Thursday, March 24, 2005

Veggie Matzoh Ball Soup

My sister asked about my veggie matzoh ball soup in a comment to the previous post, and I thought it an interesting enough topic to merit its own post.

I don't have a recipe per se for my veggie matzoh ball soup. I like to think of my soupmaking as having transcended recipes, but go with lazy if you'd like.

I'll try and remember what I did for you. I may be making it again in late April, so I'll take notes and post again.

The local Unitarian church had a Seder feast last year, and because so many Unitarians are vegeterians it was decided to have the Kosher (Parve) meal fall on the dairy side of the meat/dairy fault line.

I had attended "meat" Seder feasts, so a dairy/veggie one sounded interesting.

I love a good matzoh ball soup, but I had never had anything but a chicken-based version. I'm a huge fan of chicken 'n' dumplings in all forms, matzoh ball and Italian wedding included. Chicken was so yummy that I couldn't imagine deviating from this form too much, so I decided to try and create a veggie version that preserved the highlights of chicken-based recipes. For my big flavor notes, I went with butter, dill, pepper, and garlic notes in a rich vegetable broth.

I don't remember exactly what I did, but this should get you into the ballpark. Feel free to mess with it, and all measurements are very approximate and most importantly to taste!

I used a three quart pot, so adjust accordingly.

1 medium onion, finely diced (1/8")
1 carrot, finely diced
1 stalk celery with heavy leaves, finely diced
2 green onions, chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, pressed

Add half of the above to 2 quarts water and 1 - 15 oz can vegetable broth, or more broth and less water, turn on heat to low.

Add to pot:
1 tsp sea salt (Important, do not use regular table salt! Salt is a primary flavor of soup, and table salt is far too harsh for good soup. Even cheap sea salt is vastly superior.)

update: don't use "Kosher" salt, either, as it's still sodium chloride. The only difference between it and table salt is the size and shape of the crystals. Once it dissolves, it's the same. "Kosher" salt was designed to be rubbed onto meat during the kosher slaughter process to help preserve the meat and draw out the moisture and blood. It remains excellent for use on meat or vegetables where the size and shape of the salt will remain and matter to the finished dish, such as grilling or roasting. Sea salt is different chemically, and so has a different effect upon our taste buds. It's milder, less "salty", and more complex. Nicer all the way around, in other words. The trace elements are supposedly healthy, but who really knows. You can even get iodized versions, which I use in my salt shaker. I get a normal-sized cylinder of iodized Hain sea salt for about two bucks, which lasts me at least six months. The creme of the crop is the "Celtic" or "gray" sea salt from Brittany, which my local Whole Foods sells for an exhorbitant amount. But it's superb salt.

1/2 tsp black pepper.
1/8 tsp MSG (unless allergic. It does add a nice note if used in moderation, however)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp onion powder
3 tbsp dried parsley
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dill
dash rosemary
dash thyme
3 tbsp butter (not margarine)
update: dash sage

Melt 2 tbsp butter (not margarine!) in a pan and sautee the other half of the above unused vegetables until lightly browned and carmelized. Add to pot. This is according to chef Paul Prudhomme's theory of flavor layering. Some ingredients can be separated and prepared in different ways before being combined to add complexity to a dish. Carmelized and boiled versions of the vegetables add interesting layers to the final product, as do fresh and powdered onion and garlic.

Finely dice 1 small Idaho potato, or other potato of choice, skin included. Add to pot.
Add 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, from the bag, not the brick.

Cover and simmer over low heat for 1-2 hours, or until all vegetables begin to dissolve into broth. Adjust seasoning and water/broth to taste and adjust water until 2.5 quarts or so. Basically, make the broth taste excellent before adding matzoh balls! It should be good enough on its own to serve as is. This is the key to good soup, the base should stand on its own before the "name" ingredient is added.

Take 1 cup broth and cool to room temperature. Add 1 egg yolk and stir to dissolve. Stir vigorously into pot. This addition of egg yolk helps to blend the oils into the broth.

Add matzoh balls, with added butter as below, cook according to package directions.

I find that Manischewitz instant matzoh ball mix does fabulously, found in the kosher section of most grocery stores. Highly recommended. For this recipe, add two tablespoons of melted butter to the package directions, which one would ordinarily NOT do when making the chicken-based version. I really like the butterly silky matzoh balls, and with the garlicky-dill-peppery veggie broth, don't really miss the chicken.


Variations to the above might include adding a can of navy beans or chopped mushrooms or cream, but I find that the excellent broth and buttery matzoh balls don't need anything else.

On a philosophical note, I'm not Jewish nor do I keep Kosher, but when preparing foods in a tradition such as this, I respect such traditions and find that I enjoy the foods much more when I follow them. It's just polite. In this instance, I found a new and exciting version of a traditional classic by following those same traditions.


Post a Comment

<< Home