Passover starts tonight, April 14, at sundown and is the Jewish holiday that lasts 8 days and commemorates FREEDOM.
At Passover, families, extended families, friends and friends of friends come together for a ceremonial dinner, called a seder, in which we eat symbolic foods and read from the Haggadah – which is a libretto that tells the story of the the Jews flight from slavery in Egypt to freedom.
We eat a bread, that is not leavened and resembles a cracker, called Matzoh, to signify the bread that was eaten in the desert while the Jews were in flight and had no time for bread to rise.
You know it’s close to Passover, when stores have big displays of matzoh crackers and other related matzoh products.
I grew up on Chicken soup, referred to as “Jewish Penicillan”, and especially loved Chicken Matzoh Ball soup, which is a mainstay of most seder menus. Matzoh balls are delicious dumplings made from matzoh meal, vegetables and spices and elevate any bowl of chicken soup to treat status. Maztoh balls usually come in 2 forms – floaters (light and fluffy with just a bit of chewy at the center) and sinkers (dense and resembling cannon balls). You generally get ridiculed (just a bit and lovingly) and wear the passover seder badge of shame if you’ve made a pot of sinkers. SO…that’s why I recommend using a boxed mix and following the instructions. Mazel Tov! – that’s good luck in yiddish.
Regarding chicken soup and me, I have a sorted relationship. Since we ate waaaay too much chicken at my house growing up, and since the poultry industry has inhumane standards that make me really sad, I’ve come up with this great stand-in recipe made from red lentils sans chicken. (Think chickens raised with hormone injections, living in cages with no room to move around freely, their nails growing around the wires, no access to the outdoors, the tips of their beaks being burned off…yep, that’s what really happens at Foster Farms and most chickens sold)
What I love about my Passover the “Chicken” Matzoh Ball Soup is that it does no harm to any animal and does benefit to ME and to YOU for all it’s healthful ingredients – top ones to mention – lentils, onion, burdock root and seaweed.
I confess that recently I had chicken soup which I made from a $25 raw whole chicken raised hormone-free in a pasture, eating organic feed. It is tasty, I confess but pricey. I’m still working out my ethics. I’ll let you work out yours.
The matzoh balls do use eggs, which I recommend buying organic pasture raised eggs – they are more expensive, about $1.25 per egg, but you’ll notice the difference in taste and if you really pay attention, energetically. I no longer take eggs for granted – they are laid one at a time, often one egg per day. Remember – it only seems like eggs come ceaselessly out of a lottery ball blower.
Now for the SOUP –
Passover the “Chicken” Matzoh Ball Soup
1 cup RED lentils, (the red one’s dissolve to create a nice body)
1 medium onion
2 stalk celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 stalk fresh sage, or 1 T dried sage
1 3″ strip of kombu seaweed
2 T olive oil
Burdrock root is one of the more obscure ingredients that will give this recipe depth and power-charge your health – great for your kidneys, tonifies the blood, builds chi. It’s sold at local stored dried & diced or in it’s root form raw. Either is perfect to use and if you can’t find it, don’t sweat.
- Mince or pulse 1/2 the onion in a food processor
- Heat up light pour of olive oil in a 8 QT soup pot
- Saute the onion til it starts to clarify and brown slightly
- Meanwhile, rinse the lentils and add to the pot with 10-12 cups water
- Add bay leaf, sage and kombu
- Bring to a boil, allow to simmer and periodically skim off the foam that will spread over the top of the broth.
- Chop the carrot, celery, garlic and remaining onion – a uniform medium-sized dice or a larger rough cut that are bite sized, your preference.
- Add veggies to the simmering lentils.
- Cook until veggies are tender, and lentils are well-broken down.
- To finish this off: ADD vegetarian “chicken” broth powder, to taste or red miso paste, add approximately 1 teaspoon per cup of soup, diluted first in a small amount of water and then added to each serving. (when you boil miso, it kills the live pro-biotics that make it such a soothing healer for you digestive track).
AND THE MATZOH BALLS PLEASE:
Last year I experimented with making gluten-free, egg-free matzoh balls. They were more like sticky gnocchi than fluffy matzoh balls, so I’m sticking to my mom’s recipe – aka A BOXED MIX. This year I am using Manishewitz Low-Sodium Matzoh Ball Mix (Streitz is also a great brand) – follow the instructions on the box. Here’s where you’ll use 2 eggs and 2 T oil.
If you need a vegan matzoh ball – experiment with substituting flax meal and baking powder for the eggs.
Serve one or two matzoh balls into each bowl and enjoy with a garnish of chopped fresh parsley.
Here’s to your freedom, (and the chicken’s – “Buk buk buk buk bukkaaaaa”).