Monday, January 26, 2015


Our final issue of Sunset Magazine arrived. For the sake of nostalgia and in keeping with the latest diet craze "Souping', I decided to make the Savoy Cabbage Soup with Tiny Meatballs. It doesn't look bad - in fact, I think our finished product was every bit as attractive as the magazine photo. But looks aren't everything when it comes to soup. Bland and flavorless (except for the parsley), it was a real disappointment. I was hoping for a similarity to the great Cabbage Soup we used to get at Billy's Deli in Glendale. Remember that great stuff?  We would drag ourselves down there "the morning after" for one or two bowls. I suppose we used it somewhat like the hispanics around here use Menudo. Soup, yes---but also medicinal. Maybe because it was served by the ultimate mama types like Evelyn - everything tastes better somehow when someone like Evelyn delivers your order.

Evelyn at Billy's from

The lack of impact shouldn't have been a surprise..there's little in the mixture with real flavor! The only seasoning is 3/4 teaspoon each Kosher salt and pepper and 3/8 teaspoon of nutmeg for flavoring a head of cabbage, 7 cups of broth and a pound of meat. The 5 tablespoons of parsley added too much vegetative flavor for the bland soup; it stuck out of the blend like a sore thumb. Maybe if it was called Flat Leaf Parsley Soup with Savoy Cabbage and Meatballs....

"Tiny Meatballs" should also have set off a warning bell. Too much restraint!!!

The choice of leeks for the soup is odd to me. Leeks are notoriously gritty. Rinsing well, after halving, as the recipe suggests, is not enough. The best way to clean leeks thoroughly is to chop them up or in this case, slice into half-moons and then put them in a colander and rinse well. They're relatively expensive and in this kind of mixture are too mild. They were lost in the watery soup. A good brown onion would have added some substance to the flavor; cost 1/2 or less the price of the leeks with no cleaning challenges. Fiddling with the leeks added time to the prep with no return on the investment.

It did take me an hour to get it together (as the recipe estimates), not counting clean-up time.

The soup needed canned tomatoes, garlic, more salt, more pepper and a couple of shakes of Tabasco, at the very least. Vinegar would have helped but you'd have to eliminate the final swirl of cream. We sprinkled vinegar into our bowls to add some interest to the flavor. It helped but just barely. Next time I get the urge for Cabbage soup, I'm sticking to the tried and true Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup.

The recipe could be re-written to be much more efficient in my opinion. My suggestion is to start with the soup ingredients and while they are simmering, work on the meatballs. Salt, pepper, nutmeg should be mixed with the milk and then combined with the bread crumbs. You always mix small particulate materials in any liquid you have to assure even distribution through a mixture. Throwing 1/8 teaspoon of nutmeg on top of a pound of a meat and expecting evenly mixed flavor is ridiculous.
The recipe seemed frankly amateurish - even for Sunset.

It's likely the nutrition declaration was the driving force behind the recipe creation. Keeping the sodium low is admirable, but not at the expense of flavor.

I copied the recipe below from www.epicurious for the sake of convenience. Sorry about the formatting. Authorship goes to Sunset Magazine.

savoy cabbage soup with tiny meatballs


10. 1/3 cup fresh bread crumbs
6. 1/4 cup milk
7. 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
8. 3/4 teaspoon pepper, divided
9. 1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
11. 5 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley, divided
12. 1/2 pound ground pork
13. 1/2 pound ground beef*
14.  tablespoons olive oil
1.1 tablespoon butter
2.2 medium carrots, sliced into half-moons to make 1 cup
3. 2 medium leeks (white and pale green parts only), trimmed, halved lengthwise, rinsed well, and sliced into half-moons
4.1 small head savoy cabbage (about 1 1/2 lbs.), cored and thinly sliced
5. 7 cups chicken broth (reduced-sodium if store-bought)
15. 1/4 cup heavy whipping cream


1. melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots and leeks and cook, stirring, until leeks are soft but not browned, 5 - 7 minutes.

2. Stir in cabbage and  1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper and cook until slightly wilted.  Add broth, cover, and bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until cabbage is quite tender, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, make meatballs: In a medium bowl, stir together bread crumbs and milk. Add 1/2 tsp. each salt and pepper and 1/4 tsp. nutmeg. Mix milk mixture with bread crumbs and combine with 1 tbsp. parsley, the pork, and beef. Mix gently but thoroughly with your hands. Scoop mixture by slightly rounded teaspoons and roll into small balls, dipping spoon occasionally in water to keep mix from sticking.

2. Heat a large nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Add 1 tbsp. oil and swirl to coat. Brown half of meatballs. turning once and reducing heat if they start browning too fast, 5 to 8 minutes, 4 -5 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with remaining oil and meatballs. 

5. Gently stir browned meatballs into soup and cook, stirring occasionally, until meatballs are cooked through and flavors are blended, about 5 minutes. Stir in cream, 3 tbsp. parsley, and remaining 1/8 tsp. nutmeg and ladle into bowls. Sprinkle Garnish with remaining 1 tbsp. parsley.

*Choose ground beef with at least 20% fat for the juiciest meatballs.

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