Thursday, October 27, 2011

Matzo Ball Soup: How do I love thee?

It's the week before Halloween in New York City. In a perfect world, I'd be walking down Broadway after a long day at work, wearing a cute, fitted trench coat and sipping a pumpkin latte and maybe even kicking up some yellow and orange leaves under foot. The soundtrack on my iPod would be something dreamy like Fleet Foxes, Cocteau Twins, or classic Feist. Tonight was not that kind of autumnal evening. It was bone chilling, ice cold rain and wind. I could get some specifics from but let's just say it was a watery hell. Anyone remember "frog in a blender" from the early days of the internet? It's better if you don't but if by chance you do, you'll know how pretty much all of commuting Manhattan felt during rush hour tonight. During my short walk to the subway, my favorite leopard print umbrella spastically inverted itself not once but twice before breaking and ending up in a pile of other defeated, dead umbrellas (RIP). My cold, clammy hands turned an unhealthy shade of pink and my iPhone was getting an unwanted shower even though it was deep in my coat pocket. I'm pretty sure I even saw a little girl in tiny rain boots almost blow away before her father could save her. I couldn't get home and get dry fast enough. Once at my apartment and after peeling off my wet, chaffing jeans (the worst!) there was only one thing I could imagine warming my rain soaked, weathered, and slightly bittered soul: a  bowl of matzo ball soup. 

No, I am not Jewish. I have zero nostalgia attached to matzo ball soup (also called matzah) unless you want to count the first time I tried it which, if I remember correctly, was during my college years and at a diner at 3 a.m. Beer goggles or not, it was love at first bite. Something about that light chicken flavor, sharp saltiness, simple ingredients, and distinct matzo flavor is even more soothing to me than the true staple of my childhohod that is chicken noodle soup. My affection reached new heights when I realized how easy and cheap it is to whip up at home. And once you try making you're own, I promise you'll never want to shell out a crisp Lincoln for a bowl at the diner ever again. If you want to go the classic, from scratch route, you can't go wrong with Martha's Matzo. If you're feeling a little more hardcore in the kitchen, check out Nigella Lawson's version. You can go the low calorie way (only 3 Weight Watcher points per serving for any WW Whoreders out there). There's also vegetarian and vegan options, matzo ball soup with veggies like asparagus and shiitake, and even middle eastern or pho-like variations of the stuff! The possibilities are endless and unlike Passover or Yum Kippur, there are no rules which is the best part. Tonight, my remedy from the cold consisted of a good ol' box of Manischewitz matzo ball soup mix, a super inexpensive staple that I like to keep in my cabinets for nights exactly like this. With it, I made mini matzo balls and added yellow curry to the stock while it simmered because I'm spontaneous like that. Then, a dash of dill for good luck. It. was. delicious.

I call this "Kitchen Still Life with Manischewitz and Elvis"

I realize matzo ball is a soup that, whether for cultural reasons or just preference, some people can really get down with and that others just don't care about. If you happen to be on the indifferent side, maybe it's time to give it another (or a first) try. So make like a Jewish grandma and say es gezunterheyt! (that's "bon appetit" in Yiddish btw). Oh, and next time you're craving something salty and sweet, don't forget to Google the words "matzo and chocolate" for a whole new universe of matzo delights. And because I love you, here is a completely unneccasary but awesome fact: the world's largest matzo ball weighed 267 pounds.Thank you, Guinness World Record and thank you, Matzo ball soup for being your weird little self.


  1. I LOVE MATZO BALL SOUP. It's perfect on gross days, and def cheap. I like adding sesame oil and corn to mine :)

  2. NOMNOMNOM. My mother always wanted to be Jewish, I will impress her with the yiddish you taught me and some bomb ass Matzo Ball Soup!