With a bowl and soup spoon, take a trip without leaving home

Well suited for the chilly weather ahead, a bowl of hot and hearty soup can transport you to different countries and cultures beyond the imagination.

Some classic soups have been around for centuries, delighting and tantalizing all who seek out their charms. Many have a fascination and mystique that tease us into wanting to know them better, but their histories — from matzah ball soup to minestrone — are too ancient and myth-bound to absorb in a telling.

First comes the aroma, usually breathed in slowly followed by “ahhh.” Then a spoonful, eaten deliberately, followed by “mmm.” Is it the spices, the broth, the pulses or the produce that elicit this reaction? Most probably it is the combination of all the above ingredients stirred in with food folklore.

So put away your passports, credit cards and luggage and follow my soup ladle and me to delicious destinations, where you will find everything you ever wanted in a beautiful bowl of soup.

Moroccan Matzah Ball Soup

Serves 6

2 eggs

2 Tbs. melted chicken fat, margarine or oil

4 Tbs. chicken stock

1⁄2 cup matzah meal

1⁄4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. ground cumin

1⁄4 tsp. ground cinnamon

1⁄2 tsp. saffron

1 Tbs. each chopped cilantro, dill and chives

8 cups chicken stock

In a large bowl, beat eggs with chicken fat and 4 Tbs. stock until well blended. Stir in matzah meal, salt, spices and herbs. Refrigerate about 1 hour.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With wet hands form matzah balls about 1 inch in diameter. Do not compact them. Drop in boiling water. When balls float to the surface, turn down to a bare simmer, cover and cook about 35 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, heat 8 cups chicken stock with matzah balls and serve.


Russian Beet and Cabbage Soup

Serves 8

1 large head cabbage, shredded

4 large beets, peeled and sliced

2 large onions, thinly sliced

1 28-oz. can tomatoes, coarsely chopped

1⁄4 cup brown sugar

1⁄4 cup balsamic vinegar

1⁄4 cup fresh orange juice

2 tsp. caraway seed

salt and pepper

sour cream

orange slices

Combine cabbage, beets and onions in a large heavy pot. Add 8 cups water and simmer 1 hour. Stir in the brown sugar, vinegar, orange juice and caraway seed and cook another 15 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a dollop of sour cream topped with an orange slice.


Italian Minestrone

Serves 6

2 Tbs. olive oil

3 scallions, sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

1⁄2 lb. cremini mushrooms, diced

2 small zucchini, diced

1⁄2 fennel bulb, trimmed, cored and diced

4 cups chicken stock or water

1⁄2 cup pastina or other small pasta

1 cup peas, fresh or frozen

1⁄4 cup chopped basil leaves

salt and pepper

In a medium pot, heat oil over medium-high heat. Stir in the scallions, garlic and mushrooms and cook about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and fennel and cook another 2 minutes, stirring. Pour in stock, bring to a boil and add pastina. Cook 2 minutes and add peas and basil. Cook another 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Louise Fiszer is a Palo Alto cooking teacher, author and the co-author of “Jewish Holiday Cooking.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to [email protected]