Matzo balls in Persian fruit soup

I had a particular Persian meatball dish in mind when I made this — meatballs stewed in a broth of dried fruit. Fruit plays a central role in savory cooking in Persian cuisine. While dried fruit is more commonly associated with another holiday, Tu Bishvat, Passover also happens to fall in the spring, and thus fruit is still appropriate.

In this dish, it gives Ashkenazi matzo balls an unusual twist. The matzo balls provide firm texture in place of meatballs, and the fruit soup — well, it speaks for itself, a mix of sweet and savory thanks to some onions and garlic.

In terms of the fruit you use, you could follow my lead, or improvise.

I added some grated zucchini into my matzo balls in order to soften the texture. The main factor affecting how soft (or hard) your matzo balls are is whether you add water — I added 8 teaspoons, which made mine pretty fluffy, but if you like them denser, you could reduce that. And if you like them REALLY hard, you could leave the water out of the batter altogether.

Note: For those who eat kitniyot over Passover (you know who you are), this goes great served as a stew alongside rice. For those unsure, many Ashkenazi Jews do not eat rice (or other kitniyot) during Passover.

For two liters of soup:

125 grams dried apricots
125 grams prunes
70 grams dried sour apricots
70 grams raisins
5-6 garlic cloves
150 grams onion (1-2 onions)
2 teaspoons salt
oil for frying

For the matzo balls:
1 cup matzo meal
1 cup grated zucchini
4 eggs
8 teaspoons water (about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg
salt (I used 1 teaspoon)

Chop the onion and fry until translucent in a thick-bottomed pot in a bit of oil. Crush the garlic, add to the pot and fry until lightly golden.

Rinse and chop the fruit, and add to the pot. Add enough water so that the fruit is covered 2-3 times over — the fruit will swell up. Add the salt and let simmer.

Once the fruit looks fully saturated with water, blend the soup until smooth. Let simmer as you make the matzo balls.

Meanwhile, make the matzo balls: Grate the zucchini and measure out a cup. Mix with the eggs, matzo meal, spices and salt. Let sit for a few minutes so that the matzo meal can absorb the liquid.

Bring water to a boil in a second pot. Form the matzo batter into balls, and drop into the boiling water. Let cook for a few minutes, until they start to float and then some. (You cook the matzo balls on their own first, as opposed to in the soup, so that extra starch doesn’t get into it).

Once the matzo balls have taken form and look cooked on the outside, use a slotted spoon to transfer them into the soup pot, and let boil there for another 10 minutes or so to absorb the flavors.

(Full disclosure — the matzo balls in the photo weren’t boiled in the soup; they pick up some of the soup’s color in the cooking process)

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