Double Celery Soup with Matzo BallsWhat’s important about my matzo-ball soup: it’s a reliably tasty concoction that my family enjoys. And I like making it. I am not a graduate of the “School of Schmaltz.” My soup is chicken-less and my balls actually include carrots. For the balls, I follow a recipe from Let My People Eat!, published in 1998 by Zell Schulman. In order to make 12 small balls, I mix 1/2 cup matzo meal with 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon and a pinch of salt. In my stand mixer, I whip 4 egg whites until they hold soft peaks, then fold in 2 Tbsp. minced parsley, 1 small grated carrot, and 2 Tbsp. canola oil. I fold in the dry matzo meal mixture, then refrigerate the mass while I make my soup.

Bistro Cooking, by Patricia Wells
Yield:  6 to 8 servings

1 medium celery root (about 1 lb.), peeled and sliced
10 celery ribs, cubed
3 leeks (about 9 oz.), trimmed, well rinsed and cut into thin rounds
Bouquet garni: 1 large sprig of thyme, 3  bay leaves, several sprigs of parsley, tied with a string
2 qts. chicken stock, preferably homemade
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of chopped fresh herbs for garnish: including chervil, chives, flat-leaf parsley

In a large saucepan, combine the celery root, celery, leeks, and bouquet garni. Add the stock, and season gently with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 25 minutes. Adjust the seasonings. Pour into warmed shallow soup bowls. Sprinkle with the chopped herbs and serve immediately.

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This is a very simple soup, abundant with celery flavor. My child is a big fan of it. I’m warmed by the basic greenness of the soup, and believe it’s a worthwhile trumpet blast toward Spring. Instead of chicken stock, I use vegetable-bouillon broth. Blasphemy for matzo balls? Again, we do what we like with this meal. While my soup simmers, I also boil a separate pot of water. When I remove the matzo-meal batter from the fridge, I wet my hands, form the balls (in 2-Tbsp. quantities), and drop them into the bubbling water. I cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 30 minutes. I then remove the balls with a slotted spoon and transfer them to my simmering soup.

Yes, the matzo balls float. They’re light, colorful, and tasty -- a pleasure to have in my soup.

Sephardic Roasted EggsNow, let me tell you about my “Sephardic Roasted Eggs,” also from Let My People Eat!. This is a recipe that I never want to lose. Actually, it’s less like a “recipe,” and more like a “feeling.” Heat your oven to 225 degrees F. Place an amount of eggs (8, 10, 12?) in a deep casserole (Dutch oven?). Pour boiling water over these eggs (double their volume), cover tightly, then bake overnight. That’s right, put this together right before you go to bed, then wake up to these incredible eggs. When you peel them, you’ll see how the egg whites roasted to a warm tan color. The yolks are perfect. The eggs are sensationally delicious. Make a lot of these, because they’re better than candy.

RECIPES: tell me about your matzo ball soup
PREP TIMES: take your time and enjoy the love involved with this exercise
TASTES: you’ll define your own matzo ball, your own soup; savor a super egg

How do you feel about seitan? Do you not know what it is? Well, next time, I want to cook Nava Atlas’ “Vegetarian Goulash,” from Vegan Soup and Hearty Stews for all Seasons (recipe below). Come back to my site on Friday, April 17, to witness my results.

Vegetarian Goulash
Serves: 8
A satisfying meatless take on the classic Hungarian goulash, this makes good use of seitan, a high-protein, low-fat meat substitute.

2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp. unbleached white flour
4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch chunks
3 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
One 16-oz. can salt-free diced tomatoes, undrained
1/4 cup dry red wine, optional
1 Tbsp. paprika
4 cups water
2 vegetable bouillon cubes
2 cups frozen green beans, thawed
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 Tbsp. reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 lb. seitan, cut into bite-sized chunks
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Heat about half of the oil in a soup pot. Add the onions and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until both are golden.

Sprinkle in the flour, stirring in until well blended with the onions. Add the potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, optional wine, paprika, water, and bouillon cubes. Bring to a rapid simmer, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

Add the green beans and half of the parsley, then simmer gently for 15 minutes longer.

Meanwhile, slowly heat the remaining oil together with the soy sauce in a skillet. Add the seitan chunks and stir quickly to coat with the oil and soy sauce mixture. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté, stirring frequently, until the chunks are somewhat crisp and golden on most sides. Remove from the heat and stir into the stew.

Adjust the consistency with water if too dense, but let the soup remain thick rather than soupy. Season with salt and pepper. Serve at once, or if time allows, let stand for an hour or two, then heat through before serving.