Dear readers, I have the vapors. I cannot believe that La Roja have taken the World Cup, even though they are an amazing football/soccer team, and as a result it should come as no surprise that I inundated poor Michael with lots of Spanish food over the entirety of the weekend. It was all I could do with the enormity of this final; having listened to the commentators on ESPN Radio constantly remind their audience that “no team has won the Cup after losing their opening game” and yet being buoyed by every victory (low-scoring though they were), I was always a mixture of cautious optimism and paralyzing fear while either listening or watching a game. When Iniesta masterfully sent that cross into the net with only minutes to go in the second extra time period, both Michael and I jumped from our seats and cheered…after the “1” came up on our television screens. While it’s all very bittersweet as it is over 1,400 days until the next WC, I imagine my Spanish will improve immensely thanks to me now officially following FC Barcelona in La Liga.
If you’re curious, you can see some great shots of the final and the subsequent parade in Madrid here. Prepare yourself for an overload of the cuteness, however.
That’s enough football/soccer talk for now, however. Onto the celebration food!Honestly, I don’t know why I thought making food to snack on while we watched the final game was a good idea in the first place. My stomach is always tied up in knots out of nervousness and my appetite completely disappears when I watch one of Spain’s games, and I was convinced that the gazpacho I made would ultimately end up all over my laptop’s keyboard the second that a goal was made, in either team’s favor. Fortunately, my computer remained tomato-and-red-pepper-free and I manged to keep the contents of el estómago down, but it was a tense, touch-and-go few hours during the late afternoon.
The cheese and ham we enjoyed were both top-notch: the manchego was aged over 15 months, leaving it with a mellow, almost sharp-cheddar-like taste that was also a little nutty. The soup, however, is the real star: while the meatballs boast a complexity of flavors, the actual soup is very simple. Just some stock, tomatoes, a little tomato puree, and little noodles called fideos (we actually used fine egg noodles that you can get in the kosher section) and some mint leaves to garnish. Despite a long-held aversion to rolling meatballs (thanks to being corralled into rolling the tiniest ones ever for his mom’s holiday soup every year), Michael will still make this soup, meatballs be damned. If that’s not a reason to give this recipe a whirl, then just turn on the soundtrack to Vicky Cristina Barcelona and you will almost feel like you’re in a tiny little tapas bar.
Sopa de albgóndiguillas catalana (Catalan Meatball Soup)
adapted from The Spanish Country Kitchen
- 5 cups chicken or veal stock
- 2 TBSP tomato puree
- 4 tomatoes cored and finely diced
- 1/2 cup fideos or fine egg noodles
- Sea salt and ground black pepper
- 12 oz. ground pork, beef and veal
- 1 small onion, grated
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1 TBSP chopped fresh mint
- 2 TBSP chopped fresh parsley
- 2 TBSP freshly made fine breadcrumbs
- sea salt and ground black pepper
- all-purpose flour for dusting
- Olive oil for cooking
In a bowl, combine the meat, onion, garlic, egg, mint, half the parsley, and stir in the bread crumbs, salt and pepper. Use your hands to gently bring the mixture together, and then form into 1/2 inch balls and place on a plate. Using a sieve, gently dust the meatballs with flour and then toss to coat.
Place the oil in a skillet and bring to high heat, and then saute the balls to give them some color and firm them up; remove from the pan and place on a paper towel to drain.
For the soup itself, place the stock in into a large saucepan and bring to a boil, and add the tomato, noodles, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Then add in the meatballs and bring the soup to a gentle simmer and let cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining parsley and serve with whole mint leaves as a garnish.