Thursday, February 25, 2010

Springtime Means Light Soups!

Despite what the weather in your neck of the woods may be doing--if you're here in Georgia, it's still very winter...most days...--spring cometh! And with each changing season, so does the food we eat and prepare. It's a natural part of life. The foods that grow and flourish in a particular season are generally what the human body needs to make the most of that season. For example, in the fall we see root vegetables, which have the vitamins we need to live in a setting with less sunlight and less warmth.

So, you're probably thinking, what am I going to tell you about today as a spring food? Well...matza ball soup!

If you aren't Jewish, you've probably never had this soup. I'm not Jewish, and I was introduced to it by sheer curiosity in the grocery store about two years ago. You can buy it in cans, that have about three to four matzo balls, along with a lightly seasoned broth. You can also buy jars of matza balls in broth (simply to preserve them), or packaged matzo meal to make your own balls/dumplings.

There are a lot of things you can do with this soup. If you want a light meal, go with the simple broth and dumpling version. If you want something heartier, then let me point you to MY way of making this great spring soup...

~~~Herbed Matzo Ball Feast~~~

*For the dumplings:
1 package matzo ball mix
1 egg
1 tbsp olive oil (I recommend extra virgin, for the flavor)

*For the soup:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp fresh-ground Italian herb blend
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup white wine
2 boxes chicken broth
1 box water (just measure with an empty chicken broth box)
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Before you get started, you're going to need some basic (but essential) equipment: a refrigerator, a big soup pot, and a lid that fits on that pot. The lid is KEY to this process. If you don't have a tight-fitting lid for the pot, you might as well just toss some Cheerios into the pot, cause your dumplings will be utter fail and fall apart.

Alright, let's get down to business!

Pour your package of matzo mix into a bowl. Beat the egg in another bowl, and add to the mix as well as the olive oil. Mix *very* well, knead with your hands if you'd like. Place the bowl into the fridge for at least an hour. The longer you chill the mix, the more dense your dumplings will be. If you want them fluffy, take them out at an hour.

Grab your soup pot, and plop it onto the stove at medium-high heat. Throw in the olive oil and let it heat up. Put in the garlic, salt, herbs and crushed pepper. At this stage, you want to brown the garlic and toast those herbs to pull out their maximum flavor. Once a good bit of the oil has cooked down and the garlic starts to stick to the pan, add the white wine to de-glaze the pan and pull up all that yummy flavor. Take the pot off the eye and swirl it around to make sure you get every bit of flavor you can.

Return the pot to the stove, and add in your chicken broth and water. Bring up to a medium boil, add in the chicken breasts, and simmer for about fifteen minutes, to get the water nice and hot and let the herbs and garlic distribute through the broth.You can continue to let it simmer as you take the chicken breasts out and pull the meat apart. Return the meat to the pot. Retrieve your dumpling mix and begin to shape them into 1/2" balls. Make sure you pack them well, so that they don't fall apart in the broth.

Bring your broth to a rolling boil, and I do mean rolling. Crank that heat up, get it going nice and hot. Drop your dumplings in one at a time, and immediately cover tightly with the lid. Crank the heat down just a bit, so that it doesn't boil over, and let it boil the dumplings for 20 minutes.

VOILA! You've got yourself a great batch of matzo soup that is sure to pwn your taste buds.

P.S--it's even better the next day, like most good foods.

Taz'dingo, my friends! And remember: "tasty" is more than just flavor!