Sunday, September 27, 2020

Tomato Soup with (No-Meat) Porcupine Meatballs for Cook the Books August/September Pick: "Recipe for a Perfect Wife" & Souper Sundays

"Serving something new? It's a good idea to try the recipe first. Unless you know your guests well, it's best not to serve anything too unusual. As a rule, men like simple food and women take to 'something different.' --Better Homes & Gardens Holiday Cook Book (1959)"
--Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown

This is probably also a good idea for blogging posts too, as trying to make a meat-free version of meatballs and make it into a soup, is probably better with practice. Still, this Tomato Soup with (No-Meat) Porcupine Meatballs is really delicious, even if I should have probably called it deconstructed due to some meatballs structural challenges.  

But before I get to the recipe, let's talk about the book that inspired it, our Cook the Books August/September pick, Recipe for a Perfect Wife by Karma Brown, hosted by Debra of Eliot's Eats. (See her announcement post here.)

From the Publisher:

'In this captivating dual narrative novel, a modern-day woman finds inspiration in hidden notes left by her home’s previous owner, a quintessential 1950s housewife. As she discovers remarkable parallels between this woman’s life and her own, it causes her to question the foundation of her own relationship with her husband--and what it means to be a wife fighting for her place in a patriarchal society."

I like a food book and a book with dual narratives so I really liked those aspects of Recipe for a Perfect Wife. The little retro book and magazine excerpts from homemaking books are fun too. I preferred Nelly and her story to Alice's. I really wanted to shake Alice repeatedly through the book for her bad decisions, and to get her and her husband Nate into marriage counseling for the number of things they kept (or tried to keep) from each other). Nellie was more interesting trying to change her circumstances in an era women were expected to quietly play a role behind their man, while putting up with a bad and abusive marriage. Still, I did want Alice to grow and find herself and rooted for both women in the end. Many things have changed for women between in 1950s and today, but so many things have stayed the same. The recipes in the book and food descriptions were fun. I have many cookbooks from the era and felt right at home--even with Hollywood Dunk--a dip of deviled ham, chives, onion, horseradish, whipped cream and PINEAPPLE! (Yikes!) 

There was a lot of food in the book and my favorite part was the recipes Alice cooked from the cookbook she found in the house. I took inspiration from a few places, "Concentrated tomato soup is a pleasant addition to any meatloaf." and "something called Porcupines--ground beef and rice balls, simmered for an hour in tomato soup and definitely something Alice never wanted to try." Having grown up on Porcupine Meatballs in tomato sauce made by my mom, I wanted to try a non-meat version and make it into soup. Why? Because, I don't eat meat, it's Souper Sundays, I wanted to tie it into a Mark Bittman soup recipe to tie into I Heart Cooking Clubs, and finally, why not!

For the soup I used Mark Bittman's Creamy Tomato Soup. It's a good easy basic. For the meatballs, I looked at a few recipes but mainly these two--the vegetarian porcupine recipe from The Patchwork Tree and the regular Porcupine Meatballs from Taste  of Home

(No-Meat) Porcupine Meatballs
By Deb, Kahakai Kitchen
(Makes about 18-20 Meatballs)

1 lb package of veggie meat of choice (I used Beyond Beef)
2/3 cup of uncooked jasmine rice
3 eggs
1 Tbsp water + more if needed
1 tsp celery salt
sea salt to taste
1/2 tsp of ground black pepper
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup finely chopped onion

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl and form smallish meatballs (I used my mini ice cream scoop) and set aside.

Heat a large frying pan over medium high. Add you cooking oil of choice and gently brown meatballs on both/all sides until browned. Set aside. (Note they are very fiddly and crumbly so an easier alternative might be baking them in a pan in the oven until lightly browned.) Set aside until ready to add to soup. 


Creamy Tomato Soup 
Slightly Adapted from How To Cook Everything By Mark Bittman
(Serves 4)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large or 2 medium onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 carrot, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme or 1/2 tsp dried
2 lbs tomatoes, cored & chopped, or one 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 to 3 cups water or tomato juice
(No-Meat Porcupine Meatballs, recipe above)
1 tsp sugar, optional

3/4 cup half-and-half or coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil leaves for garnish, optional

grated mozzarella or parmesan for garnish, optional

Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. When it’s hot, add the onion and carrot, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables begin to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste, lower the heat a bit, and continue to cook, stirring to coat the vegetables with the paste, until the paste begins to darken (don’t let it burn), 1 to 2 minutes.

