Growing up in New York City, I was exposed to a variety of foods from an early age. And New York City Regional Cuisine would not exist without the contributions of Ashkenazi Cuisine.
For those of you who are unfamiliar, Ashkenazi cuisine is the food and dishes of Eastern European Jews. Jews, as a people- come in a variety of shapes, sizes and shades and various ethnic divisions exist. New York has been heavily influenced by Ashkenazi cuisine and culture (every Native New Yorker knows at least two Yiddish words), although the history of Jews in New York is much more than that. Without getting too much into the Jewish History of New Amsterdam (and later New York), let’s just say this: If you don’t enjoy a bowl of good matzo ball soup, then I really don’t know what to tell you.
Matzo ball soup is basically matzo meal formed into balls and simmered in chicken stock with carrots, celery, parsley, pepper, salt and shredded chicken.
Matzo is unleavened bread (which strongly resembles a giant cracker) that the Isrealites ate in a hurry while leaving Egypt. It is a divine commandment for Jews to eat Matzo during Passover. Which makes Matzo ball soup kosher and kosher for Passover!
Each cuisine has it’s own take on chicken soup. There’s chicken and dumplings (Southern American Regional), won ton soup (Chinese-American), Waterzooi (Belgium), Tinola (Filipino), and many more. It’s a sad cliché, chicken soup on a chilly day or when one is sick, but for some reason it works. There’s even a popular inspirational book series on chicken soup.
Anyway, the idea for me to make matzo ball soup came to me yesterday morning, when I was walking to the subway and saw this 20 something year old man (or someone trying to present as if he was 20 something, #shade) running to the gym in 30 degree weather wearing a tank top and shorts.
This is how I know I’m old. Because ten years ago, my inner monologue would have been like “Ohhh! Brave and healthy man in this cold! HELLO!”. Five years ago, my inner monologue would have been “Who does he think he is? So what if you have a gym membership, you’re not better than me!”. And yesterday morning’s inner monologue was: (and this is inner monologue was in my best Linda Richman voice) “Whatsamattah with him? He’s gonna get sick and then he’s gonna miss work, all because he’s too lazy to bring a lock to the gym! I hope he has a nice husband to make him soup when he’s sick. Mmm, soup. That’s what I’ll do, I’ll make matzo ball soup tonight after work.”
And here we are. Matzo ball soup, my style with a borrowed concept from Ina Garten (who doesn’t have many Black or Brown skinned friends on her television show #JustAtrueObservation ) Also, it’s vegetarian because the husband is a pescetarian.
Now, before we get into anything, I always like my soups hearty, so I’m a little heavy handed on the vegetables. Always adjust recipes to your own tastes and style.
FOR THE MATZO BALLS
- 1 packet of matzo ball mix (check your kosher food aisle) or 1 cup of matzo meal.
- 2 tbsps. of olive oil. (Canola is also okay- if you’re feeling really traditional 2 tbsps. of schmatlz)
- 2 eggs
- 1 tbsp. of chopped parsley (Ina Garten’s idea)
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Set mixture aside in the refrigerator for about ten minutes. When you’re ready to make the matzo balls, you’re going to want to cook them in a separate pot of water that has been lightly salted. In order to form the matzo balls, make sure the matzo ball mixture is chilled and your hands are wet with cold water. Otherwise, it’s a mess.
Once the matzo balls fluff up and boil up to the top, I turn them over so that they can cook evenly, and let them continue to boil for about 3 minutes.
FOR THE SOUP:
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- 4-5 Medium carrots, diced
- 4 stalks of celery, diced
- 1 vegetable bouillon
- 1/2 cup of chopped parsley
- 2 tbsps. olive oil
- 1 package of chick’n strips
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- 8 cups of water
Sauté the onions, carrots and celery in the olive oil. Once the onions are translucent, add the garlic and continue cooking for about two minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, and any additional herbs you may desire as well as the bouillon cube. The minute everything gets really aromatic and starts making the house smell REALLY good- add the water and bring it up to a simmer. Add the chick’m strips and simmer for ten minutes. The veggies should be tender- not soft.
Then you plate it. And you eat it. And you like it. Like this:
Does it look great, or what? It was so soothing and delicious, that right after I ate it, I was all like:
Yes, it was that good.
I think I am going to do one soup a week at home and (hopefully) be able to remind myself to photograph the process and blog about it. Soup is terribly underrated.