For the rice pilaf:
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 cup orzo pasta or broken spaghetti
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 2 cups chicken stock
For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 ribs celery, chopped
- 2 onions, chopped
- 2 large cloves garlic, sliced
- 1 large fresh bay leaf
- 1 herb bundle of oregano, parsley, rosemary
- Salt and pepper
- 6 cups chicken stock, plus about 2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
For the meatballs:
- 2 slices good-quality white bread or peasant bread
- Milk, to soak the bread
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 egg
- Salt and pepper
- 3 tablespoons grated onion
- 1 box frozen chopped spinach, defrosted and wrung dry
- 2 cloves garlic, grated or finely chopped
- 4 ounces feta, crumbled
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO), for drizzling
- For the pilaf, melt the butter in a saucepot over medium heat. Add the pasta and toast to deep golden and fragrant. Stir in the rice and stock, bring to boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook to tender, 18 minutes.
- Pre-heat the oven to 375ºF.
- Heat the olive oil, two turns of the pan, in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, bay, herb bundle, salt and pepper and cook, partially covered, for 5-7 minutes to soften. Add the stock and bring to a boil; reduce the heat and simmer. Add the lemon juice to the broth just before serving.
- Meanwhile, squeeze the liquid from the bread and crumble into moist crumbs as you add it to the beef in a mixing bowl. Beat the egg and add to the beef; season the meat with salt and pepper. Add the onion, spinach, garlic, feta, lemon zest and a drizzle of EVOO. Roll meatballs about 1 1/2 inches in size and arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast the meatballs until medium brown and lightly crispy, 25-30 minutes. Add to the soup.
- To serve, add the rice to the soup. If it’s too thick, dilute with water or stock. Serve in shallow bowls.