I think it’s safe to say that every Jewish grandmother who has proclaimed, “You should eat more!” has a mean recipe for chicken soup in her arsenal. For generations, colds and flus have gone to battle with bowls and bowls of Jewish penicillin made by these bubbes, and my abuela was no exception.
I come from a family of strong women, so it is fitting that our recipe for chicken soup isn’t the clear-broth version with a lonely floating carrot slice. Ours is a stick-to-your-bones and prepare-for-war kind of soup, chock-full of nutrient-rich vegetables and flavors that awaken the senses. My favorite part of this soup is how the kabocha squash disintegrates into the broth, giving it a wholesome creamy texture without the heaviness of added butter or milk. Plus, the crunch of the bok choy and zucchini packs a solid punch of vitamin c, and makes it easy for me to eat my greens. Couple all of this with my mother-in-law’s recipe for the fluffiest, most light-as-air matzoh balls, and you’ve got yourself the better part of a seder.
This recipe may be a mish mosh of the traditions of my husband’s family and mine, but it is certainly one I would be proud to share at any Passover table or year-round.
For the matzo balls:
1 cup matzo meal
½ cup club soda
⅓ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp salt
pinch black pepper
For the soup:
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
15 whole allspice berry
3 bay leaves
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 ½ lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts (or thighs)
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 medium malangas*, peeled and coarsely diced
2 quarts of low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp of bijol powder (optional)*
6 culantro leaves*
½ Kabocha squash, peeled and coarsely diced
Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
4 baby bok choy, cut into quarters, lengthwise
2 zucchini, sliced into ½ inch slices
1 Lime, sliced
To make the matzo balls:
Combine all ingredients until just mixed, careful not to over mix.
Cover the mixture, and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Boil water with salt (or chicken broth). Oil hands, then make small balls (1 inch in diameter), and add them to boiling water.
Cover, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for about 25 minutes.
Transfer the matzo balls to the soup.
To make the soup:
In a large stock pot, heat olive oil over medium/high heat.
Using a piece of cheesecloth and kitchen twine, tightly secure the 15 allspice berries and the bay leaves together in a small pouch.
Place onions, carrots, chicken pieces and the spice pouch in the stock pot, and sauté for about 8 minutes, or until onions are translucent and chicken has slightly browned, mixing frequently.
Add the garlic, the malangas, and broth. Bring to a boil, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the bijol powder, the culantro, kabocha squash, salt and pepper, and cook for another 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken pieces, set aside until cool to the touch, shred them, and then return to the soup.
Add the bok choy and zucchini, and cook 10 more minutes, or until bok choy softens, and zucchini are cooked through.
Remove the culantro leaves and the spice pouch.
Serve immediately, or cool and refrigerate or freeze for later use. Garnish with slices of lime.
*Some of the ingredients may be hard to find. Here is a list of acceptable substitutions:
Malangas – yuca or potatoes
Bijol powder – saffron powder, achiote powder, or omit from recipe, as it is optional.
Cilantro leaves – 1 bundle of cilantro, secured in cheesecloth, so that it won’t dissolve into the soup and can easily be removed.
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Yes, yes it’s COLD. We all got the memo. So instead of just kvetching about it, how about warming up with some homemade soup.
I love a hearty soup with a piece of crusty bread for lunch or paired along side a chopped salad for dinner. Soup is a great way to use leftovers, and also a great way to get in some extra veggies.
So while you’re bundled up avoiding the polar vortex, try your hand at one of these satisfying soups that is sure to make you forget that it’s actually -4 degrees outside.
Hearty Lentil Soup from Liz Rueven
Roasted Eggplant and Chickpea Soup from Martha Stewart
Cumin Spiced Tomato Soup with Wild Rice from Aviv Harkov
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In a wonderful article in the New York Times this weekend, David Sax discusses the sanctity of matzah balls, but not just any matzah balls, the BEST matzah balls, which happen to be made with none other than GOOSE! Now, I did not grow up with a mother or grandmother who made the best matzah balls, or even remotely good matzah balls, so I feel no loyalty towards my own family’s recipe, which David points out is perhaps the only recipe that might come close to the recipe he uncovered in Budapest.
But as someone who constantly strives towards Jewish culinary perfection, I can attest to the virtues of using rendered fat to create the most flavorful and fluffy matzah balls. And I can also attest to the incredible flavor of goose – a few years ago I actually had the chance to cook a goose! I know there’s a joke in there somewhere…nevertheless, if you have the inclination (and the money – it is expensive) to special order a goose from your butcher, I promise you will not be disappointed. The meat was incredibly unique – both gamey and rich. And the quantity of rendered fat will leave your freezer, and your friends’ freezers, stocked for many, many months.
But in the meantime, I have used plain ‘ol chicken fat and even duck fat in matzah balls and been very satisfied with the flavor. Here are my tips to making the fluffiest matzah balls, which you can put to use trying David Sax’s recommendation for the best matzah balls!
As part of the 6th annual “Man-o-Manischewitz” Cook-Off, cooks from all over submitted thousands of recipes using Manischewitz products. And last week I got to attend the live kosher cook-off at the JCC of Manhattan!
Those who attended (including me!) got to taste the five final recipes, and then an esteemed panel of judges chose a winning dish. Highlight of the event: Chef Claire Robinson from The Food Network’s 5 Ingredient Fix was one of the judges, and I was pretty tickled to get to meet her!
The event was really organized and well-run, but I briefly forgot how pushy a crowd of Jews can be when there is food at stake. It was like being at a cousin’s bar mitzvah schmorg waiting for the meat carving station. After waiting for the line and pushiness to dissipate, I got to taste the dishes.
While the official winner of the event was Eric Silberman’s Mod Matzo Ball Soup, my own favorite was Andrew Dorsch’s Torte Vegetali.
You can read bios for all the finalists and try out their recipes here.
A little Manischewitz secret of my own: I only use their matzo ball mix in order to make my fluffy matzo balls! Why mess with a good thing!?
Stay tuned for the 2013 cook off next year and get ready to submit your best recipes.
I’ve had a number of friends come calling recently with questions about how to make light and fluffy matzoh balls for chicken soup: a pretty important tool in a Jewish cook’s arsenal. I love making matzoh balls, and I actually believe that it’s my Italian heritage that is the secret to my fluffy matzoh balls. How so? I believe its all in the rolling technique, and I roll my matzoh balls the same way I roll my meatballs.
I know there a lot of people who believe the secret to light matzoh balls is seltzer, and I can say, this is not a bad way to go. But I advocate for a few simple steps to ensure the matzoh balls of your dreams:
1) Cold water: Keep a bowl of cold water nearby as you prepare to roll your balls. In between rolling each ball, dip your hands in the water to keep your hands pliable and clear from getting sticky with matzo meal.
2) Chicken fat, not just for your bubbe: for me, chicken fat (or duck fat) is an essential kitchen item and I assure you, a little goes a long way. Whatever matzoh ball recipe you use, substitute half the oil for chicken fat, and I am sure you will be delighted by the results.
3) The roll: How can I put this, um, delicately – balls should be handled with care and attention. When rolling the balls, please don’t pack down the suckers, or aggressively roll them together. Very lightly roll them in the palm of your hands until they are well formed into a ball and then leave them. A nice delicate touch goes a long way.