Saturday, March 20, 2010

calling all matzo balls!

I am a woman on a mission. Passover is rapidly approaching and I must somehow create an eggless matzo ball for my sister's partner. The poor thing is allergic to eggs and so far I have done quite well in making substitutions when I know he is joining us for dinner. But Passover is a whole other story. Everything has to have egg in it. It's our sneaky way around eating things with leavening. While us Ashkenazi Jews spend most of the year thriving on egg bread (challah), pasta, sandwiches, and cake, this one time of year we must put our carbohydrates aside in observance of religious tradition.

The tradition of eating matzo came from the actual biblical story of the exodus. As the ancient Jews prepared to flee slavery under the Egyptian Pharaohs, they prepared dough to make bread for the long journey (little did they realize just how long...). They soon discovered that when Moses asked Pharaoh to "let my people go" and Pharaoh agreed, he meant right now. The freed slaves had to rush and leave at once, before the bread dough had time to rise. The story goes on to say that the heat of the dessert sun actually baked the bread on their backs, resulting in the much-maligned matzo that we eat today.

While companies like Manischewitz have developed countless yeast-less cakes, egg noodles, and macaroons, one wonders just how much processing and refinement these products must endure before they reach the grocery store shelf. I have found that the easiest way to get through the seemingly endless 8 days of no-pasta is by eating more fruits and vegetables. It's easy enough. I don't actually eat much of those store-bought bread substitutes that are so successfully marketed to Jews the world over. But there is one thing that not only to I make an exception for, I actually crave throughout the year.

The delicate art of matzo ball making is something that I have yet to master. While I was away at university, I would try to duplicate my mom's matzo balls, but they were never quite as fluffy as hers. The secret is the eggs, you see. The dumplings are made of ground matzo (matzo meal), chicken soup, salt, pepper, and egg whites. Mixed together, rolled into golf ball sized shapes, and then boiled in chicken soup for 20-30 minutes, they always seemed to be taking too long and I would remove them from the pot too early. This results in matzo balls of a rather hockey-puck type consistency.
* photos courtesy of Smitten Kitchen

But what will we do this year? We have a very nice guest, whom we like very much, who will otherwise have to go matzo ball-less. I certainly don't want to make him sick, but he can't miss out on matzo ball soup! It's the best part of the very long, drawn out, ceremony-filled meal. It's better than the turkey or the meatballs or the strange cakes and sweet meringues that end the dinner. They should not be given up just because of some silly little gastrointestinal incompatibility. What can I do? This is where you come in, dear readers. If anyone out there in cyberland knows of any eggless matzo ball recipes, I'd be forever indebted to you. Someone must have already faced this problem. I am a doer; I know there is a solution to this problem. I just need some help finding it.


  1. I used to live with a total hippie, and every time she decided eggs were bad for the environment or something, she'd substitute them with watered-down flax seed.

    If you take a mortar and pestle to some flax seed and keep adding water, until it's the EXACT consistancy of egg white (it's an art, really), you can use it in place of egg.

    Supposedly, it works with any recipe at all. But vegans have a way of exaggerating the wonders of their ways, so it might not work for everything. Only one way to find out, eh.

    - Ben (a gentile)

  2. i have a friend with a vegan matzo ball recipe. do you want me to ask her for it?

    - L.

  3. answering the vegan matzo ball call. f'in hippies.

    - L. xo

    Blender or food processor
    Medium sized mixing bowl
    Large stock pot with lid
    Cutting board
    Slotted spoon
    Saran wrap or tupperware container with lid
    Parchment paper(optional)

    1 1/2 cups matzoh meal
    12 oz package firm silken tofu (like mori-nu)
    1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1/2 cup vegetable stock
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    1 carrot, peeled
    handful fresh dill
    fresh parsley for garnish

    8 cups or so vegetable broth

    In a mixing bowl, combine the matzoh meal with salt and pepper, set aside.

    Crumble the tofu into In a blender or food processor, add the vegetable broth and puree until smooth. Add the oil and blend again.

    Mix the tofu mixture with the matzoh meal. Combine well, making sure that everything moist. Grate 1/2 the carrot into the mixture and combine until it's well distributed. Cover the bowl with saran wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to overnight. You can't skip this step, it's important in making sure that the matzoh balls will not fall apart when boiled.

    When you are ready to form the balls, fill a large stock pot with enough water to fit all the matzoh balls with minimal touching. Salt the water generously, cover and bring to a boil.

    Have handy a cutting board to line up the formed matzoh balls, and cover it with parchment paper if you have it, to prevent sticking. Also have handy a wet rag to wipe your hands on to make for clean hands for forming matzoh balls.

    Remove matzoh mixture from the fridge. Form into tightly packed, walnut sized balls. When all the balls are prepared, drop carefully into the boiling water, 1 or two at a time, with a spatula or slotted spoon. Take your time and be careful, not to plop one on top of the other. When all the balls are in the water, cover the pot and DO NOT LIFT LID FOR FORTY MINUTES! Sorry for the caps, just had to stress it. When the forty minutes are up you can remove the lid. The matzoh balls will have floated to the top and will drop back down when lid is lifted. This is fun to watch.

    Now they are ready to serve, however, to make them even lighter, you can turn off the heat, cover the pot again, and let them sit in the water for another hour or so. This way they absorb more water and expand a bit more.

    Prepare the broth by placing it in a seperate pot. Grate the other half of the carrot into the broth, along with a healthy handful or fresh dill, roughly chopped. Bring to a low boil, and when it's just heated you're ready to prepare the bowls.

    With a slotted spoon, carefully remove matzoh balls and place 2 or 3 in a bowl. Ladle the broth over the matzoh balls, so that they're covered only about half way. You can garnish with some more fresh dill, or parsley. Serve to whoever you love.

    If you are not serving the soup right away, you can refrigerate them over night, and boil them when ready, Some people even freeze leftovers, but I never have as there's never been leftovers.

  4. Thanks for the information. These look great.

  5. I used to live with a vegan and did quite a bit of eggless baking. Since I'm allergic to soy, we never used the silken tofu method. We did, however, pick up a powdered egg-replacer from Planet Organic that is amazing. You won't get the same "lift" as using egg, but it might work for what you are doing since it works really well in cupcakes.

  6. You can always try They have a myriad of substitutes for every occasion.

    Needless to say, I'm looking forward to this one...