Tuesday, April 11, 2006

~April Cooking With Washington Wines~

"Why is this night different from all other nights?" The seder.

Passover, the eight day Jewish holiday, remembers the Biblical exodus from slavery in Egypt to freedom of the Israelites during the reign of Pharaoh Ramses II. Passover is celebrated in the spring (starts tomorrow, April 12 at sun-down). The seder meal is celebrated with a feast of traditional foods (a menu such as matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, chicken, brisket and potato knishes) and fine wine, koser of course.

Only two percent of the U.S. population is Jewish (according to the Jewish Virtual Library - 2005), but kosher wines are growing into a large market. More than $27 million in kosher wine was sold in 2005 in U.S. supermarkets -- almost exactly the same dollar amount as wines from the Burgundy region in France (figures provided by Manischewitz and ACNielsen). The bad news is that at this time there is no kosher wine made in Washington state. The good news is that finally kosher keepers don't have to settle for cheap syrupy sweet brands like Manischewitz and Mogen David - - which still accounts for $23.7 million (88 percent) of that $27 million in kosher wine sales! Quality dry kosher wines are now being produced in Israel, France, Spain, Australia and Chile, as well as California and are available through your local Costco, Kosher Wine.Com or Wine.Com.

This is one of my favorite soups and I make all year round. I can make it as easy or as extensive as I want. Extensive is boiling a whole chicken to make my own stock or as easy as using packaged stock. If you are not a kosher-keeper, you can use can or boxed stock or "cheat" by poaching boneless chicken breasts in liquid made of water, aromatic veggies (onions, celery stalks and leaves, and carrots) and herbs such as sage and thyme. You can even add packaged stock, chicken bouillon for richness and white wine to the poaching liquid. If you are going to enjoy this soup with a glass of white wine, I would recommend to use the same wine to poach with. Kosher ingredients are getting easier to find and becoming regulars in the grocery aisles of super stores like Albertson's and Safeway.

My white wine recommendations, based on value and quality (not for kosher keepers), are Three Rivers Meritage White 2004 at $19. The blend of this white Bordeaux-style wine is 63% Sauvignon Blanc and 37% Semillon. A real value is the Waterbrook Sauvignon Blanc 2003 at $12.

Matzo Ball Soup

½ cup Matzo Meal (Streits or Manischewitz brand)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil or if you want to keep authentic, use “schmaltz” (chicken fat)
2 eggs
1 tsp kosher salt or to taste
1½ - 2 quarts of chicken broth/stock (home made or packaged)
2-3 carrots (sliced)
½ cup onion or shallots - finely chopped
1 finely chopped clove of garlic
1 sage leaf and/or thyme
cooked chicken meat (optional)

Lightly saute chopped onion and garlic (don't let it brown) with a bit of oil in a 2-3 quart soup pot. Add chicken broth, sliced carrots, and herbs. Bring to boil and let simmer. This is the broth that you will be cooking the matzo balls in. You may make it just before you are ready to drop the matzos into the soup or make it ahead of time. Some cook their matzo balls in water and add to broth before serving, but it all depends on what your Yiddish Bubbe did.

Make matzo balls: in a mixing bowl, blend vegetable oil and eggs together. Add salt (or adjust to taste) to matzo meal. Add matzo meal and salt mixture to egg and vegetable oil mixture and blend well. If too thick, add a few drops or 1-2 teaspoons of water or stock to mixture. Cover mixing bowl and place in refrigerator for 15 minutes. Sometimes I make the matzo ball mixture the night before or in the morning before I plan on serving for dinner. Form the chilled matzo dough into 8 -12 walnut size balls. Oil hands before rolling the dough and also the less you handle it the lighter the matzo balls will be. Heat chicken broth if needed. Reduce heat and into the slightly boiling broth drop the matzo balls. Cover and simmer for 30-40 minutes. While cooking matzo balls should have floated to the top (unless you prefer "sinkers", but I like the light and fluffy "floaters"). When serving - about 2-3 matzo balls per person. A yummy Jewish dumpling!

Extra matzo meal can be used for breading fish and poultry with. Also makes a good filler for meatloaf and meat balls. Won’t go to waste.

"Next Year in Jerusalem!"

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