At The Taste of Oregon, most of our recipes come from what fancies our personal palates. Because we have vegetarian and gluten-intolerant friends, we cover those bases from time to time.
Vic recently received a note asking why we didn’t have any kosher recipes. Oy vey! Time to include some recipes for our kosher friends.
How and what you eat is a choice, sometimes a deeply personal choice, like religion, spirituality, and political persuasion.
My late brother-in law, Bill Butts, chose to become a vegetarian about 23 years ago, and his decision was based on choosing to not eat any of God’s creatures. (Bill was an ordained minister.)
This was a dramatic turnaround for a former avid fisherman, a master at barbecuing who claims the distinction of barbecuing a whole beaver for Christmas in the 1970s. The beaver came from one of his farmer parishioners in Burlington Junction, Missouri, who explained that in order to protect his water source, a creek on his property, it was necessary to thin out the beaver population about every two years.
Being a respectful gentleman and knowing that what and how you eat is a personal choice, Bill never promoted or pushed his personal beliefs on others. Family gatherings always included a bountiful selection of vegetarian along with dishes prepared with fish, fowl, or meat. We are a big happy family of choosy eaters.
Choosing to adhere to kosher dietary law is a personal choice, whether based on your birth heritage or by conversion to the Jewish faith or simply because you believe eating kosher is good for you.
Kosher or kashrut in Hebrew is the set of Jewish dietary laws.
“Among the numerous laws that form part of kashrut are the prohibitions on the consumption of unclean animals (such as pork, shellfish (both Mollusca and Crustacea) and most insects, with the exception of certain species of kosher locusts), mixtures of meat and milk, and the commandment to slaughter mammals and birds according to a process known as shechita. There are also laws regarding agricultural produce (see Zeraim).
Most of the basic laws of kashrut are derived from the Torah‘s Books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Their details and practical application, however, are set down in the oral law (eventually codified in the Mishnah and Talmud) and elaborated on in the later rabbinical literature. While the Torah does not state the rationale for most kashrut laws, many reasons have been suggested, including philosophical, practical and hygienic.”
From Kashrut – Wikipedia
There are many rabbinical organizations that exist to validate products, manufacturers, and restaurants as kosher. It usually involves the display of a symbol called a hechsher or Ⓤ. According to my research, only about a sixth of American Jews observe kosher law, and some non-Jews eat kosher for health reasons.
Several times a year, I make matzo ball soup. Invariably at the dinner table, Vic and Pranee will reminisce about Mrs. Stoker’s matzo ball soup which was shared with them numerous times when they lived in Houston, and they even recount seeing the numerical tattoos on her arm from days spent in a Nazi concentration camp. I feel proud that they say my soup passes the Mrs. Stoker quality test.
Matzo begins as an unleavened cracker-like bread traditionally made for Passover. Matzo meal is the finely ground matzo. It’s a versatile ingredient – I reach for it when I’m out of breadcrumbs for breading or as a filler for meatloaf or meatballs.
Manischewitz is the nation’s largest manufacturer of processed kosher food products and should be on the shelves of most large supermarkets. A fine basic recipe for matzo balls is printed on their container of matzo meal along with their recipe for lemon baked chicken. That said, my personal favorite recipe for matzo balls is:
Chicken Soup with Leek and Chive Matzo Balls
Adapted from a recipe in Bon Appétit
- 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted pareve margarine (pareve = kosher; Fleischmann’s makes a kosher margarine)*
- ½ cup packed finely chopped leek (white and pale green parts only)
- 1½ cups finely chopped fresh chives
- 4 eggs
- 2 tablespoons non-alcoholic ginger beer or ginger ale
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ heaping teaspoon freshly grated ginger (I use a zester)
- 1 cup unsalted matzo meal
- 12 cups chicken broth
- Additional chopped fresh chives for garnish
* Kosher law forbids mixing dairy with meat products, hence the margarine.
- Melt the margarine in a sauté pan and sauté the chopped leek for about 5 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chives.
- Beat together the eggs, ginger beer, salt, pepper, and fresh ginger until thoroughly mixed.
- Fold in the matzo meal, and the leek and chives mixture.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
- Line a baking sheet with plastic wrap or wax paper.
- Using wet hands, carefully form matzo mixture into 12 golf ball-size spheres. (Don’t press into shape very hard or you’ll end up with sinkers instead of floaters.)
- Refrigerate again for about 30 minutes.
- Bring chicken broth to a boil.
- Drop matzo balls in one at a time so they do not stick together, and boil for about 40 minutes.**
- Place 1 or 2 matzo balls in soup bowl, ladle soup over, and garnish with reserved chives.
** Beth Rankin, my resident go-to expert on all things Hebrew, cooks her matzo balls in plain boiling water first to avoid any muddying of the chicken broth. I’ll do that with my next batch.