green chile chicken tacos

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Okay, so all my taco recipes are almost the same – I want avocado, and salty cheese, and fresh lime juice, cilantro, maybe some pickled onions, all mixed up in a fresh corn tortilla. Even with just those fixings and no meat, I’d probably be perfectly happy. But, I’ve been spoiled by barbacoa. Tacos are held to a higher standard now.

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My first couple attempts at chicken tacos weren’t up to par. I thought grilling sounded promising, but afterward, the chicken just tasted like chicken, with nothing more interesting to contribute. Plus it’s so easy for chicken to dry out on the grill.

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This recipe solves any problem of dry, bland chicken by braising chicken thighs directly in a sauce made from blistered tomatillos, onions, and green chiles. The chicken turns out tender and juicy, already tasting like it’s meant for tacos, and then the game is upped even more when the braising liquid is reduced to a sauce. I feel like I should say something about how this filling is so good that I don’t need all those tasty fixings, but no filling is good enough to pass up a slice of avocado in a corn tortilla.  Still, this is the next best thing to barbacoa.

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Green Chile Chicken Tacos (almost directly from Kenji Alt-Lopez at Serious Eats)

Serves 4 to 6

2 green chiles, preferably Hatch or Anaheim
2 medium tomatillos, husks removed, split in half
1 small yellow onion, peeled and split in half
3 cloves garlic, unpeeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, divided
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 limes
2 pounds chicken thighs (bone-in and skin-on)
1 small white onion, minced
16 to 24 warm corn tortillas
1 batch pickled red onions
½ cup grated queso cotija or jack cheese
1 avocado, sliced

1. Preheat the broiler to high and adjust the broiler rack to 5 to 6 inches below the heating element. Toss the peppers, tomatillos, yellow onion, and garlic in a medium bowl with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Place on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and broil until the vegetables are completely tender and charred on all sides, turning occasionally, about 20 minutes total. When cool enough to handle, peel the peppers and remove the stems and seeds. Transfer the vegetables to a food processor or blender with half of the cilantro and ½ teaspoon of salt; process on high speed until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of lime juice from about 2 of the limes, season to taste with salt, and set aside.

2. While the vegetables broil, heat the remaining oil in a Dutch oven over high heat until shimmering. Add the chicken pieces skin side-down and cook, without moving, until well browned, about 6 minutes. Flip and brown the second side, about 3 minutes longer. Transfer to a plate. Pour off the excess fat and deglaze the Dutch oven with 1 cup of water, scraping up the browned bits from the bottom of the pot.

3. Transfer the vegetable puree to the Dutch oven and stir with the deglazing water to combine. Nestle the chicken pieces into the sauce. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, cover, and cook until the chicken is completely tender, about 30 minutes. Remove the chicken from sauce and place on a plate to cool.

4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, discard the skin and bones and shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the sauce and bring to a simmer. Cook until thick and saucy, then season to taste with salt and pepper if desired.

5. Combine the white onion and remaining cilantro in a bowl. Serve chicken with warm tortillas, onion and cilantro mixture, pickled onions, cheese, and avocado.

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bacon ranch salad with salmon

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We had this salad the first time with just greens, salmon, avocado, cucumber, and ranch, and I loved it. But I asked Dave, ‘you know what would make this salad even better?’ ‘Bacon’, he said.

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Yup. Bacon is a classic in salads, with ranch dressing, with avocados, with tomatoes – with just about every ingredient in this salad. I was so eager to try this salad again, this time with that one extra ingredient, that I decided to make it for lunch on a Sunday afternoon, right before I had to leave for a trip for work.

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After packing and practicing my presentation for the conference, I had some regrets about planning a real meal before I needed to leave. It was absolutely worth it though. The salad was just as good with the bacon as I was hoping, by which I mean it was even better than the original – not an easy feat.

