The Search for Matzo Ball Soup

Matzo Ball Soup [plated]I always thought matzo ball soup was just flour dumplings in chicken soup. As a vegetarian I never tried it. I didn’t understand that it is truly comfort food so for 58 years I avoided it not thinking to look for a vegetarian version.

While in Von’s the other day I found myself looking at various foodstuffs including a package of Manischewitz “Matzo Ball & Soup Mix”. I decided to see what ingredients went into the soup. Before I even got to the ingredients I saw a label that read, “This product is lactose-free and vegetarian”. Reading the ingredients supported their claim. “Maybe” I said, “it’s time to see what all the hoopla is about”.  I purchased the soup mix, jumped in the car and probably went too fast through downtown Ojai.

When I got home I made the balls and the soup per instructions and waited 20 minutes for it to cook. When the timer went off I lifted the lid on the soup pan and was greeted with a wonderful aroma. The site of the matzo balls floating on top was welcoming. I knew, at that moment, that I was gonna like it.

So I thought “There’s got to be a recipe out there for vegetarians”. And sure enough there was but I wanted to try to make it myself. So I turned to the Internet for an introductory course on basic matzo balls.

I now know what matzo meal is all about and where to buy it. I’m told you can substitute cracker crumbs for matzo meal. That sounds reasonable but somehow it just doesn’t sound right. I did substitute vegetable broth for chicken stock, which for a vegetarian, sounds spot on. There also seems to be a debate about whether the matzo balls should be floaters or sinkers. My recipe appeals to floater enthusiasts!

I added herbs as found on the Manischewitz box (but not the garlic, MSG or the monocalcium phosphate – whatever that is) and experimented until I got just the right mix of everything (it took three tries!).

Then, before you could say l’chayim, I had a wonderful vegetarian version cooking under a tight lid on my stove. Even though it is made without schmaltz, matzo ball soup is comfort food for sure.

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs (slightly beaten)
2 tablespoons water (ice cold)
½ cup matzo meal
¼ teaspoon salt
¼  teaspoon pepper
6 cups vegetable broth
1 teaspoon Better Than Bouillon (vegetable or mushroom base for extra flavor)
1 teaspoon fresh dill (chopped fine)
1 small carrot (grated)
Fresh flat-leaf parsley for garnish

Directions:
Place first six ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Mix well. After mixing cover and refrigerate for one hour.

Fill a large pot with the broth, bouillon, dill and grated carrot. Bring to a boil. After it boils, reduce to a simmer.

Take the matzo mixture out of the refrigerator and gently make 1-inch balls by hand (be sure to wet your hands before forming balls). Slowly add the balls to the hot broth. Cover and cook on low for about 30 minutes.

Photo: Randy Graham, Valley Vegetarian

Matzo balls after 30 minutes. Floaters!

Do not remove the lid during cooking! After cooking, turn off heat and remove cover. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before serving. Garnish with parsley if desired.

See this recipe and more in my Ojai Valley Vegetarian Cookbook!

About Valley Vegetarian

Providing consistently good vegetarian comfort food recipes. Real food for real people.
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