This weekend, millions of families around the world are celebrating Passover. The Jews’ emancipation from slavery in Egypt is traditionally commemorated with a Seder, as well as the removal of all leavened bread and other fermented products (most alcohol, high fructose corn syrup, etc) from the home. One dish that’s traditionally served during Passover is matzo Ball soup.

We got this fantastic matzo ball soup recipe from our friend Simon Harris, owner of Portland-based catering company Zuppa (“zuppa” means soup in Italian, Zuppa offers catered lunches, home soup delivery and sells at local farmers’ markets. Harris’ great grandfather Michael, a Jewish butcher, moved to England from Ukraine in 1914.

“While the soup is usually served in plain chicken broth,” says Harris, “I like to add fresh seasonal vegetables that I pick up at the Portland Farmer’s Market, where I sell soup each week, along with nice sized pieces of chicken. Check out your local farmer’s market for some purple, white and red carrot varieties or possibly some kale to add color and an extra punch of nutrients to your soup. The real key to a delicious Matzo ball soup is a great stock. If you don’t have time to make homemade stock you can pick up some from your local health food store.”

“Matzo ball making is also a fun (and a little messy) activity for kids, so get them involved and embrace the charm of the odd, misshapen balls they will create. Have them select their favorite ball they have made for their soup bowl or for their favorite family member who will be coming over to celebrate.”

Farmers’ Market Matzo Ball Soup

Makes 12 Servings.

Soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

2 medium onions chopped into ½ inch pieces

6 large carrots chopped into ½ inch pieces

3 celery ribs chopped into ½ inch pieces

2 chicken breasts cut in half

2 chicken legs

1 pound of chopped seasonal vegetables such as kale, leeks or potatoes

12 cups chicken stock*

Heat oil in a gallon soup pot and when hot add carrots, onions, and celery. Sprinkle a little salt on top of the vegetables (as this helps draw out the water) and cook on low heat for approximately fifteen minutes stirring occasionally until soft (turn down the heat if vegetables begin to brown). When vegetables are soft, add the stock to the pot and bring to a boil. When the stock has come to a boil add the cut chicken breasts and legs and poach for ten minutes. Remove the chicken from the soup and cool. Keep soup hot until matzo balls are formed.

Matzo Balls (makes about 36)

1 medium onion chopped finely

½ cup duck fat* (available at most specialty or Asian food stores)

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon salt

2 cups matzo meal

6 eggs

Cook the onions and half of the duck fat on low heat until translucent. Add the rest of the fat, water, matzo meal, nutmeg and salt. Take off the heat and stir mixture thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add eggs one at a time and stir continuously.

Now it’s time to form the matzo balls – so call the kids into the kitchen. Many recipes call for shaping the balls with spoons, but a wet pair of hands works fine. Dip hands in a bowl of water to prevent sticking and shape golf ball sized amounts of the matzo mixture with your palms into spheres. The mixture should be quite moist and a little difficult to shape into a perfect ball.

For the final preparation, add formed matzo balls to the hot soup and simmer for ten minutes. Shred the cooled, cooked chicken and add along with any other chopped seasonal vegetables you have on hand. Cook the soup for fifteen additional minutes (or until vegetables are tender) and season with salt and pepper before serving. When serving, place 2-3 matzo balls in each soup bowl along with a couple generous ladles of the soup, chicken and vegetables.

*Note for Vegetarians:

If you would like to make this soup vegetarian make the following modifications: make or buy a good quality vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock, replace duck fat with vegetable oil and remove the cooked chicken.

Chicken Stock for Farmers’ Market Matzo Ball Soup

Ingredients:

1 (4-pound) chicken

1 onion cut in half (no need to remove peel)

1 carrot chopped roughly

2 celery stalks

5 parsley stalks

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

Remove breasts and legs from the chicken and reserve for another use. Place what remains of the chicken in a large stock pot along with the rest of the ingredients. Cover with cold water two inches above the chicken, sprinkle 1 teaspoon of salt in the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 1 ½ hours. Remove and discard any scum from the top as it forms. Strain the entire contents through a colander and keep the liquid stock in the fridge for up to three days or freeze for up to three months. After refrigerating remove any surface fat that forms on the top.