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Ramp Matzo Ball Soup

ramp matzo ball soup

It is the twin season where ramps and matzo ball soup intersect. The marriage between the two is a beautiful thing. Ramps are the elusive root vegetable that only sprouts about a month every year. And they are sure to take your soup next level, when you make a perfect pesto and throw some extra into your matzo mix, just for good measure.

Ramp Matzo Ball Soup

You can expect to see this matzo ball soup on pretty much any Passover table. Also known as a Seder, the annual meal is both a celebration and an ode to Jewish history. And aside from being delicious, many of the traditional dishes served at the dinner hold their own symbolic meanings. Matzo, for example, represents the unleavened bread that Jewish people ate while fleeing Egypt, with its origins tracing back to the days of Moses. This matzo ball soup recipe is a spin on the classic, made with a ramp pesto for extra flavor. Here’s how to make it.

Wild rampsIngredients

For the Chicken Stock

1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces
1 lb chicken scraps (wings, necks, and/or backs)
2 large yellow onions, unpeeled and quartered
6 celery stalks, cut into large chunks
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 large parsnip, peeled, cut into large chunks
2 whole sprigs of rosemary
1 large shallot, quartered
1 head of garlic, halved
6 sprigs of flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves

For the Matzo Balls

4 large eggs
¼ cup schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
1 cup matzo meal
3 tbsp club soda
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 to 2 tbsp freshly grated ginger
2 tbsp finely dill
1 ¼ tsp kosher salt
Freshly cracked black pepper

For the Ramp Pesto

1 bunch wild ramps, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
3 tbsp pine nuts
3 tbsp chopped walnuts
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

For Assembly

2 small carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
Kosher salt
2 tbsp coarsely chopped fresh dill
Coarsely ground fresh black pepper

Directions

Matzo balls

For the Matzo Balls

Begin by making your matzo ball mixture. In a medium-sized bowl, whisk the eggs until there are no clumps. Next, add the shmaltz, club soda, nutmeg, ginger, and dill. Season with salt and a few cracks of black pepper. The mixture will be pretty moist but will firm up as it chills. Let sit in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

For the Chicken Stock

While the matzo dough sets, get started on your stock. To a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, add the chicken pieces and scraps, onions, celery, carrots, parsnip, shallot, garlic, parsley, peppercorns, bay leaves, and rosemary. Cover all the ingredients with 12 cups of cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and let simmer until the chicken breasts are cooked about 20 minutes. Next, transfer the chicken breasts to a plate, leaving the rest of the chicken in the stock. Once they’re cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the chicken breasts, and return the bones to the pot. Shred the meat, let it cool, and set it aside in the refrigerator.

Chicken stock for matzo ball soup

 

Continue to let the stock simmer, skimming the fat off the surface occasionally, until the stock has reduced by a third. After about two hours, strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large saucepan. You should have about 8 cups left.

For the Ramp Pesto

While your stock simmers, you can get started on the pesto. Although you can easily make this using a food processor, pesto is derived from the Italian word for “pound” or “crush.” So, for the sake of tradition, we recommend using a mortar and pestle. It takes a little elbow grease, but the result is worth it.

Begin by blanching your ramps. Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil, and plunge the ramps into it for one minute. Once blanched, remove the ramps with a slotted spoon and quickly place them in a bowl of ice water to cool. Squeeze dry with a paper towel.

 

Next, finely chop the ramps and set them aside. In a saute pan over medium-high, heat ¼ cup of olive oil. Once hot, add the chopped walnuts and pine nuts. Toast the nuts for 3 to 5 minutes, keeping a close eye on them to avoid burning. Once toasted, add the nuts to your mortar and pestle along with the garlic. Reserve the nut-infused oil for later.

Crush the garlic and walnuts together into a rough paste, then add the cheese and ramps. Continue to pound with the pestle, scraping down the sides of the bowl and stirring everything together to get a smooth consistency. Begin to add 1 tbsp of oil at a time, mashing and stirring in between. Use both the reserved oil you used to toast the walnuts and pine nuts, as well as the remaining ¼ cup of olive oil, if needed.

Once you have a nice rough paste, taste, and add salt and pepper to your preference. Set aside until you’re ready to use.

Ramp pesto for matzo ball soup

Assembly

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Using wet hands, scoop out 2 tablespoons of the mixture, gently rolling them into balls. Take about a teaspoon or so of the ramp pesto and place it in the center of each ball, folding the dough around it. Repeat this process until you have about 15 pesto-stuffed matzo balls.

Add the matzo balls to the water, reducing the heat to a gentle simmer. Cover the pot and let the matzo balls simmer until cooked through – about 20 to 25 minutes.

About 15 minutes before the matzo balls are done cooking, bring the reserved chicken stock in your large saucepan to a boil. Add the sliced carrots and season with a pinch of salt. Next, reduce the heat and let simmer for about 5-7 minutes, until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat, add the reserved chicken breast meat and cover until you’re ready to serve.

Once the matzo balls are cooked through, use a slotted spoon to transfer them to bowls. This recipe serves 7, with 2 matzo balls per serving. Ladle the soup over the matzo balls, top with dill, and season with coarsely ground black pepper. For extra ramp-goodness, add a dollop of pesto on top of your matzo ball soup.

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