The 40 Year Old Bat Mitzvah

Matzo Ball Soup

Posted in Uncategorized by Juliet on February 26, 2011

No chickens were harmed in the making of this 100% vegetarian matzo ball soup.

You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to set aside ONE night a week for a family dinner, but it is.

I am defining “real family dinner” as all four of us sitting down to eat at the dining room table together at the same time, without distractions like TV, phones, or newspapers. We eat breakfast as a family most days, but usually the grownups are reading the paper and Eva is finishing up homework or reading a book. We rarely eat out, but our dinners at home often consist of me preparing something quick for the kids, then eating later, then commuter Scott eating even later than that.

Since we are Jewish, I decided Friday night should be family dinner night. And what is more traditional at Friday night dinner than matzo ball soup?

Here is my favorite way to eat matzo ball soup: in a flavorful broth chock-full of vegetables. I have been making this recipe, from the Eastern European (Ashkenazic) Passover menu of Vegetarian Celebrations by Nava Atlas, since my first Passover with Scott in 1996 when I prepared dinner for both sets of parents and my sister and her boyfriend in our apartment in Canyon Crest. It was the first time the parents were meeting each other, and my now-inlaws were staying with us. No pressure!

This soup should be made the day before and refrigerated overnight so the flavors meld. In a pinch, you could serve it sooner, but it really is better if you make it strictly according to the recipe timeline. (And anyway, a make-ahead recipe is great for a busy Friday night. Ditto if you’re making this for your Passover seder.)

Even if you think one or two of these ingredients sound odd (lettuce? in soup?), trust Nava Atlas and add them. Everything works together really well.  This recipe serves 8-10 as a starter course.

SPRING VEGETABLE SOUP WITH MATZO BALLS


Ingredients:

1 large onion, finely chopped
2 medium celery stalks, finely diced
1 medium potato, peeled and finely diced [I usually use a red-skinned potato and leave the skin on]
2 medium carrots, finely diced
2 vegetable bouillon cubes [I use the equivalent amount of Better than Bouillon]
handful of celery leaves
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups finely chopped cauliflower
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup firmly packed, finely shredded lettuce
1 cup steamed fresh or thawed frozen green peas
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill, or more, to taste
2 scallions, minced
matzo balls (see below)

Directions:

Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onion and celery and saute over moderate heat until golden. Add the potato, carrots, bouillon cubes, celery leaves, tomatoes, and cumin. Cover with 6 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer gently over medium heat, covered, for 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are nearly tender. Add the cauliflower and continue to simmer for 10 minutes more, or until it is crisp-tender.

Season to taste with salt and pepper and remove from heat. Let the soup cool, then refrigerate overnight to allow time for it to develop flavor. Just before serving, heat the soup through. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer over very low heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Add more water if the vegetables seem crowded, then adjust the seasonings.

FOR THE MATZO BALLS:

Nava Atlas calls for boxed mix, and so do I! My favorite brand is Streit’s but the mixes by Manishewitz and Osem are good too. You’ll find the boxed mix sold in the kosher section of the grocery store. (There is “matzo ball and soup mix” and “matzo ball mix.” If you accidentally buy the one that includes soup mix too, just toss the soup packet or use it some other time.)

Prepare the matzo balls according to the package instructions. Most box mixes use 2 eggs and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. I shape the matzo balls on the small side for this recipe because I find them easier to eat that way in a soup with a lot of vegetables.

Boil the matzo balls in plain water in a pot with a very tight fitting lid, then drain and add them to your vegetable soup.

Bon appetit!

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