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Bacon Ranch Salad with Pan-Seared Salmon (inspired by Handle the Heat via The Barbee Housewife)

Serves 4

Okay, so the salad in the pictures doesn’t have bacon; it’s the original version. I was lucky to make a decent meal before heading out of town, much less take pictures of it!

Dressing:
⅔ cup plain yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon mustard
¼ cup chives, minced

2 romaine hearts, cored and diced
2-4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, quartered lengthwise and sliced
1-2 avocados, diced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 (5-ounce) fillets salmon, seasoned

1. For the dressing: Mix everything.

2. Heat a not-nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil, spreading it evenly with a spatula, then the salmon, skin-side down. Cook, without moving, for 4 minutes. Flip the fillets and continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Transfer the salmon to a clean plate and let rest for 1 minute.

3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, mix the romaine, bacon, tomatoes, cucumber, avocados, and dressing. Top with the salmon and serve immediately.

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corn tortillas

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I don’t want to get melodramatic here, but these are almost life-changing. Certainly dinner-changing, and especially taco-changing.

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I have told you before about my quest for the best way to soften store-bought corn tortillas. My favorite method had to be effective and easy without adding a ton of fat. Fried tortillas are so good, but a significant amount of work, and obviously not healthy.

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I tried heating them under a damp kitchen towel, which worked okay, but the tortillas could get soggy and limp. The best I’d found was to spray both sides of the tortillas with oil and bake them until pliable but not crisp. Besides the addition of some, although not a lot, of fat, my biggest problem with this was that the tortillas would occasionally get too crisp to fold, and sometimes would just get chewy.

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Okay, so making fresh tortillas isn’t all that easy. But they’re so good – even as good as real deep-fried tortillas – and so healthy (no fat, whole grains), that I’ll spend the extra 15 minutes making them, even on a weeknight. If I only make enough for one meal, for the two of us, it isn’t so bad – just mix up two ingredients, maybe three if you want to add a pinch of salt, let it rest for a few minutes while you chop some taco fillings, roll it into balls, smash it with a tortilla press, sear it on a hot comal (or skillet) for a minute.

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As soon as you mix the masa harina with water, the dough will smell like the best corn tortillas, before you even cook them. Once you add some smoky char from the hot pan, then wrap them around fillings while they bend without breaking, you’ll see what I mean about a dinner-changing experience. But considering how often we make tacos now and how much better they are, life-changing isn’t too far of a stretch for me.

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Corn Tortillas (adapted from Serious Eats)

Makes 8 tortillas

I confess I have some specialized tools for tortillas. The cleaning lady at my office gave me the comal; she had two and hates to cook. I’m sure a cast-iron skillet will work just fine. I haven’t tried making tortillas without a press, but supposedly you can smash them under a skillet. They won’t get as thin, but a thicker fresh tortilla is still better than anything you can buy. The last item isn’t so special – just a scale – but I’ve had much more consistent results with getting the dough to the right hydration with a scale than I did with measuring cups.

4 ounces (about ¾ cup) masa harina
5 ounces water
pinch salt

1. In a medium bowl, mix the three ingredients until large crumbles form, then bring the dough together into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for ten minutes. Meanwhile, cut both sides of a gallon zip-top bag. Transfer the bag to a tortilla press with the crease of the bag at the hinge of the press.

2. Heat a not-nonstick skillet (preferably cast iron) over medium-high heat for at least 5 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each portion into a ball.

4. Place a ball onto the plastic-lined tortilla press, slightly off-center toward the hinge of the press. Press the tortilla just until it shows around the edges of the tortilla press. Open the press, peel the plastic wrap off the top of the tortilla, and invert the tortilla, still on the plastic, onto a towel. Slowly peel the plastic off of the tortilla. Replace the plastic in the tortilla press and repeat with the remaining balls of dough.

5. Transfer one tortilla to the hot pan; cook, without moving, until the tortilla bubbles and smokes, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Using a thin spatula, flip the tortilla; cook for another 15 to 30 seconds. Transfer the tortilla to a kitchen towel, wrapping it loosely. Repeat with the remaining tortillas, stacking them in the towel.

