The Firehouse Foodie: Sopa De Albondiga

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Written by Frank E. Vaerewyck FF/EMT

Winston Churchill once said “History is written by the victors”. Now I know that Mr. Churchill was not speaking about firefighters when he said this, he was speaking about war. Fire is our enemy, but it is also our friend. We cook, stay warm, and gather around the “Dragon”. But, when unleashed the “Dragon” takes unmercifully and is relentless in its destruction.

Thinking of history, who were the first Firefighters and how were they recognized? According to historians they were courageous band of crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, who fought the Saracens for possession of the holy land. While there they encountered a new weapon unknown to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war. It wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters for the cross. The Saracens’ weapon was fire. As the crusaders advanced on the walls of the city they were struck by glass bombs containing naphtha.

When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths. Thus, these men became our first firemen and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters. Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded each a badge of honor – a cross similar to the one firemen wear today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta the cross came to be known as the Maltese Cross. The Maltese Cross is our symbol of protection. It means that the fireman who wears this cross is willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is a fireman’s badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage – a ladder rung away from death.

Tony Coronado, of YORKSHIRE VFD CO 508 in Manassas, wears his Maltese Cross with the pride of those first Firefighters. Tony is a native Texan and shares with us his Sopa De Albondiga, a dish that keeps his fellow Firefighters happy and coming back for more. Now that’s “Bringing the Firehouse Home”.

Sopa De Albondiga (aka Mexican MeatBalls)Sopa De Albondiga (aka Mexican MeatBalls)

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, minced
3 quarts of chicken stock or beef stock or water or a mixture of both
1/2 cup of tomato sauce
1/2 lb of string beans, strings and ends removed, cut into 1 inch pieces
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
1/3 cup of raw white rice
1 pound ground beef
1/4 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup of chopped parsley
1 raw egg
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
A dash of cayenne (optional)
1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
1 teaspoon of dried oregano, crumbled, or 1 Tbsp fresh chopped oregano
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1. Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook a minute more. Add broth mixture and tomato sauce. Bring to boil and reduce heat to simmer. Add carrots and string beans.

2. Prepare the meatballs. Mix rice into meat, adding mint leaves and parsley, salt and pepper. Mix in raw egg. Form mixture into 1-inch meatballs.

3. Add the meatballs to the simmering soup, one at a time. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Add the peas towards the end of the 1/2 hour. Add a few pinches of oregano and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and a dash of cayenne, to taste. Garnish with chopped fresh cilantro.

Enjoy!

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