A lot of people say autumn weather pushes them towards the kitchen, towards the warmth of the stove as the sky darkens and the air chills, towards soups and stews and pies filled with apples. One of you even said here recently that this time of year means that the family comes inside together, to be wrapped up and warm, sipping hot cups of tea (I liked that very much).
But can I tell you something? October has had the opposite effect on me. Instead of slowing down to come inside, I’ve gotten busier—busier in a good way, doing fantastic things like celebrating birthdays and touring new neighborhoods and visiting farms and, also, spending an early Sunday morning driving to Indiana a few weekends ago, to meet my beautiful friend Sue, whom I haven’t seen since 2003 (!). Here’s me with her and her perfect 10-month-old daughter that couldn’t be cuter:
We met at Sophia’s House of Pancakes, where, while she waited, Sue told the owner I was sort of a food critic, which meant we not only got treated very, very well, but also that I took a few pictures of the good food we ate to show you later (it only seemed right).
You know, there were over 200 miles between us, each way, and I watched the sun rise over Indiana farms on my drive down, right around the time I realized Greenwood is an hour ahead of Chicago and so I would be pretty late getting there, but, honestly, it was absolutely worth every minute because Sue is just that kind of friend, and it was so good to sit across a table from her, to hear her voice and listen to her laugh and meet her daughter for the first time.
So anyway, please don’t think I’m complaining with this next bit because, I promise, I really do know I’ve been especially blessed lately, but thing is, in the midst of all these good gifts of conversation and travel and food-not-made-by-me, I am having the hardest time getting into the kitchen. If it hadn’t been for another of my old college friends, Elizabeth, who lived with me in the bedbug-infested Unit G of our freshman year and recently reconnected with me on Facebook, I don’t know what I would have done.
You are going to love this soup. After she made it, Elizabeth actually hand-typed the whole recipe in a Facebook message for me, complete with commentary—and this is amidst chasing that crazy curly-haired little girl of hers—because she loved it so much and wanted me to be able to love it, too. While normally I’d adapt any recipe I post here with my own notes, this one’s too great not to share exactly as is.
So listen, wherever you are, however your October’s going and whether it’s drawing you inside or sending you out, I hope you’ll find a space of hours to stand over the stove with this soup cooking, or if you don’t, I hope you’ll have good friends that come into your life to sit a while, to spend a Saturday, to send Facebook messages filled with food tips, because, it seems to me, these are some of the best things in life.
Elizabeth’s Matzo Ball Soup
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Seasonal Celebration Series, Spring.
she writes: Joshua and I find that when someone hypes something up: a movie, event, show, whatever, when we go, it’s not so good. So this recipe totally rots. I mean, really, you should invite only people you don’t really care about over for dinner and serve them this slop.
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup matzo meal
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 to 4 Tablespoons seltzer water or club soda (I just used regular water)
6 cups chicken stock (I added 3 cups water so I could cover the matzo balls, and besides, I was going to let it simmer a little longer)
8 slices fresh ginger, each about 1/4 inch thick
1 leek, including 1 inch of green portion, cut into 1/2 inch dice and carefully rinsed
1 large carrot, sliced
In a bowl, whisk together the eggs and vegetable oil. Stir in the matzo meal, parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper. Add 2 tbs seltzer water and stir to form a slightly sticky mixture. If it is too dry, add 1 to 2 additional tbs seltzer water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, about 2 hours (I might have waited an hour–I was hungry!)
Bring a large soup pot three-fourths full of salted water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Form the matzo mixture into balls 1 inch in diameter. You should have 12 balls total. Drop the balls into the simmering water and cook, uncovered, until they rise to the top and are cooked all the way through, 30 to 40 minutes. To see if they are ready, cut into one; the color and texture should be consistent throughout. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the matzo balls to a baking sheet. Set aside. (I did not do any of this…too many dirty dishes!)
In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chicken stock and ginger and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the leek and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the ginger. I also added one large carrot, sliced.
Add the matzo balls to the simmering stock and reheat for 3 minutes. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, placing 2 matzo balls in each bowl. Garnish with the chives and serve immediately.
Hope it’s tasty. We liked it.
Update: A few days after the original message, Elizabeth wrote to tell me she’d made it FOUR MORE TIMES already and still found it to be her favorite and had I tried it yet? Next time, she’s going to try whole wheat matzo meal, and I think she is amazing.