This past Monday, family and friends were together in the kitchen, rolling scores of matzoh balls in preparation for the several-course meal at nightfall — the start of the eight day celebration of Passover. At our Passover dinner, chicken soup with matzoh balls is one of the favorite courses. These cherished “dumplings” are made from ground matzoh, eggs, and oil.
My brother leads the Passover Seder. Among many of the Seder rituals, out of innocence the youngest child able asks ‘The Four Questions.’ The first Question his eight-year-old son, Jett, poses, “Why is this night different from all other nights? On all other nights we eat leavened bread or matzoh but tonight we eat only matzoh. Why?”
During the Seder, Jett will learn the answer to the Question. Our ancestors were slaves when God chose Moses to lead their liberation. Moses demanded that the Egyptian pharaoh release our people from bondage. But pharaoh refused, thus one-by-one, God sent 10 plagues down upon the Egyptians. Finally, pharaoh relented and agreed to free the Israelites.
There had to be sustenance for the journey out of Egypt, but there was no time to wait for bread dough to rise! In the hurry to escape before pharaoh would change his mind, our ancestors baked unleavened cakes of dough. This bread is called matzoh. When yeast is introduced into a mixture of flour and water then left to ferment, over time it will result in leavened dough. Without this leavening, the bread is flat like a cracker. Like matzoh.
To my nephew and all the children at Seders around the world, the first Question is answered, “This night is different because we eat the unleavened bread called matzoh in remembrance of our ancestors’ haste to leave Egypt.”
The Ethereal Matzoh Ball Recipe
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 t. fresh chopped parsley
1 t. fresh chopped dill
1 packet matzoh ball mix (2 1/2 oz.). Available at most large grocery stores in the ethnic section.
In a small bowl, whisk eggs with olive oil. Stir in the herbs.
Add one packet matzoh ball mix. Mix with a fork until completely incorporated, but don’t over-mix.
Place matzoh ball mixture in refrigerator for 15 minutes.
In the meantime bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Wet hands and roll chilled matzoh ball mixture into nine balls.
Drop balls into boiling water. Cover. Lower the heat to medium-low (not simmer).
Cook for 30 minutes, do not lift lid while cooking (no peeking)!
Remove balls from water with a slotted spoon.
Serve cooked matzoh balls in your favorite chicken soup.
This easy preparation makes the most popular matzoh balls ~ light, fluffy, flavorful. The secrets are simple but important. First, use good tasting olive oil, not a bland vegetable oil. Second, add a small amount of fresh herbs for color and bright springtime flavor. Don’t over work the egg mixture. Use a large pot, to give the matzoh balls plenty of room to expand. Keep the heat at medium-low, not a simmer, to create agitation to puff up the balls. Use a tight-fitting lid, and do not remove it until the 30 minutes have passed. This creates more steam and pressure in the pot, helping those balls to become aerated. After 30 minutes, cut one ball in half, check the center to make sure it has cooked all the way through. Then enjoy the sacrificial matzoh ball as a snack. If making more than one batch, cook the batches separately, we have three pots going on the stove at once. And don’t cook the matzoh balls in your chicken soup, that will cloud your beautiful soup. (My best chicken soup recipe can be found here).
One-year-old Cousin Ava enjoying her first matzoh ball.
We hope your Passover is bright with tradition,
full of love, warm hearts, and all the blessings of celebrating together.