Sunday, April 5, 2009

Balls...Made of Matzo Meal

Sometimes the most innocent question will plunge me into an unexpected amount of pondering. A not-Jewish someone recently asked if I had a good recipe for matzo ball soup. I came to a full stop at the concept of good.

Finding a good recipe for matzo balls is easy. Use whatever recipe is printed on the box of matzo meal. If that seems too prosaic, then by all means search the Internet or crack open a Jewish holiday cookbook. The recipe you find will be like the one printed on the box of matzo meal, with perhaps chopped parsley added for culinary bling.

Making matzo balls that are good? How the Gehenna would I know?

My grandmother's balls were so compact and tough that a serrated knife could hardly hack through them. Were her matzo balls good? Decades passed before I encountered firm yet light matzo balls. Being able to use the side of a soup to slice through them easily was certainly a pleasant relief, but were they good?

When it comes to matzo balls, good is a relative concept and I mean that quite literally. No one raised Jewish would even think to ask anyone other than the family matriarch for a recipe. The word "good" would remain silent as the box of matzo meal was handed over.


Photo: Coconut & Lime/Flickr

9 comments:

  1. There is one ingredient that my mother added to make the matzo balls practically float (and anyone who has eaten a matzo ball knows that they are best used at the end of a crane to bring down buildings made of brick and concrete). That ingredient is seltzer. Add some seltzer to the mix and you will have to use bricks to hold down the matzo ball.

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  2. Ah, the old seltzer trick. Turns out it's now included on the recipe on the box of matzo meal.As if there was seltzer in the shetel.

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  3. Meredith, there was a wonderful article in the New York Times within the last week about having a dairy Passover. Did you see it?

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  4. Shannon,
    Didn't see the NYT piece about a dairy Passover. I'm trying to wrap my brain around the concept since lamb is key to the whole story!

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  5. I knew I should have patented the recipe. As for dairy on Pesach, I prefer that to having a shank bone on the table! Of course, I would make the entire seder vegan.

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  6. While growing up, I always enjoyed Cream of Wheat dumplings or "balls" in chicken broth based soups that reminded me of traditional Matzo Ball soups. http://cli.gs/N6TB7e

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  7. Tom! Cream of Wheat...balls? Wow!

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  8. Here's the NYTimes article.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/dining/01feed.html?_r=2

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  9. Thank you Shannon for providing the site to that great article in the NY Times. I would take it one step further and suggest that for even more interesting dishes try having a vegan seder. While this year I only included some vegan dishes along with the more traditional poultry dish (the turkey was a free ranging, organic turkey which is a little better than the factory caged birds), I told all of my guests that next year, if we are all not in Jerusalem, we will be sharing a vegan seder. I also included readings about G-d's love and protection of all living creatures and that the cruelty caused to animals by factory farms made a discussion of what and how we eat even more relevant on this holiday where food is such a focal point. Indeed, Pesach is a great time to educate people about agribusiness and conscious eating, sustainable communities and communal farming even in urban centers. Thanks for starting the discussion. It is also quite relevant for our Christian neighbors who will be celebrating Easter Sunday tomorrow. Perhaps instead of sending children on Easter Egg hunts, they go on apple picking ventures in apple orchards or even just putting apples on lawns for children to find and then eat. Other fruits would work as well. And while I'm on the topic of Easter, let me add for those who are thinking about buying house rabbits for their children, a common Easter gift, please be sure that the children are old enough and educated about handling these delicate creatures. Also do not buy them on a whim since they require a great deal of care and attention and if you do not have time to devote to them keep in mind that the animal shelters are overflowing with abandoned bunnies.
    But if you do decide to get a house rabbit then be sure you only get one from a shelter and not a pet store. This is an appropriate time to act like Noah and save the animals rather than perpetuate their overproduction for commercial purposes.

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