As I've said before, I am filled up with visions of dumplings, Professor Matzoh (above) is one such vision. Sometimes he has adventures, like adding a couple of chili peppers to the vegetable broth; this is very exciting if you're a matzoh ball (or me).
It's a long time 'til passover, but I think this is a good recipe to have on hand for flu season. Also, the matzoh balls have tofu which, depending on who you ask, is not kosher for passover.This is definitely an autumnal vegetable broth, and near passover I like to put leeks and parsnips and springtime veggies into my broth. Above all, use what is in season, and if you don't know what's in season, just go to the farmer's market. Vegetable broth is very forgiving; I accidentally bought a watermelon daikon with my rutabagas and it still turned out lovely.
Autumn Vegetable Broth Requires:
- 3-4 Rutabagas, chopped
- 2-3 Carrots, chopped
- 2-3 Ribs of Celery, chopped (chop up the leafy stuff too)
- 4-10 cloves garlic, minced fine (to taste)
- 2 medium onions, chopped large
- 2 small chili peppers, diced small (optional)
- Some fresh dill, to taste (dry is fine, but it's strong so be careful)
- Olive Oil
- Salt and Pepper
- A bay leaf or two
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 box Matzoh Crackers ground into Course Matzoh Meal (about 1 cup)
- 3/4 Package of Silken Tofu
- 1/4 cup Oil
- 1/4 cup + 2 tbs Beer (pour a half cup and take a swig or two, you can also use vegetable broth)
- 3/4 tsp each salt and pepper
- a little dill
First get your vegetable broth going. Here's my mis en place with my stylish Sundance Natural Foods tote:
I peeled everything, which is unusual for me, but I think root vegetable and onion skins bitter the broth. They are full of nutrients though, so it is your call.
Add a good bit of olive oil to a very large stock pot and heat it over medium. When it is hot, saute your vegetables starting with the slower cooking veggies (onions) and moving to the quick cooking stuff (celery tops, garlic, and peppers). Salt liberally throughout the process.
When the veggies start to show signs of browning, its time to add your water. Toss in your bay, more salt, and pepper, and bring that mess to a rolling boil, then drop the heat down to a simmer. It will need to simmer for 2-3 hours, so in the meantime you can get your matzah balls ready. Here's the essentials (minus the beer).
First, crumble the matzoh into a food processor. You can also do this part by hand, but the food processor is much faster.
You want a meal that is mostly very fine, but still has a few bigger bits about the size pictured below. Variation is good because the finer meal is good for structure and the coarser meal is better for texture.
Empty the food processor into a bowl and stir the salt, pepper, and dill into the matzah meal.
Now it is time for the wet mix; drain your tofu, add it to the food processor or blender and puree until it's very smooth.
Add your oil, and beer or broth. It looks neat:
Puree again, then add that business to the matzoh meal. Mix well with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula.
Eventually you'll have to use your hands. Massage it until it is consistent; it will be quite firm.
So firm in fact that you can form it into a creepy matzah baby. Isn't it cute... or something?
Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and keep it in the fridge for 1 hour. Your vegetable broth should be progressing nicely now, so give it a taste and see if it needs salt. You could also add some tamari if you were feeling bold. I'd hold off on the fresh dill until the very end though; dill looses its fresh taste if it is over cooked.
After your hour is up, start rolling quarter-sized balls of matzoh dough. I feel like matzoh balls shouldn't take more than two bites, but ball size is a matter of personal taste.
Smoothness is futile with a matzoh ball, but it is critical that the ball have no visible cracks, is well compacted, and is roughly round; this will ensure even cooking, with minimal breakage. Here's a detail shot of what your after:
Those larger crumbs are a critical part of the finished texture. If you make quarter-sized balls, you should wind up with approximately 18 dumplings, which means that if you double the recipe you get a perfect square of 36 balls:
I like to let my balls hang out for another 10-20 minutes so the outside dries a little, which I think helps them to hold their final shape. This is just enough time to strain your vegetable broth.
The cooking process really brought out the pink of the watermelon daikon, and you can see a big piece right in the center. You could potentially boil your vegetable broth for six hours, but I like to have some vegetables with a bit of flavor left over so I can mash 'em and get in on some of that lost fiber!
In a large stock pot, bring 8-10 cups of water to a boil, and salt it liberally. Like a handful of salt. I'm serious. Add the dumpling dough-balls thus:
Boil 'em 'til they float, then boil 'em ten minutes more. Meanwhile, heat your freshly strained vegetable broth, and toss in some chopped fresh dill. Dill is strong, so be gentle. With a slotted spoon move the matzoh balls into the vegetable broth. They'll float for a minute, but unless you serve it immediately you'll need a ladle for broth and a slotted spoon to fish out dumplings.
A bit more fresh dill and some grated carrot are a nice garnish, but I didn't bother. This soup is so good, so simple, and so nourishing. Here's some bowls made up:
You may have noticed that I used alot of different spellings for matzah (מַצָּה), and I chose to do so because there are about 7 accepted spellings; this means, in tern that the only real way to spell matze incorrectly, apart from leaving off a "t" or other such typographical slips, is to be stylistically inconsistent. So you can think of my many spellings as a sign of respect to each of them for their individual merits, or as a "fuck you" to style guidelines that tell me I have to pick just one. I hate having to pick just one.
Some time in your life, a loved one will fall ill. If you have mastered vegetable broth, you will for a short time be able to make them feel better. And you will feel better. So learn now, before the winter illnesses take you too.
Abel volunteered to be my Guestmouth this week, and confirmed that the soup was deeply warming:
In the 5th century BCE, the Greek philosopher and physician Hippocrates said "Everyone has a doctor in him or her; we just have to help it in its work. The natural healing force within each one of us is the greatest force in getting well. Our food should be our medicine. Our medicine should be our food." It is this sense of feeling nurtured and whole to which I refer when I say that matzo ball soup is a panacea. I hope you will try my soup, and be nourished by my balls.
Next week the dumpling mania continues with Steamed Buns! Remember to keep your kitchen queer.