Posted by Elana Horwich
The Matzo Ball
Put a little schmaltz in your balls.
Those unschooled in Yiddish might suspect that I am suggesting you add a little fire to your life, a spring in your step, a little chutzpah to your decisions. Yes, that too. However, schmaltz is the yiddish word for chicken fat and we are talking matzo balls.
For the past months I have been raving about my delicious matzo ball soup in advertisements for my cooking classes. I named it Chick-sa Soup (Chicken Soup Easy Enough for Shiksas*). The title did offend some, but since I came up with the catchy wording with my dear friend Caitlin, a self-defined shiksa of unparalleled order (a blond-haired, blue-eyed Texan who, much to the dismay of her parents, married a man with the last name of Cohen), I decided to ignore the upset.
Jews own the domain of chicken soup, just like the Italians own the domain of pasta and Mexicans own the domain of the tortilla. If a Baptist automotive group held a class called “Emergency Tire Change So You Don’t Get Killed On a Lone Highway Easy Enough for a JAP,” I promise you, I would happily sign up!
But the truth is, I had never even made a matzo ball in my life. The closest I had ever come to making a matzo ball was watching Angie, our family’s housekeeper, make a batch according to package instructions. Who am I to profess expertise on the subject? Who am I to claim that my matzo balls are soooo easy that even a non-Jewish woman could make them? With what chutzpah do I permit such presumption!? Good lord, I’m walking around like I got schmaltz in my balls.
Having to deliver an easy and extraordinarily delicious recipe to my students that held up to my lofty proclamations presented me with the ultimate challenge. And ultimately, that is the game I love to play most in my job.
I have now explored the far and wide frontiers of the matzo ball. I have read countless recipes and endless explanations. The juries all point to the same factor: Put a little schmaltz in your balls.
I choose duck fat as it is a more indulgent choice. (For those hypochondriacs who are already in the hospital for heart failure, I would have you know that the French, who have an overwhelmingly better state of heart health than we do, consider duck fat to be part of a heart healthy diet as it contains a unique type of saturated fat that is actually considered to be beneficial. That said, those who are following the new American movement to fry foods in duck fat, no promises kiddos.)
These matzo balls are incredibly flavorful and quite easy to make....Easy enough for Jewish women, who nowadays are in fact some of the worst cooks I know!
*Note: I would encourage you to read Bon Appetit’s Matzo Ball 101 which highlights Associate Food Editor and Matzo-Ball-Master Selma Brown Morrow’s best tips for perfect balls. I thank her as much of my recipe below is owed to her expertise, gained from years of feeding her family.
Makes 12 medium sized matzo balls.
Note: Start this recipe the day before you plan to serve it. If it is already too late, plan on chilling the matzo ball mix for as long as you can, three hours at least.
1 cup matzo meal
4-5 tablespoons duck fat or schmaltz, at room temperature
4 tablespoons (homemade) chicken broth
1 ½ teaspoons salt plus more for salting cooking water
1 teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon dried ginger (don’t worry, they won’t taste like ginger...it just adds a taste of freshness to the matzo balls)
1 quart homemade or boxed chicken broth (for cooking matzo balls, not for serving them)
1 celery stalk
some parsley or dill to throw into cooking water
Homemade Chicken Broth for Serving: See BASIC CHICKEN BROTH
The Day Before:
In a small pot, add the 4 tablespoons of homemade chicken broth and set over medium flame until it is reduced in half to 2 tablespoons. Pour into a glass and set in fridge until it reaches room temp.
Whisk eggs, 1 ½ teaspoon salt, pepper, ginger and chopped herbs in a bowl until well mixed.
Stir in matzo meal and reduced chicken broth.
Add duck fat or schmaltz and stir in well.
Cover with plastic wrap and put in fridge overnight.
The Day Of:
In a large pot, set 5 quarts of water along with the boxed or homemade chicken broth, carrot, celery and parsley or dill over a high flame and cover until it comes to a boil.
Add a small handful of salt to the boiling water/broth as if it were pasta water...it should taste salty like the sea.
Using wet hands, form the matzo meal into imperfectly shaped balls, about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
Place each one in the boiling water/broth. Stir to make sure they don’t stick.
Cover and cook for 50 minutes.
Cut one open to make sure it is fully cooked. If not cook them for a few minutes more.
Lift out of water with a slotted spoon and place one or two in a serving bowl.
Ladle homemade chicken broth into each bowl.
Optional: garnish with a little chopped parsley or dill.
*A shiksa is a yiddish word for a non-Jewish girl or woman. It traditionally has a negative connotation to it. However, much of the negative connotation comes from a certain jealous belief that non-Jewish women are more beautiful and could be a possible threat to Jewish women. For example, “Do you know Jonathan Goldstein? He’s not married but he’s dating a shiksa.” Shiksa, like goy, which is the general yiddish term for a non-Jew, points to non-Jewish men and women as outsiders. It is my hope, that by using these old Yiddish words in a playful new way, I will invite all to come inside for a little meal and a spiel.
