Between the skinned knees of softball practice, oak pollen that just won’t quit, the dramas of end-of-the-school-year grades and relationships, harried schedules, and the occasional overcast day, it’s not like we don’t need comfort in spring. In winter, that might mean a hearty, meaty, creamy pot of something warm, but comfort in springtime comes a little lighter. A big pot of handmade meatballs, whole grains, and abundant greens come together in a light broth to soothe your soul and fortify you through the sturm und drang of the season–make extra, it keeps well.
1 pound ground pork
6 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Finely grated zest of 1/2 to 1 small lemon, preferably organic
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup brown rice, pearled barley, and pearled farro, cooked al dente
4 cups cold water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 cups chicken broth
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch greens, chopped (kale, collards, or swiss chard)
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
In a bowl, combine the pork, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, egg, parsley, and lemon zest. Season well with salt and pepper. Form small meatballs about an inch in diameter and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Bake the meatballs until they’re cooked through and only very lightly golden, 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Warm the oil in a soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the chicken broth and season to taste with salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the stock with flavor. Add the meatballs and the cooked grains and let warm through, about two minutes. Add the chopped greens and continue cooking until greens are wilted. Taste and season with more salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with additional parmesan for sprinkling.