Posted tagged ‘traditional food’

Why is this Night Different? Fluffy Matzoh Ball Soup Recipe

April 2, 2010

A guest post from our new Development Associate, Ari Rinzler.

Happy Passover!

Passover is about telling stories, recalling history and examining contemporary times.  This makes for lively banter and pretty good discussions over hillel sandwiches – and it also makes for what is absolutely my favorite holiday.

Storytelling and re-telling the past and questioning all of the above is inextricably linked to what it means to be Jewish – “Maggid”, the Hebrew word for “story”, is at the root of the word, haggadah, which is the written order of prayer, songs and the story of the Jew’s exodus from Egypt and freedom from slavery, collectively read each year during Passover.

Likewise, the meal itself is an integral part of the story, and is purposefully symbolic; we eat the Charoset, a mixture of chopped apples, walnuts and honey, represents both the toil of the slaves and the sweetness of freedom; we eat the bitter herbs, horseradish to remind us of the bitterness of slavery; and we eat springtime fare to symbolize renewal and new beginnings.

Every year, I’m in charge of the matzoh ball soup.  Made from ground matzoh, the unleavened bread that marks the journey out of Egypt when the Jews didn’t have time to let their bread rise, this soup is a real crowd pleaser.  I use a vegetarian broth made with Better than Bouillon which tastes fantastic – all the meat eaters concur, I kid you not.

Try this recipe for a vegetarian, fluffy matzo ball soup:

Matzoh Ball Soup (Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Matzoh Balls
1/2 cup matzo meal
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons seltzer

2 to 3 quarts prepared vegetable stock (I use Better Than Bouillon paste)
1 carrot, sliced
A few sprigs of dill

Mix all matzo ball ingredients in a bowl. Cover and place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. The cold temperature is important for fluffy matzo balls.

Bring 1 1/2 quarts of well-salted water to a boil in a medium sized pot.

Reduce the flame. Wet your hands. Form matzo ball batter approximately 1-inch in diameter into the palm of your wet hands and roll loosely into balls. Drop them into the simmering salt water one at a time. Cover the pot and cook them for 30 to 40 minutes.

About ten minutes before the matzo balls are ready, bring prepared stock to a simmer with the sliced carrot in it. Ladle some soup and a couple matzo balls into each bowl and top with a couple snips of dill. Eat immediately.


New Year’s Hoppin’ John Recipe

January 1, 2010

Happy New Year’s

And that means. . .black-eyed peas!

I grew up in the South, and each New Year’s Day my mother insisted that we eat black-eyed peas.  She said the black-eyed peas brought good luck, and who was I to argue with my mother? So we ate black-eyed peas, usually canned ones. They were okay, but I never looked forward to that meal.

My relationship with black-eyed peas changed a few years later when a friend introduced me to Hoppin’ John, a Southern New Year’s recipe that combines black-eyed peas cooked with ham hocks and rice.  It’s really, really delicious—particularly when you add collard greens and drizzle malt vinegar over the top! And, of course, what’s a Southern meal without cornbread?

A folklorist friend from Georgia, Fred Fussell, sent me his traditional New Year’s menu:

Black-eyed peas – for good luck.

Collard greens – for folding money.

Pork fat – for plenty in the coming year.

Rice – because it’s cheap and goes so well with peas.

Baked sweet potatoes – for thriftyness.

Corn bread – because that’s what you always eat with collards and black-eyed peas.


1 tablespoon olive oil

large ham hock

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

2-3 cloves chopped garlic

1 pound dried black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed

4 cups chicken stock or water

Bay leaf

1 teaspoon thyme

Salt, black pepper, and cayenne or red pepper flakes

Steamed white rice or cooked wild rice


Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and brown on all sides. Add the onion, celery, and garlic, and sauté until the onion begins to get transparent. Add the black-eyed peas, liquid, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the peas are tender, stirring occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Remove the ham hock from the peas, cut the ham off of the bone and into bite-size pieces.  Stir ham back into peas. Season to taste. Serve over rice.

If you’re adding collard greens, a great way to cook them is to wash them thoroughly, slice into big pieces, and sauté in olive oil and garlic until they are tender.

Put the whole concoction into a bowl and splash with malt vinegar.  Eat and prepare for a year full of good luck!