6. Let the tortillas sit in the towel to steam for a few minutes after the last tortilla is cooked, then serve. Kept wrapped, the tortillas will stay warm for about half an hour.

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shrimp tortilla soup

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Hominy. It just isn’t one of my favorites. It’s no green pepper – blech – but I struggle with the texture. I don’t want soggy popcorn in my soup. I’ve never cooked with it myself, and I almost left it out of this soup – until I saw that it was pureed. That seemed safe enough.

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When I opened the can to make dinner, I noticed that hominy smells like one of my favorite foods – fresh corn tortillas. It’s the same nixtamalization process that it used for masa harina, and I love that intensely corny aroma.

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It was great in this soup; pureeing the hominy binds the broth together and makes it thick but not starchy or gloppy. And now that I know how good hominy tastes, I might try it whole. I could learn to like hominy after all…unlike green peppers, which are a lost cause.

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Shrimp Tortilla Soup (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Simple Weeknight Favorites via Pink Parsley)

4 main course servings

4 (6-inch) corn tortillas
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, plus more for spraying the tortillas
salt
1 large onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
2 (15-ounce) cans hominy, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes (preferably fire-roasted)
2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined, and tails removed, halved crosswise
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1. Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Spray the tortilla strips with oil (or nonstick spray) and season with salt. Halve and cut crosswise into ¼-inch strips. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and cook until deep-golden brown and crispy, 10 to 12 minutes, tossing halfway through.

2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, and chipotle chile; cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the broth, hominy, and tomatoes. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low; cover and simmer for 15 minutes.

3. Puree the soup, either with an immersion blender or by transferring it in batches to a standup blender. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are just cooked through and opaque, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve immediately, topping each portion with tortilla strips.

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brussels sprouts and kale salad with pecorino and almonds

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I never would have served my dad kale six months ago. For his whole life, he’s been a classic meat and potatoes guy, heavy on the meat. He’d put vegetables on his plate every night, and he’d always eat them – all two forkfuls that he’d served himself.

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He made a sudden switch last fall in an attempt to lower his cholesterol and blood pressure. (It worked, by the way.)  However, he didn’t just start eating more vegetables and less meat. He didn’t become a pescatarian, or even a vegetarian. No, he went all the way from meat and potatoes to vegan – vegan with no fat, not even from avocados.

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He’s loosened up the rules quite a bit since then, although I get the idea that rice and beans still play a big role in his diet. So when my parents visited, I took a chance and served my new favorite salad, almost a slaw of thinly sliced Brussels sprouts and Tuscan kale. It’s bright from lemon juice, but the pecorino provides a bit of richness. I love the crunch of the almonds. It’s a strange world, although not a bad one, where I am comfortable feeding my dad kale but not the Italian sausage dish that was the main course of this meal.

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Brussels Sprouts Kale Salad with Pecorino (adapted from Bon Appétit via epicurious)

6 to 8 servings

Slicing the Brussels Sprouts isn’t as tedious as it sounds; it’ll probably take you ten minutes. However, the slicing blade on a food processor should do the trick too.

1 teaspoon plus ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
½ cup slivered almonds, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 small shallot, minced
1 small garlic clove, finely grated
¼ teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
16 ounces Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved and sliced thin
2 bunches Tuscan kale (about 8 ounces total), center stem discarded, leaves thinly sliced
1 cup (2 ounces) finely grated Pecorino

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the almonds and toast, stirring constantly, until browned and fragrant, 2-4 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate; set aside.

2. In a small bowl, mix the lemon juice, mustard, shallots, garlic, salt, and pepper. Whisk in the remaining olive oil.

3. Combine the Brussels sprouts, kale, dressing, almonds, and pecorino. Serve immediately or cover and chill for up to 8 hours.