If you live in LA and would like to take classes with Elana, please visit www.mealandaspiel.com
12.18.13 at 9:00 am | Eat only celery! Just kidding. Like that's an. . .
11.27.13 at 9:34 am | This day could be "the day" and I just think the. . .
11.22.13 at 9:00 am | Yep. Break 'em.
10.30.13 at 9:00 am | All Hail Seize-Her!
10.23.13 at 9:00 am | Israelis keep eff-ing it up, but they sure like. . .
10.17.13 at 9:00 am | The idea of throwing dinner parties to impress. . .
March 19, 2013 | 9:00 am
Posted by Elana Horwich
For years I had a recurring nightmare that I find myself in the Sienese countryside where Chianti grapes display themselves in Bacchanalian rows, inviting an aimless wanderer, me, in to taste a bite of their intoxicating deep purple fruit.
With a bunch of grapes ripped off the vine, emblazoning my hands with their royal juice, I feared the eyes of the landowners who were keeping a vigilant lookout for pesty crows and hungry trespassing Americans. I skulked behind the vineyard leaves, lest they catch me purple-handed.
In the fantasy the sunlight always came in from a 4 o’clock direction, which my therapist claimed, because the rays of light hit the “grapes” from an angle and not from a direct overhead noontime light, that this scenario must represent repressed Freudian urges that I have not yet dealt with and hence I was imagining myself in Italy.
Trapped time and time again in this nostalgic fantasy of perfect Renaissance landscape, crisp autumn colors, a late afternoon breeze carrying lavender and rosemary scents on its wings, and a bunch of freshly picked Chianti grapes in my hand, my anxiety was predictable and it always the same:
What would be the perfect cake for this situation? ! ?
Finally, with this recipe, I can put the Xanex aside.
(And so can you. This cake might put the pharmaceutical companies out of business. It’s that comforting.)
one 9” spring form cake pan, well oiled with extra virgin olive oil
a pinch of salt
½ cup raw honey- less if not using raw
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ cup 2% Greek yogurt
the zest of two (blood) oranges, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
Preheat oven to 350ºF
Beat eggs with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes
Add honey to eggs and beat for another three minutes
Fold in almond meal
Fold in olive oil, yogurt, orange zest and rosemary
Pour into pan and bake for 30-33 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean
Let rest on a rack and then carefully remove from cake pan, using a knife to peel away bottom.
Eat warm or save by covering with foil...will stay moist for several days.
Passover cooking classes are this week! If you live in LA and would like to take classes with Elana, please visit www.mealandaspiel.com
March 18, 2013 | 9:01 am
Posted by Elana Horwich
Charoset (pronouned cHa-roset, with an almost silent “c” like cHa-nnuka) is the delicious chopped fruit, nut and wine mixture on the Passover seder table that symbolizes the mortar between the bricks that the Jews laid while slaves in Egypt 3,000 years ago. Why the mortar we eat is sweet is not totally clear. Perhaps because we are no longer slaves? In any case, that is not what I intend to spiel about. I am sure there is a decent answer in any Passover haggadah, but quite frankly I am too lazy to get up and look at one.
MY question is: why would we Jews, a People who have overcome so much pain and strife, millennia of refugee status, genocide and horrible PR, a People who have risen to great success in financial, intellectual and creative realms, still continue to choose the cheapest of the cheap sweet wines, Manischewitz, to make charoset on one of the most important holidays of the year!?
Sure, every nice bar mitzvah kid loves a good taste of Manischewitz and I am no exception, but have we not grown up as a People? Has our collective culinary palate remained at adolescent status? Do we think we are still in the Great Depression, a time when we added sugar and a little vinegar to grape juice and called it wine?
I can hear a tirade of yentas lashing back, “it’s because Manischewitz is kosher, that’s why we use it for charoset. “ But if you are reading this, there is a 99% percent chance that you don’t even keep kosher. And if you do, there are many delicious, high quality kosher wines to celebrate our exodus from slavery.
My personal anthropological theory is that we have been using Manischewitz in our Passover charoset for so many years and generations that, as a People, we never thought to question it. Well People, QUESTION IT!
Here is a recipe that is Italian in inspiration. Chilled Moscato is one of my favorite dessert wines and the thought of drinking it with fruit and nuts transports me to the rolling vineyards of Piedmont where Moscato grapes are grown. I actually did quite an extensive research into traditional Italian Jewish charoset recipes from various regions and found that many Italian recipes call for the use of chestnuts, which, other than seeming difficult to use, remind me of Christmas. Many Italian recipes also call for the cooking of the charoset, which mine here does. But don’t worry, it cooks only long enough to meld the flavors together. You will still have a crunchy charoset and it won’t look like applesauce.
To learn the health benefits of the ingredients, what I call Vigor Triggers, please click on them.
If you live in Los Angeles and would like to take classes with Elana, please visit: www.mealandaspiel.com
March 15, 2013 | 9:00 am
Posted by Elana Horwich
Asparagus is in season!
Wondering why it has a unique affect on your potty? Me too. I don’t know why. But it does: