I grew up eating and appreciating Jewish deli’s and bakeries in Los Angeles. Sitting down to pickles and bagel chips, eating mile-high deli sandwiches, and picking my favorite chocolate rugelach pastries in the bakery display window are some of my favorite memories. Its nice every once in a while, but, the salt content in a lot of the deli items can be very high!
Matzoh ball soup was one of my friend’s favorites, two huge doughy balls in a flavorful chicken broth. Sometimes we would stop after school just to snack on it. I later found out that these tasty dumplings are traditionally made with schmaltz, or chicken fat. No wonder they were so flavorful! I decided the recipe needed a little makeover so I cut out the chicken fat and made a vegetable Matzoh ball out of roasted fennel and mushrooms. I still used chicken broth so it imparted a great flavor without the added fat!
I decided to post this recipe for Passover, or the “The Festival of the Unleavened Bread.” Matzo bread, the thin crackers, are a symbol of Passover. It signifies the Exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt by Moses. It is said they left in such a hurry, they could not wait for the bread to rise and made unleavened bread instead. The name “Passover” is to signify the pass over of the tenth plague by God, or the killing of the first born son. The Jewish sacrificed a lamb and placed the blood on their door so the “Angel of Death” would pass over them. In addition to Matzo bread, bitter herbs and honey are traditionally eaten at Passover Seder to commemorate the dark, but hopeful Jewish history.
Vegetable Matzoh Ball (serves 5, 11 dumplings)
2 fennel bulbs
1 cup sliced button mushrooms (1/2 container)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth
1 cup crushed lightly salted matzo cracker*
*If using unsalted, add 1/4 teaspoon salt
3-4 cups low sodium chicken broth
10 cups water
1 carrot, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
3 asparagus, chopped
1 leek, chopped
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped parsley or fennel fonds for garnish
*Feel free to use any other vegetables you have on hand like mushroom, celery, onion to replace above or simply add more carrot
1. Preheat oven to 400 F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Trim fennel, reserve tops for decoration or salad. Remove outer layer and inner core. Slice thin. Toss with 1 teaspoon olive oil and roast in oven 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, add mushrooms and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Roast additional 10-15 minutes or until fennel is tender. Set aside to cool at least 10 minutes.
2. Puree fennel and mushrooms in blender or with immersion blender. Add 1 egg, 1/2 cup chicken broth, 1 egg, and 1/2 cup matzoh cracker crumbs. (Crush Matzoh crackers in ziploc bag). Dough will be very moist. Wet hands and form into walnut-size balls. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
3. Bring a large out of water to a boil. Lower to a simmer. Place matzoh balls in gently and cover with lid. Simmer for 30 minutes. Meanwhile make soup base.
4. Place chicken broth, water, carrot, parsnip, and leek in another pot. Bring to a boil then simmer gently for 10-15 minutes or until carrot is tender. Add asparagus and salt at last 5 minutes. When soup is ready, place matzoh balls in soup and let simmer a couple minutes. Then, serve and garnish with parsley or fennel if desired.