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roasted cauliflower soup with feta

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While spinach with feta hasn’t quite reached the level of “Oh my god, if I eat this one more time, I’ll go crazy”, it’s certainly a far cry from the “wow, I can’t believe how delicious something as simple as the combination of spinach and feta is.” (Seriously, if you haven’t tried it, check it out – feta is creamy and salty and briny, so it covers all of the bases that a good salad dressing does.) After I eat a banana with peanut butter about halfway through my workday afternoons, when the only snacks I have left are spinach with feta and vegetables with hummus, I think to myself, “well, that’s it, the rest of the afternoon’s snacks are just to be endured and not enjoyed.”

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I don’t always, or even often, for that matter, want to spend part of my weekend making snacks for the week, but it’s occasionally worth it for some variety. This soup covers the same basic nutritional bases as spinach with feta would – vegetables and dairy protein. Surely raw spinach has more fiber and nutrients than roasted and boiled cauliflower, but let’s not overthink things.

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The important thing is that I actually look forward to eating this every day, instead of wavering between disinterest and dread. And not just because it isn’t the same thing I’ve eaten everyday for the last three years – it’s a great soup. The pureed cauliflower makes it seem rich and creamy, while the feta and squeeze of lemon juice brighten up the flavors. Having something to look forward to when you’re six hours into a nine-hour workday is worth a bit of extra cooking on the weekend.

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Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Feta (adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod)

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 to 2-inch florets
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt
2 stalks celery, diced
1 onion, diced
3½ cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 ounces feta
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons parsley, minced

1. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven and heat the oven to 400 degrees. When the oven is hot, remove the baking sheet, add one tablespoon of olive oil plus a generous sprinkling of salt, then the cauliflower. Spray the top of the cauliflower with cooking spray. Roast, stirring twice, for 20-25 minutes, until a couple sides of each floret are deeply browned.

2. In a 5-quart pot, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add the celery, onion, and a pinch of salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the onion is translucent, 6-8 minutes. Add the roasted cauliflower, broth, and thyme. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20 minutes. Puree, either with an immersion blender or in batches with a stand-up blender.

3. Stir the feta, lemon juice, and parsley into the soup. Taste for seasoning, adjusting as necessary, and serve immediately. (Can also be made several days in advance.)

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korean pork medallions with asian slaw

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Can you believe we actually ate this in the middle of December? What were we thinking?! We could have been eating roast beef! mashed potatoes! macaroni and cheese! ‘Tis the season (well, ’twas the season) for rich and delicious food!

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This vegetably starchless meal is clearly made for January. It’s actually exactly what I’m craving. Even though I don’t think I’m eating significantly more healthfully lately than I normally do, I’m more bored with healthy foods right now. Maybe it’s an instinctual reaction to winter, although considering that it was almost 70 degrees here last weekend, probably not.

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This meal, although pretty healthy, is also sweet and salty and meaty and therefore comforting. It definitely doesn’t make you feel like you’re choking down health food to make up for December’s transgressions. Sure, there’s a salad involved, but it’s topped with deeply browned meat. It really is a great meal any time of year.

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Spicy Korean Pork Medallions with Asian Slaw (hardly adapted from Fine Cooking)

Serves 4 to 6

1 large or 2 small pork tenderloins (about 1¼ pounds)
⅓ cup soy sauce
¼ cup rice vinegar
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1½ tablespoons minced fresh ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon sriracha
1 pound napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 6 cups)
2 medium carrots, grated (about 1 cup)
4 scallions (both white and green parts), trimmed and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
kosher salt

1. Trim the pork of any silverskin and excess fat, and cut on the diagonal into ½-inch-thick medallions.

2. In a small measuring cup, whisk together the soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of the rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of the brown sugar, the garlic, ginger, ½ tablespoon of the sesame oil, and 2 teaspoons of the chile sauce. Toss ½ cup of this mixture with the pork medallions in a large bowl; reserve the remaining mixture to use as a sauce. Let the pork sit at room temperature for 25 minutes or refrigerate for up to 2 hours.

