Like A Big, Fat Matzoh Ball

photo by my lovely cousin, Ben Fenton

I live life in rhythms. Some might say phases, but I think rhythms is nicer.

When I was little, I collected stickers. I got into a sticker rhythm. Puffy ones, fuzzy ones, scratch n' sniff. And those awesome, blueish greenish oily stickers. Remember those? Those guys were the emperors of the (very rigid and well known) hierarchy of stickers.

When I realized stickers weren't all that fun, I started a candle collection. Nearly burned down our house in seventh grade. Actually, it was my friend Jessie Olson who almost burned down our house with my candle collection in seventh grade, but I would never tell anyone that.

Recently, I've been in a cookies and soup rhythm. The rhythm goes like this: it's a steady hum of cookie dough, of little mounds rising in the oven, of crunchy, chewy oatmeal chocolate chips. A gentle swell of soup, of chopping leeks and stirring broth, and steam rising from the big silver pot. It's a nice rhythm to be in, I think. No matter the weather, or the day of the week, I want cookies and soup. Sometimes in that order. It's a rhythm, alright, and I like it. It feels soft and round and perfect, like a big, fat matzoh ball.

photo by Ben Fenton

I'm sure this rhythm will change eventually, maybe into a new found love for surfing. Or, more realistically, for berry tarts. For now, though, I'll stick with my soup, and with my cookies. You can keep your oily stickers; I'm no longer in the market.

photo by Ben Fenton

Aunt Lissie's Matzoh Ball Soup
Adapted from Ina Garten and Streit's Matzoh Meal

This soup. It makes me want to hug someone. It has a deep, chickeny flavor, which is offset by sweet carrots and mild, pillowy matzoh balls. It's just so full of love. It's warming and hearty, without being heavy or rich. Thanks to the recipe on the box of Streit's matzoh meal, Lissie's matzoh balls are lighter than air and fluffier than a blow-dried Pomeranian. They're substantial enough to fill you up but won't leave you with that heavy, hibernation-seems-like-a-nice-idea feeling.

photo by Ben Fenton

We ate this soup last Monday night, at our family's Passover seder, and I wondered why we don't eat matzoh ball soup year round. Actually, this is something I wonder every year. This year, I plan to eat more matzoh ball soup. For reals. I'm convinced this soup could spawn world peace, if people would just let it. Won't you let it?


For broth:
  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2 medium onions, quartered
  • 3 carrots, unpeeled and chopped
  • 4 stalks celery, with leaves, chopped
  • 2 parsnips, chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley
  • 1 bunch fresh thyme
  • 1 bunch fresh dill
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, unpeeled & smashed
  • 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
For matzoh balls:
  • 1 cup Matzo Meal (Aunt Lis uses Streit's)
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • pinch ground pepper
To serve soup:
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, chopped (you can also use whole baby carrots)
  • 1/2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 tablespoons minced fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • reserved chicken meat, shredded into bite-sized pieces
  • salt and pepper, to taste


To make the stock, put the whole chicken, stock veggies, herbs and seasonings in a large stock pot. Add enough cold water to cover everything, and put it over high heat to bring to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the stock, covered, for 40 minutes. Carefully, using kitchen tongs, remove the chicken from the pot. Let the chicken cool for about 20 minutes, until it's cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the chicken, and place the bones and carcass back into the pot. Refrigerate the meat until ready to finish the soup.

Continue simmering the soup gently for two hours. Make sure that the soup doesn't come to a full boil, or else it will be cloudy. After two hours, remove the soup from the stock and strain it through a fine sieve or cheesecloth. Remove the solids and discard.

At this point, the broth can be put back on the stove (to finish the soup), or it can be left to cool and refrigerated, up to a week.

To make the matzoh balls, beat the eggs vigorously in a large bowl. Add water, oil, salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the matzoh meal and stir thoroughly to combine. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, and up to 1 hour.

Partially fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil. Moisten hands with cold water and form matzoh meal mixture into balls, about 1 inch in diameter. Drop the matzoh balls into the water, and boil for 30 minutes. Drain on a paper-towel lined cookie sheet.

Note: At this point, the matzoh balls can be flash frozen, right on the cookie sheet (just remove the paper towels first). They store well in a zip-top bag in the freezer. To reheat, just drop them, frozen, into simmering stock and cook for about 20 minutes, until warmed through.

To finish the soup, reheat the stock in a large pot, bringing it to a simmer. (If you've refrigerated the stock and it's cold, skim off the layer of fat on top before adding the stock to your pot). Add carrots, celery, matzoh balls, and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer the soup until the matzoh balls are warmed through (about 20 minutes, if they've been frozen). Add the reserved shredded chicken and simmer a few minutes more, until chicken has warmed. Add the fresh herbs, and serve immediately.

Makes about 4 quarts of soup, and 10-12 matzoh balls.


