Greg is sick, it's snowing outside, and that means soup. I came home from work in the middle of the day to make this, throwing everything together from what I had in the fridge. Because I had roasted some fennel on Sunday, the soup was done in 30 minutes.
There are two Matzoh Ball camps: dense Matzoh (my dad) and soft Matzoh (my brother). My dad rolls Matzoh balls around in his hands until they are perfectly spherical. Once simmered, these symmetric balls are dense or even chewy to the bite. Many people prefer them this way. My brother and I are of the soft camp. If you'd like to try them this way, just take a teaspoon and lightly scoop up some dough, then drop the dough into boiling water without any further manipulation. This method will yield a wonderfully spongelike Matzoh Ball that soaks up the soup flavoring. I wouldn't have them any other way.
This soup is fragrant, sweet, salty and filling. If you choose to make this with vegetable stock, this is a wonderful vegetarian alternative to chicken noodle. If you don't want to bother with fennel, substitute carrots sliced into 1/4" disks and skip the roasting step.
Matzoh Ball Soup with Fennel
1 large fennel
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
4 cups stock (vegetable or free-range chicken stock, or water would probably do fine)
2 cups water, optional
1/2 tsp each: celery salt, oregano, freshly ground black pepper
1 cup baby arugula or other green (eg, regular arugula, spinach, kale, or even cabbage) chopped to an edible size
Salt to taste
The fennel may be prepared the day before. Preheat the oven to 350. Discard the fennel fronds and slice the bulb into 1/2" wide wedges. Scatter the wedges of fennel onto a nonstick cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Roast the fennel until soft throughout and brown on the edges (~30 minutes), stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Peel the onion and slice into 1/8" rings or half-moons. Peel the garlic and slice as thinly as possible. Add 1-2tbsp of olive oil to a heavy bottom soup pot and bring to medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and fennel. Saute until the onion until it is nicely browned, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, prepare the Matzoh Ball Mix as directed (generally this involves mixing the Matzoh powder with eggs and oil and chilling for 15 minutes).
When the onions are done, deglaze with the stock and add an additional two cups of water*. Add the seasonings. Simmer for about 5 minutes and salt to taste. How much salt this soup needs will depend on what kind of stock you used - add about a half teaspoon of salt to start, and add additional salt about 1/4 tsp at a time. Give the salt enough time to dissolve before adding more (a minute or so while simmering should do it).
Gently scoop teaspoons of Matzoh Ball Mix directly into the pot. Add the arugula, cover, and turn the heat to high. Allow the soup to boil for about 10 minutes. Simmer for another minute or two, adjusting the liquid level with water or seasoning with additional salt if desired. Enjoy.
*You may ommit this step for a thicker, stronger broth. I like my broth light.