Favorite Soup: Vegetable and Matzo Ball

This is my great grandmother's recipe for vegetable soup with matzo balls. My mom has been making it for as long as I can remember, mostly on holidays and sick days. I think that it is the best soup in the world. It's far heartier than most matzo ball soups, which consist of a few lumpy balls in clear broth, and the vegetables blend together so subtly and intuitively that its truly harmonious. I’ve only recently begun attempting it on my own (and by that I mean with Alex, who does most of the intensive labor) but I know that I will continue making it for the rest of my life.

There are so many things to love about this soup. It tastes super healthy, and with its strong kick of ginger, it has healing effects on bellyaches, colds, stressed minds or pretty much anything. Plus, the steps are simple: Throw stuff in a pot and let it simmer for two hours before blending. In fact, if you ask my mom for further instructions, she gets very ambiguous. When I was younger, I was convinced that this was because she was hiding a secret ingredient or step that perfected the soup, but now I think that its because no matter what you do, it still tastes delicious.

The vegetable soup is amazing alone, but we always add matzo balls. My favorite brand is Streits, but since my local grocery stores doesn’t carry it, I used Manischewitz. The trick to making perfect matzo balls is to make sure that your hands are very wet, and to only lightly bring the matzo meal together. Try not to pack them; it doesn’t matter if they aren’t perfectly round. I’d take a light and funky-shaped matzo ball over a heavy one any day.

1 whole chicken, cut into its parts
5 carrots, peeled and cut into very large chunks
3 parsnips
, peeled and cut into very large chunks
top 1/3 of a celery bunch, cut into very large chunks
1 potato, peeled and cut into very large chunks
2 onions, cut into very large chunks
4 garlic cloves
3 inch piece ginger, peeled
1/2 bunch parsley
1/2 bunch dill
1 can stewed tomatoes
1/2 cup tomato sauce

Put all ingredients in a large pot and fill pot with water. Add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to simmer for two hours. Remove chicken pieces and set aside for later use (makes great chicken salad). Using a strainer, remove remaining solids and separate any leftover chicken from the mass of vegetables. In a blender, puree vegetables in batches with a bit of the broth, and add back into the soup. Adjust seasonings (salt) and add matzo balls, as per instructions on the box.