Matzo ball soup may be one of the most quintessential Jewish recipes, but growing up in New York you didn’t have to be Jewish – and it didn’t have to be Passover – for you to consider this classic dish comfort food. Living in Israel Passover takes on new meaning as all chametz, or leavened foods, are cleared from supermarket shelves and restaurant menus. Even a week before the holiday begins, the chip aisle was replaced with matzo, matzo meal, and more matzo. Passover begins this Friday, but I started craving matzo ball soup weeks ago, and have been buying matzo just to snack on. Apparently I’m weird like that.So what is Passover all about, and why no bread for eight days (seven in Israel)? Passover, or Pesach, is a commemoration and celebration of when the Jews were slaves in Egypt and subsequently freed. No leavened products can be consumed to memorialize the fact that when they were fleeing the Jews did not have time to allow their bread to fully rise. The seder is a dinner during which the story of Passover is told via the hagaddah. It is a foodie holiday if ever there was one, as the tale is told through food (bitter herbs dipped in salt water, for example, represent the bitterness of slavery and the tears of the slaves). In addition, the restrictions on what you can and cannot eat can force resourceful home cooks to get very creative. For more on the holiday, I’ve written a few Passover basics articles recently, like The Meaning Behind the Passover Seder Plate, How to Host a Passover Seder, and Passover-Inspired Cocktails. I also published this very recipe over at SheKnows.
But back to the matzo ball soup. I love this soup year round, but no time is it more appropriate than Passover. There’s no getting super creative with this recipe, and it’s more or less the same whether you check with Saveur, Smitten Kitchen, or The New York Times. Some call for schmaltz (rendered chicken fat), but I just stick with vegetable oil. I like a light, fluffy matzo ball and find that a touch of seltzer and baking powder in the mix do wonders to this effect.
Don’t be put off if the matzo ball mixture doesn’t look like much. Once you form them into balls and throw them in simmering water, watch as they triple in size. I always wondered why they are cooked in water rather than broth, but it’s because they absorb so much of the liquid that you’d be out of broth in no time. Of course real matzo ball soup recipes call for homemade chicken stock, which is what is pictured here, but the truth is that you can use any broth you like. It can easily be made vegetarian by using chicken broth.
Have you had matzo ball soup? What is your favorite way to prepare it?
- ½ cup matzo meal
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh dill (optional), plus more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons seltzer
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 3 quarts chicken broth
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the matzo meal, eggs, vegetable oil, salt, dill, seltzer and baking powder. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes to one hour.
- Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.
- Remove the mixture from the fridge. Form into eight to 10 ping pong-sized balls, wetting your hands if they get sticky in between.
- Carefully drop the matzo balls into the boiling water.
- Reduce the heat to a strong simmer, and cook for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Carefully remove the matzo balls with a slotted spoon and add them to the hot chicken broth.
- Serve immediately and garnish with fresh dill.
Thanks to Lacy of NYCity Eats for passing on the Versatile Blogger Award!! Lacy is a culinary school grad who shares incredible recipes from the best city in the world (I may be biased…!). I hope you’ll check out her blog! Thanks Lacy!
I’m off to Istanbul for a week, but I wouldn’t leave you in the lurch. I have some exciting things planned over the next few days!