Not Hard To Eat

Cream scones.



Today, I made some. I then ate approximately 4 of them, in rapid succession, and then felt approximately ill. But really, what was I supposed to do? My mother and her friends were sitting around our kitchen table, planning my cousin Laura's wedding shower and gabbing away about save the dates and "party flow" and napkin schemes. I love a good party, and I love Laura, but when it comes to bridal shower crockery, apparently I'm at a loss. Party flow. napkin schemes. What else could I do but shove warm cream scones down my gullet?

They're not hard to eat, these scones. They're fragile and flaky, and studded with tiny berries, bright and beautiful, like jewels in the sand. They smell of toasted butter and, though light and crumbling, feel satisfyingly heavy in your palm. That cream. And with a smear of soft butter and jam? You can forget all about napkin schemes. Which is just fine by me.

Berried Cream Scones
Barely adapted from Gourmet, March 1990

Cream scones are traditionally made with dried currants, I believe. I found a blend of dried berries at Trader Joe's called "Golden Berry Blend" with golden raisins, cherries, cranberries and blueberries, and found the resulting berry scones to be mildly awesome.

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for sprinkling the scones (I used turbinado sugar for sprinkling)
  • 1/2 cup dried berries (I used a mixture of dried cherries, cranberries, blueberries and raisins)
  • 1 rounded teaspoon lemon zest
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, plus more for brushing the scones
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400ºF.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (if you don't have a stand mixer just use a medium-sized bowl), mix together the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and sugar.

Add the dried berries and lemon zest, and mix to thoroughly combine.

Add the cold, cubed butter, and used the paddle attachment (or a pastry cutter or just two knives) to incorporate the butter into the flour mixture, until the butter pieces look about the size of lentils (or a bit larger).

Combine the cream, egg, and vanilla in a small measuring cup or mixing bowl. Pour the liquid into the flour butter mixture, and mix gently, until just combined. The dough will be shaggy and a bit crumbly - this is good. If you over-mix the dough, your scones will come out dense and tough, instead of light and flaky.

Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured counter top, and form it into a square about 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut the dough into squares (I got nine), and gently place the squares onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.

NOTE: At this point, the scones can be put in the freezer, uncovered and right on their baking sheet, if you don't want to bake them immediately. I froze mine overnight and baked them off the next morning, from frozen. They work beautifully and this step saves you from having to wake up early to impress brunch guests.

Before baking, brush the scones with cream and sprinkle them with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for about 12 - 16 minutes, or until golden brown.

Serve warm, with soft butter and jam.

Makes about 9 scones.


Easy to Overlook

Never gave much thought to parsnips. I mean, why should I? Parsnips. Albino carrots, really. With skinny tails. Easy to overlook in the root vegetable department.

Y'know? What's a parsnip ever done for me?

Parsnips don't do my laundry, or help with good hair days, or pay my taxes, or remember to DVR American Idol. They don't take good photographs, or vacuum the rug, or sing at all prettily, and they don't help make dinn-- oh.

They do. Turns out they make an excellent dinner.

Leek and Parsnip Soup

Leeks give this soup a gentle but flavorful base, and the parsnips do the rest. Sweet and earthy, with a touch of richness from the addition of Parmesan cheese and a scant glug of cream, this soup is one of the better ways to eat albino carrots. I mean parsnips. Squeezing in a touch of lemon juice at the end of cooking gives the soup a cheery brightness that elevates its status from soup to, well soup.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter (I like to use unsalted)
  • 2 large leeks, white and light green parts only, washed well and chopped thinly
  • 2 lbs parsnips (about 10-12), peeled and chopped roughly into small chunks
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
  • big pinch kosher salt
  • 6 -7 cups chicken stock
  • 1 small chunk of fresh parmesan cheese (about 1 or 2 inches square)
  • splash of heavy cream, to finish (about 1/4 cup)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • chopped scallions or chives, to garnish

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the leeks and stir to coat them with oil and butter. After the leeks have been cooking for about 3 minutes, add the chopped parsnips and cook until softened ever so slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, be careful not to burn, until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper.

Add the chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Gently simmer the soup for about 20 minutes, until the parsnips are soft all the way through. Add the chunk of parmesan cheese and stir it around to help it melt into the soup.

Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree the soup until smooth (but still a bit thick). Stir in the heavy cream, the squeeze of lemon juice, taste the soup and adjust the seasoning.

Serve piping hot, garnished with a sprinkle of scallions or chives, and a hefty crust of bread.

Makes about 8 cups of soup.


The lines are long and the price tags are high, but it's tough to beat a lunch like this.

soppressata, prosciutto, fresh basil, avocado, marinated artichokes, sliced tomatoes, Anjou pear, fresh burrata

also wine, some grainy bread, jam, and a bit of light reading


Thanks for the picnic, Eataly. Nice of you to set up shop around the corner.