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A few weeks ago I came down with whatever cold it is that's been going around, and I had to cancel some plans. So the friend I canceled on had a few things delivered to my house from a fancy food shop: a perfectly soft roast chicken, some mildly spicy corn, and a pint of one of the strongest medicines known to humankind: matzo ball soup.
Regardless of whether a person grew up with matzo ball soup as part of their cultural heritage, it seems to have that soothing feeling for many who try it. A chicken-based broth, lightly seasoned, with a giant plush matzo ball that easily breaks into easy-to-chew pieces is a pretty safe bet for comforting a throat and a mind.
And while matzo ball soup isn’t a typical "health food," one serving does offer 6 grams of protein. Protein helps with development in childhood, adolescence, and pregnancy, and is a component of every cell in the body, including hair and nails. It is an essential building block of bones, muscle, blood, cartilage, and skin.
The history of matzo ball soup, aka "Jewish penicillin," dates back to Biblical days. The Biblical story goes that when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, they did not have time to prepare their bread dough in such a manner that it would rise, so they took it with them unprepared and ended up cooking it in the sun on available rocks. This produced a crispy cracker, which they called matzo, and thus began the tradition of observant Jews only eating unleavened bread products during Passover.
Here is a recipe you can try at home, straight from the Food Network.
Matzo Ball Soup
For the broth:
• 1 3- to 4-pound chicken
• 3 stalks celery, halved
• 2 medium carrots, halved
• 1 onion, halved
• 5 plum tomatoes, quartered
• 3 sprigs parsley
• 3 sprigs dill
• 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
• 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
• 2 whole cloves
• Kosher salt
For the matzo balls:
• 4 large eggs
• 3 tablespoons grated shallot or onion, squeezed dry
• 1 small clove garlic, finely grated
• 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
• 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, plus small sprigs for topping
• 1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
• 1 cup matzo meal
• Kosher salt
Make the broth: Put the chicken, celery, carrots, onion, tomatoes, parsley, dill, coriander seeds, peppercorns, cloves and 2 teaspoons salt in a large pot. Add enough cold water to cover by 1 inch. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat; reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook, skimming off the foam occasionally, 3 hours. Strain, discarding the solids. Let cool until the fat rises to the surface. (The broth can be made up to 3 days ahead; cover and refrigerate.) Skim off the fat, reserving 2 tablespoons fat for the matzo balls.
Make the matzo balls: Whisk the eggs and reserved chicken-broth fat in a bowl. Stir in the shallot, garlic, lemon zest, ginger, dill, parsley, matzo meal, 1/4 cup of the prepared broth and 1 3/4 teaspoons salt. Cover and chill at least 2 hours or overnight. Roll heaping teaspoonfuls of dough into balls with damp hands. Cover and chill until ready to cook, up to 8 hours.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the matzo balls and reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer; cover and cook until the balls are tender, 35 minutes. Meanwhile, warm the prepared broth. Drain the matzo balls and serve in the warm broth. Top with dill.
SERVES: 4; Calories: 130; Total Fat: 3 grams; Saturated Fat: 1 gram; Protein: 6 gram; Total carbohydrates: 20 grams; Sugar: 1 gram; Fiber: 1 gram; Cholesterol: 124 milligrams; Sodium: 242 milligrams