3. Meanwhile, in another large bowl, toss the cabbage and the carrot with half of the scallions, 1 teaspoon salt, and the remaining 2 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, ½ tablespoon sesame oil, and 1 teaspoon chile sauce. Let sit for 15 minutes, toss again, and transfer to a large serving platter.

4. Heat 1 tablespoon of the canola oil in a 12-inch, heavy-based skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering hot. Remove the pork from the marinade, shaking off the excess, and transfer the pork to a clean plate. Discard the marinade. Add half of the pork medallions to the skillet, spacing them evenly. Cook them without touching until well browned, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook until the pork is just cooked through (slice into a piece to check), about 2 more minutes. Set the pork on top of the slaw. Pour out the oil and wipe the pan with paper towels (if the drippings on the bottom of the pan look like they may burn, wash the pan). Return the pan to medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon canola oil, and cook the remaining medallions in the same manner. Top the slaw with the remaining pork, and pour the reserved soy-ginger sauce over the medallions. Serve immediately, sprinkled with the remaining scallions.

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grilled potato salad with watercress

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Dave’s birthday, 2 weeks after Christmas, is at a sort of inconvenient time of year. My dad’s is January 2nd, and even that is better – in my family, the holidays are just one day longer than they are for everyone else. But a week later, you’ve had all the cookies and wine and cheese (or whatever your splurges happen to be) you want, but you haven’t had more than a few days to detox from the decadence. And yet, it’s time for banana cream pie.

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I got Dave a cute little cast iron saucepan for the grill, so I had to plan a meal that would allow him to use it. He also got a new grill for Christmas, so I specifically planned a meal that would use both of our grills – barbecue pork ribs, grilled potato salad, grilled broccoli. And then the weather sucked, although we pushed through and grilled the ribs and potatoes still, but I roasted the broccoli.

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It wasn’t the most indulgent meal ever, but extra vegetables are always welcome this time of year, so I chose the potato salad that actually looked like a salad. It’s not a traditional potato salad coated in mayonnaise, but I didn’t feel like we lost out for the healthier option. This was crisp and fresh, healthy enough for January, but still with satisfying browned potatoes and creamy cheese. It was just light enough to justify a big piece of banana cream pie for dessert.

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Grilled Potato Salad with Watercress (from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

I’ve reduced both the potatoes (because I was trying to be healthier) and the blue cheese (because it can be too intense) from the original recipe, but I’m sure the original amounts are great too.

¼ cup sherry wine vinegar
1 large shallot, chopped
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
½ cup olive oil, plus more for grilling potatoes
6 medium red-skinned potatoes, unpeeled (about 1½ pounds)
2 bunches watercress, stems trimmed
3 green onions, chopped
¼-½ cup crumbled blue cheese

1. Combine vinegar, shallot, and mustard in medium bowl. Gradually whisk in ½ cup oil. Season vinaigrette to taste with salt and pepper.

2. Cook potatoes in large pot of boiling salted water until almost tender, about 16 minutes. Drain; cool completely. Cut potatoes into ¼- to ½-inch-thick rounds. Brush or spray rounds on both sides with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper.

3. Prepare grill for medium-high heat. Grill potatoes until golden and cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Dice the potatoes into ½-inch cubes.

4. In a large serving bowl, mix the watercress, scallions, and most of the vinaigrette. Add the potatoes and the remaining dressing, and gently mix to coat. Top with the blue cheese; serve immediately.

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kale salad with currants, pine nuts, and parmesan

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So, it turns out that I really like kale. It isn’t at all something I eat just because it’s dark green and probably really good for me. I like the flavor, earthy and vegetal together. I like the texture, how cooked kale is still chewy, unlike spinach which almost immediately turns to mush, and how raw kale doesn’t get soggy. And I like the convenience – it stays fresh for a while in the fridge and you can make salads with it days ahead of time, and they get better instead of worse.

