Sunday, December 13, 2009


Matzo ball making with Estelle Opper and Marlena Spieler.

Literally, we got to spend the day with Marlena and her aunt Estelle Opper. What a pair, both were exceptionally nice and a lot of fun. Estelle was at Mel’s house to teach us the correct way to make matzo balls. Marlena happened to be in town so came with her aunt to lend support. Mel, Shankari and I all made dishes from her Jewish Cooking cookbook and had a huge spread of food, enough to make any Jewish mother proud. Chris Maceas from the Sac. Bee and photographer Autumn were also there to record the matzo lesson for the Hanukkah piece they will be running.

Now Estelle is a presence unto herself. She is one of those people who can walk into a room and just take command. She demonstrated how SHE makes matzo balls from a mix which turn out beautifully. She made the traditional matzo ball which is basically the Matzo mix (w/salt), water, oil and eggs, then she made one with parsley and a little garlic powder which was a twist that Marlena uses. After mixing up the matzo batter it needs to refrigerate for about 15 minutes and we had to closely watch the time. Into the boiling water we added a little chicken bouillon for flavor -but we didn't have Telma brand which Estelle proclaimed to be the best. Estelle showed us how to roll the matzo balls. It doesn’t seem that hard to roll the little balls but Estelle can roll them and they come out really smooth on the outside, no wrinkles. I tried a couple of time and I could never achieve that smoothness. Into the boiling water they are gently placed and they grow as the cook. The initial ball we made was about golf ball size, the finished product was a little smaller than a baseball. After they have cooked for about an hour they were ready to be taken out … another precision project. Heaven forbid you should be digging around for a matzo ball and nick one or even worse cut a piece off of one which I did.. that was not good. Gently, very gently with a slotted spoon lift out a matzo ball and drain as much of the liquid as possible off and gently place it in a serving dish. Yes, you have to be gentle these matzo balls are as light and fluffy as a feather and if they should fall apart I’m sure Estelle would have taken the spoon away from me and scooped out the rest herself. The one matzo ball that I sliced was forgiven and she said that was to eaten by the cook, never served to a guest. To serve the matzo ball is place in a bowl first then the chicken broth poured over. Mel made a delicious broth from Marlena’s good. This was my first matzo ball so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I can’t describe the texture, not quite like a dumpling much lighter and fluffier. The plain matzo was that a little plain but we thought it might have been because we used a low salt matzo mix and as Estelle said we didn't use Telma chicken broth in the cooking water. The matzo ball with the parsley and garlic powder was very good.

Also friends Jen and Phil came for our feast with lots of champagne. Even Chris and Autumn stayed for some lunch. Our meal consisted of Vegetarian Chopped Liver, Rice and Chicken, and Biscotti all by Shankari. Mel made the stuffed cabbage, the chicken broth, her husband Dave made both Pumpernickle and Challa bread and I made the Sun-Dried Tomato Salad and Peppers and the Polish Apple Cake. All the food was delicious and we had a wonderful time eating and talking.

It was quite a learning experience and Estelle was so gracious to teach us. It was a real treat to meet Marlena especially since I found out my husband his father have quite a connection and friendship with her family and Estelle's family.

I've learned so much cooking from Marlena's cookbook and it continues to be a fun project.

The Matzo Ball Queens

Estelle showing us how to roll matzo balls

Autumn takes pictures of the matzo balls cooking

Matzo balls cooking in broth

The matzo balls when cooked

Marlena's recipes on display

More food

Autumn, the photgrapher and Chris Macias from the Bee

Go to Cooking Schmooking and Sacramento Spice for their take on Matzo Balls.

Make sure you go to and read the article about this Matzo ball making sessions, Chris did a very good job and Autumn captured it perfectly.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Excellent post Eileen! So funny when you accidentally nicked that matzo ball! It was just a surreal day indeed!

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