March 16, 2010

Chewy or fluffy? And does size really matter?

It's almost Passover, and this will be the first time in many years (maybe 25 years!) we aren't sharing a Seder with two vegetarian families in Wisconsin. We've been getting together for such a long time, I don't even know how to do it without them. When we first started this tradition, there were 14 of us, including small kids, plus extra people who invariably got invited. And as the kids got older and went to college, they sometimes brought friends. We used to put tables together that extended from the dining room into the living room to accommodate all the guests. Over the years as our kids moved away, the group grew smaller, but still we always got together. Now we've moved away, and things will be different this year.

This year we'll have all the members of our immediate family plus my husband's mother and sister. I'm starting to think about the menu, and how to divide the cooking. And I'm trying to get a handle on vegan matzoh balls, since matzoh balls are traditionally dependent on eggs. Not all the members of our long-time Seder family were vegan, and the person who always made the soup made traditional egg-based matzoh balls. At home for my family, I made a vegan version with varying degrees of success.

The first time I made vegan matzoh balls, I used the recipe from the PPK and it worked beautifully. They disintegrated a little but I still managed to have some very tasty dumplings in the soup. But for some mysterious reason, the next two times I made them, they completely fell apart, and I had nothing. I swear, I followed the recipe exactly. (Yes, I know you have to refrigerate the dough.) Yesterday I tried a recipe from "The Vegan Table" that depends on ground flax seeds to replace the egg. The balls didn't fall apart, and they tasted OK but were small, slightly gummy and weird when they first came out of the pot. I put them into the freshly made, hot soup, and left them for a couple of hours. When we ate the soup for dinner, both my husband and I thought the matzoh balls tasted delicious. The taste and texture had improved dramatically, though large and fluffy they were not. I loved their chewy texture, but wonder what the non-vegans and non-vegetarians will think. (Note: The matzoh ball dough is rather stiff and dry, and that's the way it must be for a successful result.)

The soup stock was based on a simple dashi (using 6 cups water, 8 dried mushrooms, 1 piece kombu, soaked four hours) to which embellishments were added with abandon — a splash of this and a little of that. Mirin, brown rice vinegar, tamari, granulated onion, granulated garlic, two large cloves of minced fresh garlic, salt and pepper, dried dill, a pinch of turmeric and four large carrots went into the soup. It looked like chicken soup, and tasted fantastic. I just hope I can create something similar for our family gathering.

I intend to try Isa's recipe again to see if I can get it to work, and then decide which matzoh balls to use for the Seder. Any suggestions?

For vegan Passover macaroons, click here.


Day-glo bread insides revealed

Get out your sun glasses. Several people wanted to see the inside of the too-yellow bread from my last post, so here it is in all its golden glowing glory.


52nd Street Tofu House

This is a plate of take-out Korean food from 52nd Street Tofu House. They have a vegan menu (as well as the regular menu) but just because a place has vegan food doesn't mean you should go there. The food was OK but not great. We had two combo plates — tofu and veggies and gyoza with broccoli. I actually prefer the frozen gyoza that my son buys at the Asian market near his house. The tofu dish was decent but the potato dish that came with it was sickeningly sweet, and neither my husband or myself chose to eat it. We may give this place another chance and actually eat there, since take-out isn't always the best way to judge a restaurant.


  1. Those matzo balls look pretty fantastic to me! And in our house, my sisters and I used to LOVE the dense, slightly gummy ones--the airy, light ones were always passed by!

  2. Your soup looks absolutely delicious, Andrea! Believe it or not? I've never tried matzo balls before in my life so I don't know if they are fluffy or chewy but they really look so yummy to me. I should trying making them one of these days, thanks for sharing such a great post:)

  3. I am sorry your friends can't be with you for passover this year. Your soup looks perfect and I think the bread has an awesome colour!

  4. Ricki,
    I love both the fluffy and the dense, but especially the BIG. :) These were dense, chewy and small. But they were delicious, so I may just have to look past their diminutive size. The eternal question: does size matter?

    Thank you! I love all sorts of soup dumplings. I should make them more often!

    I will sorely miss my friends, but gathering with my family will be wonderful, too.

  5. I was one of those people that wanted to see the inside of the day-glo bread. Thanks! It looks awesome, just like I imagined it would be.

    I can't say I've ever had matzoh balls, but the soup sure does look good. To me, it looks very Asian.

  6. Whoa....those matzoh balls look AMAZING! You know, I don't think I've ever had matzoh ball soup but now I REALLY want to! What a delicious looking dish!

  7. Chow vegan,
    The soup stock was definitely Asian but I thought the end result was very chicken-soup-like, which was my goal. Perhaps I am projecting. The matzoh balls and shiitake mushrooms make odd bedfellows, I know. Let's just call it Asian fusion. :)

    I'm not really sure about this but a passion for matzoh balls might be genetic. :)

  8. That's one bonnie bowl of soup Andrea :)

  9. Jacqueline,
    Why, thank you!

  10. Reading your blog makes me all farklempt, I swear! This evening Betsy and I talked over the menu and decided to have a good time anyway.... but of course it won't be the same. I say go with the vegan balls... I'll try some at home on my own too. But for the group that will gather next week, I'm not going to bother! Have a great time, and maybe we'll leave the wineglass out for YOU!

  11. Claire,
    I had to look up farklempt, but now I am, too. I can hardly stand that you're doing the menu without me. Waaa. I should be grateful to have my family around me, and I am, but I will sorely miss all of you! Maybe you should send me the menu so I can make the same thing — a parallel seder!


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