Strip the thyme leaves from the stem and add them to the pot along with the tomatoes. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, 10 to 15 minutes. Add 2 cups of the water and bring to a boil, then adjust the heat so that the mixture bubbles gently. Let the soup cook until the flavors meld, 5 more minutes. (At this point, I pureed the soup to make it smooth, brought it to a simmer and gently added the meatballs, allowing them to cook about 10 minutes before gently stirring and cooking another five minutes until rice was tender.)

Gently stir in milk, reduce heat to medium low and cook until warmed through--do not boil. Taste and adjust the seasoning; if the soup tastes flat (but salty enough), stir in the sugar. If the soup is too thick, add more water, 1/4 cup at a time. If it’s too thin, continue to cook until it thickens and reduces slightly (this will also intensify the flavors). Garnish with basil if you’re using it and a sprinkle of grated cheese if desired, and serve.

Notes/Results: OK, sure the meatballs are misshapen and crumbly and fell apart a lot in the soup, the flavor is excellent and I have few regrets. I don't think it's terribly obvious that it is vegan meat when it's mixed with the rice and spices and the creamy tomato soup base is delicious. As mentioned about--next time I'll bake the meatballs, but otherwise I would happily make this again. 

Thanks to Debra for picking this book and hosting. The deadline for this round of Cook The Books is this Wednesday, September 30th. If you missed this round and like food, books and foodie books, join us for our October/November pick, The Secret, Book and Scone Society hosted by Simona at briciole

I'm linking this recipe with the Mark Bittman soup up at I Heart Cooking Clubs where it's Potluck week. 

Let's see who is here in the Souper Sundays kitchen this week!

Shaheen from Allotment2Kitchen shared her tomato feast including this tomatoes salad. She says, "I've only ever enjoyed eating Greek-Cypriot Salad on holidays.  I come back to the UK, hope to evoke those memories, but the tomatoes we get from the supermarket disappoint. So I don't make Greek-Cypriot Salad at home, but I did twice this week with homegrown tomatoes. The first time it was delicious, the lettuce was crisp with crunch. The second time, I messed up, as i made it in advance and the lettuce went limp and soggy from the tomato juices. It was still one of the best Greek Salads I have made at home.

Simona of briciole shared Tromboncino Squash Soup and said, "Tromboncino squash is a favorite summer squash (in Italian tromboncino literally means small trombone, the musical instrument). I get excited when I see it displayed on a table at the farmers' market or, as was the case earlier this year, at a farm stand. Its long, curvy shape is eye-catching and its dense flesh and delicate, pleasant flavor make it a winner. Although it is harvested early and consumed as a summer squash, tromboncino squash does not belong to the Cucurbita pepo species like zucchini and other summer squashes, but rather to Cucurbita moschata, like butternut squash. Like its more famous relative, zucchetta has seeds only in the lower part of its body: the long neck is seedless."

Thank you to Shaheen and Simona for joining me this week! 

(If you aren't familiar with Souper Sundays, you can read about of the origins of it here.
If you would like to join in Souper (Soup, Salad, and Sammie) Sundays, I would love to have you! Here's how...

To join in this week's Souper Sunday's linkup with your soup, salad or sandwich:
  • Link up your soup (stew, chili, soupy curries, etc. are fine), salad, or sandwich dish, (preferably one from the current week or month--but we'll take older posts too) on the picture link below and leave a comment on this post so I am sure not to miss you. Also please see below for what to do on your blog post that you link up to Souper Sundays in order to be included in the weekly round-up.

On your entry post (on your blog):
  • Mention Souper (Soup, Salad & Sammies) Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen and add a link back to this post. (Not to be a pain but it's polite and only fair to link back to events you link up at--so if you link a post up here without linking back to this post or my blog on your post, it will be removed.)
  • You are welcome to add the Souper Sundays logo to your post and/or blog (completely optional).

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter
Have a happy, healthy week!


  1. I'll gladly have a bowl of your soup: it looks delicious and I think the "misshapen and crumbly" meatballs actually work nicely as they add themselves to the soup :)

  2. That is a textual tomato soup and love the 'no meat porcupine' bit. I'll glad eat it up too.

  3. The round up is finally posted:

    I love the comforting look of this soup. Maybe it would have made Alice more agreeable (and honest).

  4. I think your soup would be a big hit in this house. Of course, we do eat meat so I would use ground beef. I wanted to shake Alice a few times as well. Love Bittman's recipes and glad you got to cover so many events with this post. That is a big win in my book.

  5. I'm with the giving Alice a good shake party! Did you ever find out where the porcupine came from? Love the title though with the no meat disclaimer:) Maybe jackfruit would work in these meatballs?


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