/* Expandable post summary: */ Queer Vegan Kitchen

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Matzoh Ball Soup

Matzoh ball soup is good for what ails ya, or, for that matter, what doesn't ail ya. Vegetable broth is warm, full of the distilled essence of its constituent vegetables, and easy to eat with a sore throat or indigestion. Matzoh ball soup is vegetable broth + dumplings; further reinforcing my theory that dumplings improve everything.

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
The matzoh ball recipe I adapted from the Post Punk Kitchen, but their recipe always frustrated me because you can only get about two cups of matzoh from a box of matzoh crakers, so I reduced it proportionally, and added beer. Why beer? Because I'm from the Pacific Northwest and we have great beer; also, beer is good for what ails you. Recipe doubles.
  • 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
I know it just leaves you with leftover tofu instead of left over matzo, but I use tofu for dips and things, and the recipe doubles more easily.

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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I am consumed by visions of dumplings; the idea of something small, doughy, and a bit warm is absolutely the most comforting thought I can manage. It is like home, but tastier. If you're wondering what a dango (dahn-goh) is, they're little rice dumplings on skewers that look like this:

Except without the unnecessarily huge eyes; though I do think they seem uncannily friendly, but perhaps its just that they're balls. Read Wikipedia if you'd like to know more.

More...The dango themselves are very simple, you will need only:
  • 1lb Glutinous or Sweet rice flour
  • 1lb Silken Tofu (someone found a lot of the Mori Nu stuff in a dumpster)
  • a few tablespoons of water
Then there's a series of toppings! Specifically, I chose black sesame, kinako (toasted soy flour), peanut, and soy syrup. Their ingredients are grouped below:
  • 4 tbsp black sesame seeds
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 4 tbsp kinako
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • a small pinch of salt (a scant 1/4 tsp)
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp wine or mirin
  • 2 tbsp sugar
(Yields approximately 14 skewers)
Here's everything:

First, you'll want to prepare the toppings. For the peanut, you can buy them pre-roasted, but what's the fun in that? Neila was peanut coordinator and peanut gallery for our dango operation.

Preheat an oven to 500°, then simply spread them on a cookie sheet, and toss them in the oven for 5 minutes, stir them, and then send them in again. It is advisable to roast more than a cup and a half, because they're rather tasty and it's difficult to avoid eating them. When its all said and done they look like this:

"Discard" (eat) any peanuts that are a little too brown, and grind the rest coarsely in a blender or food processor with the salt and sugar, and dump them on a plate or a pie tin, so that it will be easy to roll dumplings therein.

For the sesame seeds, simply grind them coarsely with a pestle or in a coffee grinder, like so:

You want a consistency like coarse sand. Mix the sesame meal with its sugar on another plate or pie tin.

The kinako comes pre-pulverulent, so you can mix it with its sugar straight away.

There is a traditional type of syrup dango called mitarashi dango, which are flame grilled and so called because they are eaten at the Mitarashi Festival in Kyoto. I didn't get any mirin (cooking rice wine) at the Asian imports store, so I improvised with a bit of red wine, which made these not-so-traditional-but-still-quite-delicious syrup dango.

Stir together the soy sauce, wine or mirin, and sugar in a small sauce pot, and whisk over medium heat until it bubbles like this:

Reduce heat to simmer, and continue cooking for five more minutes or until thick, stirring often. If it seems like it is getting close to burning you can just take it off the burner for a second, but make sure it thickens.

Now to the fun part: dango making. Drain the tofu, and combine it with rice flour with your hands until it looks like this:

Start adding water, a teaspoon at a time, until the mixture forms a stiff dough. When you see it cracking, like this:

You need to add more water. Continue adding water (it shouldn't be much more than six teaspoons) until the mixture is easily malleable and does not crack. You should be able to form it into a creepy alien baby, like this:

You can see it is still cracking a bit, so I added another teaspoon or two of water. If you wanted your dango to be pink you can add strawberry preserves or puree instead of water, for green ones, prepared, sweetened matcha (the drink not just the powder) is great.

Forming the balls is a bit of a trick, but start by squishing a small bit of dough (about two tablespoons) into a rough patty shape thus:

then rolling it into a smooth ball, thus:

Smooth balls are important, because smoothness effects their mouth feel, and unless you're covering them with something opaque, people will notice your inattention to detail. Irregular balls are also more likely to come apart when cooking.

Boil the dumplings. They'll start to float like this:

Continue cooking for about three minutes more and immerse them immediately in ice water.

Set them in the tray of the topping of your choice and spoon the topping mixture on to them, you may have to roll a bit to coat, but if you get the powders to wet they tend to clump, so keep rolling to a minimum, because clumps are not tasty.

Once you get three dango coated, gently skewer them, like so:

With the last one you want to push the skewer almost (but not quite) all the way through, so it looks like this:

From here the skewers can be transfered to a serving plate or stored in the fridge for about a week. They are better fresh, and I recommend let them warm to room temperature for a bit before you serve them.

Nate and his beard Carlisle agreed to pose with the dango.

So good it must be wrong.

Before I leave you, take a moment to consider the dango as a symbol. The beloved poet Issa (whose pseudonym means roughly "one cup of tea") wrote a great many poems mentioning dango, and he wrote praise for the dango as simple as the dumpling itself, apropos of a sweet that goes so well with tea:

Truth be told,
I prefer, rather than blossoms,

While this translation hardly does it justice, this poem, to me, is about impermanence. Dango and blossoms (some dango are traditional for blossom viewing festivals) are both impermanent, and Issa uses a Japanese idiom, "hana yori dango" which stresses the importance of practical things over frivolous beauty. Dumplings satisfy us in a way that aesthetics cannot, and even we, in the end, are impermanent. I ask that you take this lesson from the dango, abandon your attachment to superficiality, and find instead what nourishes you deeply.

