After 200+ pages of reading The Year of Living Biblically and more than a decade of going without this childhood favorite, I decided to give vegan matzoh balls a go. This is not the first time I ventured into such eggless dumplinged soup waters. In 1994, during the fag end of a two year stint as a full on vegan, I attempted to recreate the comfort of one of the few things my mother actually cooked from scratch (well, not including the matzoh). It was me, my cousin’s kitchen, a package of matzoh meal and a box of egg replacer.
I haven’t bothered with egg replacer since. The experience was such a disappointment, I could only find sympathy amongst fellow vegans with a Magan-David pendant tucked away in the back of their underwear drawer.
But in the spirit of dumplings, I thought I would give these Eastern-Euro Jew-balls a second try, thanks to Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe over at the PPK. I used a food processor. I used Manischevitz matzoh meal. I had no dill so I used a handful of cilantro. I refrigerated the mixture before rolling into balls (which really I think the instructions should be to refrigerate after rolling since the heat from one’s hand cools down the balls, but hey, I’m not the one with a stack of cookbooks on Amazon). I used 14 ounces of tofu instead of 12. And I think that is where I screwed up a little bit.
Everything looked okay. They balls felt good in my hand. There wasn’t much to worry about with them sticking. And I even forgot to add the olive oil schmaltz to the recipe.
But when things got boiling, I got scared. Isa’s instructions were in all caps: DO NOT LIFT LID FOR FORTY MINUTES! But I wanted to. But I didn’t. But I so wanted to. But I so didn’t.
The pot lid was a mess with cast away matzoh meal mix, leaving me unsure as to whether the balls totally exploded or were just shedding a little extra weight. After 40 minutes (actually, I waited 45 just to be sure), I offed the flame and lifted the lid. It didn’t look like mom’s matzoh balls, but they definitely looked passable.
Fresh arugula (tis the season!) was added to the broth and I ladled a few matzoh balls into a bowl. I ate the first pair of matzoh balls but something wasn’t quite right. I had two more. And another two. It was the texture (yes, I am sparing you from the word “mouthfeel”).
The outer layer of ball was too mush. The inside was a little dense, and good, like a New Jersey diner matzoh ball. My mom made balls as big and fluffy as a set of old world bosom, and they were good. But my balls, I don’t know. Definitely not bosomy. The best way to describe them was diner on the inside, canned pasta on the outside.
As I mentioned earlier, I think the matzoh balls have hope. I could go back to the drawing board, or, better yet, the counter top, and try out the recipe with 2 ounces less tofu in the mix. But for who? How much matzoh ball soup do I want to eat? My kids aren’t nostalgic for this meal since the only time they have ever had it was today and they were totally repelled by the sheer matzoh-ness of the aroma. And my husband? I really have no idea how many matzoh balls he ate as a kid but I can assure you, the count wouldn’t even come close to my matzoh ball consumption. It was my pizza: I would eat it cold the next day standing in front of the fridge.
After the matzoh ball hit or miss, I watched this little guy for a few hours. I didn’t offer him any matzoh ball soup but he was way into my oven fries, shoving them into his mouth by the fistful. Okay, the only way he can grasp anything is by the fistful, but still, he liked them.
His mom took home some matzoh ball soup. I believe it’s her first time trying out this ethnic fare and hope my misguided attempt doesn’t put her off from shtetl dining forever. I would like to make some vegan kasha varnishkas…but really, who would want to eat it other than me?