Not your mama’s (Gluten-free) Matzoh Balls
Nothing says Passover like matzoh ball soup, the original Jewish comfort food. Feeling under the weather? Have some matzoh ball soup. Depressed? Have some matzoh ball soup. Homesick? Defrost some of mom’s matzoh ball soup. Matzoh ball soup devotees tend to fall into one of two camps: those who prefer a feather-light “floater,” and those who prefer a firm, dense “sinker.”
Of course, for those of us who can no longer partake in matzoh or its glutinous derivatives such as the matzoh meal used to make matzoh balls, the soup course of the Passover Seder–which falls on April 8-9th this year– is a sad, sad time. What’s more depressing than spending two hours recalling your ancestors’ persecution and suffering, only to be served a steaming bowl of plain, matzohball-less broth? While I’ve tolerated this indignity in years past, I decided that this year, it was time to MMODGFMB. That’s Hebrew for: make my own damn gluten-free matzoh balls. Enough was enough.
I discovered two main approaches to GF matzoh ball-making online. One called for only potato starch in lieu of the matzoh meal, and the other called for a combination of potato starch and almond meal. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder if there might be a third option. After all, almond meal is significantly more caloric than the matzoh meal it replaces owing to the natural fat in the nut oils; and since the soup is just the first of many, many courses at the traditional Seder dinner, I’d prefer to pace myself. As for a matzoh ball made entirely of potato starch? It seemed like more of a (heavy, heavy) potato dumpling than a matzoh ball to me. Besides, Passover desserts deliver their own fair share of potato starch, and a nice, Jewish gluten-free girl cannot live on potato starch alone.
I decided to see if I could find a gluten-free flour that was also kosher for Passover with which to fashion my GF matzoh balls. I even consulted the family Rabbi, who confirmed what I had hoped: quinoa is considered by most authorities to be kosher for Passover. Now, without delving into theological intricacies, I will mention that quinoa flakes may or may not be processed in a facility that is free of all off-limits-for-Passover grains, so if you’re on the more religiously observant side, you may want to err on the side of caution here. And that’s all I’ll say on that topic.
I decided to use the recipe on the back of a standard matzoh meal box as a foundation off which to riff on several matzoh ball experiments, and prepared a control batch of matzoh-meal matzoh balls against which my gluten-eating husband could judge the experiments. There were several variables to consider: quinoa flour or quinoa flakes? Alone or mixed with potato starch? Water, seltzer or no liquid at all? Xanthan gum to bind the batter and promote sponginess or no xanthan gum? It took two days and 8 different experiments, but I am happy to report that the following recipe produced a matzoh-less quinoa “matzoh ball” that is firm but not dense, fluffy but not overly feathery. It tastes like a matzoh ball is supposed to taste, and it’s made with whole grain, high-protein, quinoa flakes instead of starchy or heavy alternatives.
Recipe: Tamara’s Gluten-free Quinoa “Matzoh” Balls
Makes 10-12 quinoa balls
1 cup quinoa flakes*
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
2 large eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt (use regular iodized salt, not kosher salt)
A sprinkle of ground black pepper to your liking
* look for quinoa flakes in the hot cereal/oatmeal section of your grocery store, or order online from the gluten-free mall or your favorite site. Ancient Harvest is the most well-known manufacturer.
- Measure out quinoa flakes and xanthan gum and combine in a small bowl.
- In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs. Add oil, salt and pepper and beat again until combined.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix well until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You don’t want the matzoh balls to be crowded).
- Remove batter from refrigerator and wet hands. With wet hands, fashion a SMALL amount of batter into a smooth ball shape and drop into the boiling water. (For reference, the batter should be enough to make 10-12 matzoh balls, so portion each one accordingly. Each uncooked ball should be no larger than the size of a ping-pong ball… they will expand when cooking, and if they’re too big, the middle may not cook through sufficiently.)
- Cover pot and cook the quinoa balls, maintaining a rolling boil. For denser balls, cook for 25-30 minutes. For fluffier balls, cook 35 minutes.
- Remove the balls from boiling water with a slotted spoon and let sit to cool for a few minutes. Then, refrigerate the balls until ready to serve.
- Before serving, place quinoa balls in pot of soup to warm them through. Serve, and accept heaping praise from your gluten-intolerant guests at what a considerate host you are.
Approximate nutrition info per ball (assumes recipe makes 10 balls): 150 calories, 7g carbohydrate, of which 0.5g is fiber, 2.5g protein, 13g fat.
So now that you’ve got the renegade GF matzoh ball recipe all squared away, check out this recipe for a newfangled lemongrass matzoh ball soup broth to float them in from NPR!Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.