With my husband’s maternal grandparents Greek and Armenian, one or another deliciously lemony chicken soup was often on the table. In our own home, we’ve kept that going with this fortified version of avgolemono (Greek chicken, egg and lemon soup) that has tiny meatballs and baby spinach stirred in, Italian Wedding Soup style.
If you’ve never made avgolemono at home, you’ll be amazed at the velvety lightness–nothing like the thick and pasty versions you may have encountered in diners. To make it, you’ll simply heat good quality chicken stock, whip egg whites to a soft peaks, stir in yolks and lemon juice, and temper the mix with hot stock before whisking all together for a lovely pale-yellow finish.
The tiny meatballs are a blend of beef, pork, onion, parmesan and parsley, baked up in the oven while you make the soup. To complete, you’ll boil a bit of orzo, and quick-saute fresh baby spinach. In the Spring, this is very good with a bit of sorrel instead of the spinach. Note: You can serve the avgolemono without the add-ins as a first course. This soup is best served right after you make it.
Egg Lemon Soup with Spinach and Meatballs
- FOR THE MEATBALLS:
- ½ pound ground pork
- ½ pound ground beef
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan (I use a microplane for very fine shreds)
- ½ cup finely minced onion
- 1/3 cup finely minced parsley
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp fresh-cracked black pepper
- 1 large egg
- FOR THE SOUP:
- 8 cups good quality chicken stock
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp finely ground pepper
- 4 large eggs, yolks and whites separated
- Juice from 3 fresh lemons (Finely grate and reserve zest from one of the lemons)
- 1 cup orzo, prepared according to package directions
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 6 cups baby spinach leaves
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Garnish: Fresh snipped parsley or dill, thin lemon slices
- MAKE MEATBALLS: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a rimmed cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients. Shape into 36 to 40 very small meatballs. Place on parchment. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until nicely browned and cooked through. Remove from oven and keep warm.
- MAKE SOUP: In a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium-high heat, add stock and heat to boiling. Stir in salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium low and allow soup to simmer.
- Prepare orzo according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer with whisk attachment, beat egg whites at medium high speed until soft peaks form; continue beating a bit longer until peaks are firmer but not dry. With mixer on low speed, whisk in egg yolks and lemon juice. Remove 2 cups of hot stock from the soup pot. With mixer on low speed, slowly and continuously dribble the 2 cups of stock into the egg-lemon mixture, until all is mixed in. Pour this tempered egg-stock mixture back into the soup pot. Turn heat to medium-low and whisk soup for 10 minutes until it begins to thicken and you have a velvety, light yellow soup. Remove from heat and cover.
- Warm 2 tsp of olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add baby spinach leaves and reserved lemon zest and stir until spinach has cooked down a bit but is still bright green. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Stir reserved orzo, meatballs and cooked spinach into soup.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve immediately garnished with a sprinkling of parsley or dill, and thin slices of lemon.