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I made this for a pizza party I hosted. The party started right after work, plus I had to deal with the pizza dough, so making salad right beforehand wasn’t an option. I took a risk and served kale; I wasn’t sure how it would go over, but I assumed there were enough friendly flavors in this salad to please most palates.

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The salad might not have been as popular as the Nutella banana pizza or mascarpone-stuffed strawberries, but people seemed to like it.  There were leftovers, but that was okay, because even several days after I’d made the salad, it was still crisp and delicious. Plus it meant more kale for me – and I really like kale.

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Kale Salad with Pine Nuts, Currants, and Parmesan (adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious)

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons dried currants
1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
2 bunches Tuscan (lacinato) kale (about 1 pound), center ribs and stems removed, leaves thinly sliced crosswise
2 tablespoons pine nuts, lightly toasted
Parmesan cheese shavings

1. Place the vinegar and currants in a small pot; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then remove from the heat. Let soak 15-30 minutes, while you prepare the other ingredients; drain, reserving vinegar.

2. Whisk vinegar leftover from soaking the currants, the rice vinegar, honey, oil, and salt in large bowl. Add the kale, currants, and pine nuts; toss to coat. Let marinate 20 minutes at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate overnight. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle cheese shavings over salad and serve.

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tomato soup with chicken meatballs and pasta

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I have been loyal to the first homemade tomato soup recipe I ever made. It was ten years ago, when I was just starting to up my cooking game. I’ve seen so many tomato soup recipes since then, but I’ve never felt any temptation to stray. My favorite recipe was comfortingly familiar, and I always knew that I’d be disappointed about any other recipe.

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Apparently, adding meatballs to tomato soup puts it in a different category, so I’m willing to try it, even though there are more similarities than differences between the two recipes. The flavor base of my old favorite is shallots, which are cooked in butter with tomato paste until the mixture is dark and caramelized. Canned tomatoes are roasted until they’re dry and lightly browned before being stirred into aromatics along with the canning juice and chicken broth.

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Replace the butter with olive oil and the shallots with a combination of onions, carrots, and celery, cook them a bit less, skip the tomato paste and add the tomatoes without roasting them, and you’ve got this new soup. The flavor is lighter, but I enjoyed it nearly as much and might actually prefer it once in a while.

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The meatballs, of course, are a fun addition, and together with the pasta, put this almost in the spaghettio’s category. I’d say it’s different enough not to compare to my standard recipe, but I just compared them. And that’s okay, because they’re both so great.

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Tomato Soup with Pasta and Meatballs (adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Light and Healthy 2011)

4 servings

My meatballs ended up looking more like chicken-flavored pesto than pesto-flavored chicken, which might be because my homemade pesto has less oil (and therefore more basil per volume) than store-bought versions. Still, I’ve increased the chicken slightly. The soup could use more meatballs anyway.

I’ve probably made this slightly less healthy by increasing the pasta, but the original amount (4 ounces) was just a tease.

I usually cook with canned whole tomatoes instead of diced, because they break down more. I just chop them by sticking a pair of kitchen shears in the can and snipping away.

Meatballs:
8 ounces ground dark chicken (or a mix of dark and light meat)
3 tablespoons pesto
3 tablespoons fresh bread crumbs
⅛ teaspoon salt

Soup:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large celery rib, diced
Salt
3 cloves garlic, minced
2½ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes or whole tomatoes, chopped
6 ounces uncooked small pasta, such as ditalini or alphabet noodles

1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the chicken, pesto, bread crumbs, and salt. Mix thoroughly, then form into approximately forty ½-inch balls. Chill until needed.

2. In a 3- or 4-quart saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, then uncover and cook until the mixture is dry, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes; bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes to blend the flavors. Taste for seasoning and add salt if necessary.

3. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup, or transfer it in batches to a stand-up blender to puree, then return the soup to the pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and add the meatballs and pasta. Cook, stirring frequently, until the noodles are tender and the meatballs are cooked through, about 10 minutes. Serve.

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