Especially if that involves balls in your mouth.

Next week the testicle puns and dumpling shenanigans continue with Matzo Ball Soup!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Jalapeño Bagels

Bagels are the most rewarding toroidal pastry. I'm not here to bad-mouth doughnuts, but I think they have received far too much attention; as evidenced by the Torus article on Wikipedia failing to mention bagels even once. This is a travesty! Keep a look out for the Facebook group to end Wikipedia's bagel discrimination (Bagels Are Toroids Too So Halt Internet Tacitness (BATTSHIT), or Toroidal Inclusiveness Coalition(TIC)). Of course anyone can edit Wikipedia, but why miss an opportunity form another Facebook group, and protest a bit?

There is a reason that most people don't make bagels themselves though, it is a tremendous undertaking and bagels of reasonable quality are available from bakeries (most supermarket bagels are wite-brehd™ rolls with holes in). However, if you are willing to work a bit, these bagels will reward your effort with interest.


You will need some non-food stuff:
  • flat, smooth work area on which to shape and proof bagels
  • stock pot for boiling the bagels
  • two smallish mixing bowls for liquid and dry ingredients
  • one small bowl for mixing oil with jalepeños
  • flat pan or cookie sheet for baking bagels
  • A standing mixer, or a very large bowl.
You may also want:
  • a kitchen scale
  • cooling racks
  • big knife for dough surgery
  • victims, er assistants
The Bagels are made of:
  • 3 oz oil
  • 1 1/2 cups water VERY WARM (and maybe a little more)
  • 2 TB sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 TB active dry yeast (a little more than a packet of instant yeast)
  • 22 oz flour(about 5 cups)
You may also want:
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 4-5 jalapeños
First you make a yeast slurry. Combine VERY WARM water, sugar, salt and yeast:

Mine were very excited right away, but its best to give them about ten minutes to warm up and get multiplying. Let your slurry hang out somewhere warm for about 10 minutes while you assemble your other ingredients.

Weigh out the flour:

Add it to your standing mixer (or large bowl):

Most of the "heat" from the jalapeño, like most peppers, comes from the white picante (placenta) surrounding the seeds; if you want spicey bagels you can leave it in, but I prefer my bagels mild. If you want more detail on how to remove this and slice the peppers you can see the step by step photo in my Gyoza post.

Dice 'em and mix 'em with your three oz of oil. If you want the color, now is a good time to add the turmeric. I tripled the recipe, but it should look more or less like this.

By this time your slurry should be foaming like crazy:

If you're using a standing mixer, dump the wet ingredients on top. If you've just got a mixing bowl, you should mix your wet stuff first.

Start on the lowest speed.

Until it comes together, like the picture below, then crank it up to medium.

Let that it rattle for at least 15-20 minutes. If you're using your hands this much kneading will take a really long time. I recommend kneading it until you're exhausted, then resting for 1o minutes, and repeating the process. It should look like this when its all done:

Shape it into a nice brain (I tripled the recipe to make 3 dozen, so don't be frightened if your brain is smaller).

Tuck it into an oiled bowel or some such vessel, keep it in a nice warm place (like an oven with a pilot light, or a couch with a bunch of cuddling people) cover it with a damp towel or tee-shirt, and let it sit for an hour.

'Til it looks like this:

Punch it down, which despite the name and the way this picture looks, just means pressing down gently and folding a bit until the bigger bubbles have gone.

Slice it into quarters, and then slice those into thirds.

Definitely use a cutting board though, that last picture is silly; I could have dulled the knife. You'll be reusing the t-shirt to cover all of your cute little pieces, to see that they don't dry out.

Then you have to do this thing with rolling and folding, here just watch this video. Put a large pot of liberally salted water on to boil, and let them chill out for another ten or twenty minutes under that tee-shirt, and they look like this:

Preheat the oven to 450°, then boil the little darlings, for about a minute on each side.

Place them on a flat surface, no cooling racks unless you want your bagels to have sweet grill marks. These bagels are not the innocent dough rounds they once were, they're grayer, emptier, and tempered by the relentless boil.

I love the color change with the turmeric here; especially on the bluish steel background. It reminds me of that one movie. You know the one, with the underground sparring society? I don't remember.

Now clearly these are flour dough balls that have been cooked in water, so let us pause for a moment to consider an important question: Is the bagel a dumpling? I think so, and I'm tired of bagel exclusion, and therefore I propose Bagel UNity with Toroids and Dumplings (BUNDT), Coalition Against Bagel Linguistic Exclusion (CABLE) or Bagel Advocacy and Support Society (BASS) to take action against the bagel's categorical disenfranchisement on Wikipedia and the world at large. If your wondering why I haven't posted in awhile, its because it takes a long time to come up with acronyms.

Now you bake them at 450° for 10 minutes and flip them. They should look like this when you put them back in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Remove them quickly to a cooling rack and try to resist eating them for 10 minutes so they will be solid enough to stand up to slicing.

(Note the sweet grill marks in the above photo) That is one fine looking whole wheat jalapeño bagel.

They stand up pretty well to those bagel-slicing guillotines, but you may just want to tear into them with teeth bared, à la this weeks Guest Mouth, Ashley:

Ah-hem, punk rock.
Happy baking y'all; remember to keep your kitchen queer. Next week Dango!