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Monday, February 22, 2010

Queen of the (Matzoh Ball Soup) World!

Sunshine. New shoes. Zero-calorie full flavor ice creams (that don't exist.) My husband begging me to let him rub my shoulders. All things that make me smile on a regular basis.

My matzoh ball soup does the same. So much so, that, even though I made it the other night for dinner, I might just have to make it again to get through this snowy day.

Most of my experience with matzoh ball soup, up until the age of 18, was my grandmother's. (Yes, the aforementioned Evelyn Rosen who wasn't the best cook ever.) Her chicken soup was a very thinned out version of chicken stock--more like a bouillon cube and some water. Her matzoh balls were pretty great, mostly light, generally lacking in flavor. There was always (strangely) one giant carrot in each bowl. But I didn't know any better, and I ate it with glee and delight--hell, it was better than gasoline chicken!

As I became an adult, and eventually tasted other people's matzoh ball soup, I began to see subtle differences in the actual balls themselves. (Please, anyone else's soup was better. Anyone's.) My first visit to The Bagel in Chicago proved a worthwhile experience, and changed my opinion of all things matzoh ball soup. And as I have moved along in the culinary world, I've learned how to make my own version--one that fills my house with amazing smells, doesn't take me 7 years to make, and makes my husband smile. My "balls" are light enough, yet extremely flavorful, and my soup...well, it kicks ass. Yes, I used store-bought organic stock, most always. It's delicious, easy, and accessible! (And, makes my soup not take very long at all!) With all honesty, I don't make my own stock very often--don't have the time, resources, or large carcasses lying around my freezer. This week, however, J is getting roast chicken dinner just so that I can make (and blog about) my own stock recipe.

I just learned a new trick with matzoh balls, that I used last week on this version, and it was hugely helpful! A bit of seltzer in the balls, added to the stock you use, keeps them light while maintaining the flavor profile.

Yum yum gimme some. Almost makes you wish you had a cold, no?

Matzoh Ball Soup
For Soup:
1 TBSP olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
3 large carrots, diced
4 large celery stalks (and tops, if you have), diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
5 cloves garlic, grated or minced
salt and pepper
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed from stems (or 1 TBSP dried)
1 tsp dried (or fresh) rosemary
1 TBSP red pepper flakes (we like a kick, adjust to your liking)
1 TBSP fresh sage, chopped (or 1 tsp dried--if you have)
2 quarts low-sodium (preferably organic or homemade) chicken stock (or broth, but I like the flavor of stock)
1/2 C whole grain small cut pasta, like ditalini or small shells

In a large, heavy bottom pot or dutch oven, heat oil on medium heat.
Add vegetables, season with salt, and saute approximately 8-10 minutes, until veggies are softened.
Add herbs, red and black pepper, stir.
Add chicken stock, stirring up any brown bits on bottom of pan.
Turn heat to high, bring to a boil.
Turn heat to low, simmer at least 1 hour (if possible, the soup will be just fine after about 20 minutes) covered, with lid slightly ajar.

Add pasta in roughly 6 minutes before serving. (If not serving all at once, make pasta on side and add into each bowl. Pasta will soak up all the liquid if you're saving the soup.)

For Matzoh Balls: (This makes 8 balls)
All disclosure--this recipe is (mostly) on the side of the Matzoh Meal box. I doctor it up a bit.
2 large eggs, beaten
1 TBSP olive oil
1 TBSP light colored oil (I like grapseed or soy)
1/2 C Unsalted Matzoh Meal
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
1 1/2 TBSP seltzer
1/2 TBSP chicken stock

In a bowl, mix eggs, oil, matzoh meal, salt and pepper.
Add liquids and mix until blended together.
Cover and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
With a small ice cream scoop (my preferred method) scoop from bowl and drop into simmering soup.

Cover soup and cook 30-40 minutes.

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