Tag Archives: minestra dayenu

Minestra Dayenu Revisted: It wasn’t enough.

After my last post (January 6, 2014) I decided that my first draft of Minestra Dayenu had in fact not been enough, and that I needed to attempt it one more time. After finding only a few very vague descriptions in books and getting a little bit more information from individuals through text and email, I decided to tackle Minestra Dayenu once again. This time around I tried to keep closer to the true basic descriptions that I had read by leaving out the chicken dumplings. The result was a nice creamy soup that reminded me of a Greek Avgolemono, but without the lemon juice. The trick (I found) was in doing two things: tempering my egg yolks in some warm water before adding it to the hot broth, and adding my matzah strips to cook in the broth only one minute before serving. These two crucial steps helped me to prevent the eggs from cooking into a stringy mass (like egg drop soup) and to soften the matzah just enough so that they didn’t disintegrate. The result was a creamy, simple, and comforting soup that can be served either as a starter for the Passover meal, during the week of the holiday for lunch, or even as a final dish on the last night of Passover to use up extra matzah pieces. Either way, it’s a treat!

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Minestra Dayenu: Chicken and Egg Soup with Cinnamon and Matzah Noodles
(Yield: Serves 8 / Makes about 16 cups)

INGREDIENTS:

For Broth:
15 cups plain chicken broth
Fine sea salt
(amount will vary according to how salty broth is)
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/8 to ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
8 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup warm water

For Serving:
4 square matzah (regular, not egg, not thin),
broken into strips about 6 inches long and 1 inch wide
Extra ground cinnamon


1. Pour broth into a large soup pot and bring to a boil, uncovered, over high heat.

2. Lower to a medium heat and add the salt (as needed), cinnamon, and nutmeg. Simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Turn off heat but leave on top of burner.

3. Combine the egg yolks with ¼ cup warm (not cold) water in a small bowl. Very slowly pour the egg mixture into the broth while whisking quickly at the same time to prevent the eggs from turning stringy like egg drop soup (mixture should look fine as if you had added flour).

4. (Note: If you are not serving immediately then wait to do this step until just before otherwise matzah will become too mushy when ready to eat.) Bring soup to a second boil over high heat. Reduce to a medium heat and add the matzah strips. Mix once and slow boil just until the strips become soft like pasta (less than 1 minute). Remove from heat and serve immediately in separate bowls sprinkled with a little bit of ground cinnamon.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

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Minestra Dayenu: It should have been enough.

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When I first read about this traditional Italian Passover soup it was really the name that captured my attention. (What a great name!) It conveyed that it was both a filling Italian soup, as well as one sufficient for Passover. So as usual, I began looking into the meaning of the words themselves. Minestra (a general term for hearty vegetable soups cooked with dried pasta) is rooted in the Italian/Latin word minestrare, meaning “to administer,” or “to serve.” It was originally a one-pot dish (most likely first prepared by the poor) that cooked leftover vegetables, potatoes, beans, and pasta or rice in a broth and was served at the table as the main or only course for the meal (the popular minestrone known in the USA is a type of minestra). The word dayenu in Hebrew literally means, “enough for us,” a phrase we are all familiar with either chanting or singing at the end of our Seder meal as a way of showing our endless gratitude to God for having saved us from eternal slavery (“If he had brought us out of Egypt, and had not carried out judgements against them — Dayenu, that would have been enough… If he had fed us the manna and had not given us ShabbatDayenu, that would have been enough.”) 

In Claudia Roden’s, “The Book of Jewish Food,” (Knopf, 2007) Ms. Roden describes her recipe as having been personally mailed to her from a woman in Turin, Italy. In doing a search online I came across a few others that mentioned this specific soup as well. It seems that this particular minestra captures the spirit of the traditional Roman or Italian soup in that it utilizes a broth (chicken) as the base to cook down leftover pieces of matzah to create a thick pasta-like soup. The addition of cinnamon as well as beaten egg yolks reflects the Sephardic/Eastern touch, however, and turns it into a perfect Passover-friendly dish. While preparing this soup I quickly texted an Italian friend of mine in New York to ask her the following: “Is Minestra Dayenu something that you and your family prepared for Passover in Italy, and if so, is it simply chicken broth, egg yolks, cinnamon, and matzah pieces?” She instantly replied, “Yes, we did do this but you cannot make it using the Israeli or American style matzah because they are too thin and completely fall apart — it’s like using lentils instead of rice to make risotto! Every Passover my mother sends me the French kind to use because they hold together more like pasta. You have to use the French kind or it’s not worth it.”

In the end I prepared my own version of Minestra Dayenu utilizing defrosted homemade turkey broth (yes, from the holiday that keeps giving!). Once the broth had started to boil, I added salt, black pepper, and just enough ground cinnamon to taste it. I threw in a few broken up squares of good ‘Ol American-Israeli matzah (will have to wait until my next trip to France for the better kind) and let the soup slow boil for 15 minutes. Then I beat up a few egg yolks and quickly mixed them (for all you New York City Jews out there, yes, it looked like Chinese egg drop soup, but not as thick, and reminded me of the Bukharian egg soup recipe that I had learned this past October). And there it was, simple, and filling all at the same time. That should have been enough.

But something was missing, and I found myself wanting to add a bit more substance to make it a complete meal. Inspired by another Italian Passover soup recipe called, Minestra di Riso, I ended up making small one-inch meatballs with ground chicken (okay, turkey, but it should be chicken), eggs, matzah cake flour, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and parsley and cooking them into the soup for 25 minutes. These chicken dumplings looked nice in the soup and reminded me of tiny matzah balls. If you decide to prepare this dish as a main course, then perhaps adding the meatballs would be more satisfying. But I should mention that the more traditional Minestra Dayenu soup does not have these chicken dumplings, and that as a starter to the greater Passover dinner it would be more than enough without them. Dayenu.

QUESTIONS:
For those of you out there who are familiar with this particular Passover soup,
can you tell me how you prepare it?

Is the egg that is mixed in like egg drop soup, or much smoother?
How strong is the cinnamon flavor?

Do you add chicken dumplings?

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