say, cooking the pasta first.  Cooking it didn't seem right, but I have been burned before (no pun intended) by missing or incomplete instructions.

Enter YouTube:  you can find instructions on how to make just about everything on YouTube and there were several videos on how to make this soup.  And yes, Virginia, you do indeed toast the pasta uncooked for several minutes until it is golden brown.  And then when you finish blending your tomato mixture, you add it to the pasta and let it simmer for a few minutes so that it cooks.  Brilliant!

The only thing I changed up was that I split my pasta in half before adding it to the pan.  But if I made this dish again (and I might because I quite enjoyed it), I might add a bit more everything to it except the chiles.  I would have liked a bit more cumin and garlic powder and a tad more tomato puree in the soup but otherwise it was great and easy to make.

This cookbook, like the restaurant, serves up a wide variety of recipes, including breakfast.  I was tempted by a few of the breakfasts, then changed my mind and thought about making some salsas and some enchiladas before deciding that soup was good food.  There's a recipe in the book for soup without the meatballs but I love meatballs and so I went with the full meal deal.  And let me tell you, this recipe really is a full meal deal because half a recipe easily filled my 3-quart saucepan.  I cannot imagine what a full recipe would look like.

So there you go, my "better late than never" homage to National Hispanic Heritage Month.  Enjoy!  ("Disfrute!"

Vermicelli Noodle Soup with Meatballs – (Fideos con Albondigas) – serves 6 to 8 (Ann's Note:  generously!)
For the meatballs
1 ½ pounds ground beef
¼ cup white rice
2 eggs
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
For the soup
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
One 12-ounce package vermicelli
½ onion, sliced
½ green bell peppers, sliced
6 serrano chiles with stems
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon pepper

To make the meatballs, fill a large pot with 4 quarts of water and bring to a boil.

Meanwhile, combine all the meatball ingredients in a bowl, mixing well.  Form the mixture into meatballs the size of a golf ball.  Add the meatballs to the boiling water, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the meatballs are cooking, heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the vermicelli and toss back and forth with 2 spoons until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes; do not allow the noodles to burn. Add the onion, bell pepper, and chiles and saute until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, the 1 tablespoon salt, the cumin, garlic powder, and pepper in a blender.  Add 1 cup water from the meatballs and blend until smooth.  Add the tomato puree to the vermicelli, stirring well, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the tomato mixture to the meatballs and their broth and season with salt.

Author's Note:  Leaving the stems on the chiles prevents them from bursting during cooking, which would release their seeds – the source of their heat.  To make individual servings spicier, simply serve a child to anyone who wants one, so they can open the chile and stir the seeds into their soup.

Ann's Note:  I made half the recipe but used only one serrano pepper because I am a wuss.  I don't know how that translates in Spanish but there you go.  Three (half recipe) would have been asking for it; six for a full meal – in my opinion – is dangerous!

No comments: