Dec 172010
Considering Hanukkah ended over a week ago, this post isn’t necessarily the most timely, but I still have to honor my left half.  I realize that probably makes no sense.  See, I’m half Jewish.  When I was younger, kids would jokingly ask me, which half?, so I’d simply answer, the left half.  So ever since then, my left half has been my Jewish half.  I’m sure there’ll be a Christmas post coming soon at you from my right half so stay tuned.  Anyway, what better Hannukah tribute then homemade Matzo Ball Soup and healthified Potato Latkes?

You should also know, this is my very first solo attempt at homemade chicken broth.  Sorry, sweet little organic chicken…you’re about to get boiled.  Along with some parsnips, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, black pepper corns, salt, parsley, and bay leaf. 

Now on to the Latkes.  I went out to get all the ingredients for these latkes, and as I was about to get started, I reazlied I had no mechanism to shred the vegetables.  Kind of a problem.  So what did I do?  I sat down with a knife and cut tiny little pieces of potato and zucchini to get as close to “grated” as possible.  An hour and some sore hands later, I was ready to make latkes.  I mixed mine with egg, whole wheat flour, panko bread crumbs, and parmesan for an extra twist.  I pan “fried” them in about 1 tablespoon of olive oil supplimented with some olive oil spray because I was worried they would stick.  Despite the lack of shredder and large quantaties of oil, these browned up beautifully. 

And while I had originally planned to make some homemade apple sauce with the four apples in my fridge, after the shredding incident (or should I say lack-there-of), I needed something low maintenance.  Good thing I had a jar of motts from last time I baked!

 After so many years of marveling (or should I say, kvelling) over my grandmother’s tasty soup, I didn’t think I was capable of making anything nearly as good.  No offense to Grammy, but I was wrong.  This was just as tasty and the matzo balls were the perfect balance between fluffy and firm (I personally like a little firmness in the center).  Although it’s not traditional, I put some of the boiled chicken back in the soup because I like it, and this is only a half Jewish soup so I only have to follow half of the rules. 

Nutritional Highlights:  I didn’t really do anything to “healthify” this soup except for making sure to skim as much fat off of the broth as possible.  But really, Matzo ball soup isn’t so bad as is. One Mazto ball is about 45 calories and a cup of chicken broth is probably somewhere between 30-50.  Not bad at all.  As for latkes, a normal latke is all potato and fried in a lot of oil, making it not much better than french fries.  My version used half potato and half zucchini to lower the carbiness a bit.  I also used one egg/one white to make it a little lighter.  My cooking method was also much lower in fat.  By using only a little bit of olive oil and some olive oil spray, I didn’t add too much fat, but the fat I did add was a good healthy one!

Homemade Chicken Stock
adapted from Smitten Kitchen

  • 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 pounds chicken necks, backs and wing  (I just used a whole 3.5 pound chicken.  For first timers like me, don’t forget to check if there’s a liver inside the chicken and take that out)
  • 3 celery ribs, cut into big chunks
  • 3 carrots, scrubbed and cut into big chunks
  • 2 parsnips, scrubbed and cut into big chunks 
  • 2 onions, unpeeled and quartered
  • 1 head garlic, cut horizontally in half
  • 1 Turkish or 1/2 California bay leaf
  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 4 quarts cold water
  • I also put in a big hadful of parsley to add a fresh, herby flavor

Bring all ingredients to a boil in an 8- to 10-quart heavy pot. Skim froth every half hour or so. Reduce heat and gently simmer, uncovered for 3 hours.

Pour stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl and discard solids. If using stock right away, skim off and discard any fat. If not, cool stock completely, uncovered, before skimming fat, then chill, covered.

For the Mazto balls:  I used my grandmother’s ancient recipe.  Passed down to my mother.  It goes like this:  buy a box of Manischewitz Matzo Ball Mix, and follow the instructions exactly. 

Potato-Zucchini-Parmesan Latkes
  • 1 medium baking potato (shredded)
  • 1 large or 2 small zucchini (shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs (or any kind of bread crumbs you have)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white
  • 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • olive oil/spray for cooking
  • Apple sauce for garnish


 Mix first 7 ingredients.  Heat large non-stick pan and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil or spray liberally with olive oil spray (or a combination of both).  Drop large spoonfuls of the mixture into the pan and then flatten with your spoon to form pancakes.  Cook for about 3 minutes on each side.  Before flipping, I sprayed the top of the latke with more olive oil spray to prevent stickage.  Repeat process until you have used all your batter.  This recipe made about 12 latkes. 
Latkes are a fun way to be creative.  Try mixing in shredded apple, sweet potato, or butternut squash for healthy twists on this classic!

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