Two of my favorite people who are yearly guests at our Passover Seder can't eat gluten. This year I wanted to experiment with making gluten-free matzah balls for them. Matzah balls, for anyone not raised on them, are an Eastern European Jewish comfort food, plump dumplings that soak up flavor from the aromatic chicken soup in which they float. Or sink, as the case may be. People are tend to be firmly in either the "floaters" or "sinkers" camp.
They're made from matzah meal (crushed matzahs), eggs, water or broth, oil or chicken fat, and seasonings. A higher proportion of egg tends to give a fluffier result, less a chewier, denser. In looking around for gluten-free recipes I found those based on potato, almond flour, or gluten-free matzahs. All seemed to have mixed reviews--the potato ones too heavy and closer to a German potato dumpling, the almond meal ones also heavy, and the gluten-free matzah meal ones exploding in the cooking water. I saw one based on quinoa flakes that had overwhelmingly positive feedback, and my Goddaughter also sent me that one as she thought it had possibilities.
I sent Larry to Whole Foods with the shopping list. The first phone call was "I can't find quinoa flakes." It hadn't occurred to him to ask a salesperson. *eyeroll* Men. The next phone call was "Do you know how much xantham gum costs?" A small bag was $14.00--and all I needed for the recipe was 1/2 teaspoon! I called my GF friend, and she said the bag she had seemed to have gone bad, with a sour odor. (it is vegetable-based, so I guess it does have a short shelf life.) Fortunately, my GF guests were happy to split the bag with me.
OK, so on to the matzah balls. I based the experiment on this recipe, with some minor changes--I added a tablespoon of broth, melted chicken fat, and some snipped parsley and dill for flavor; I also let them sit longer in the fridge and cooked the balls longer to see if they'd get a bit lighter. http://www.tamaraduker.com/2009/03/not-your-mamas-gluten-free-matzoh-balls/
The result was quite good--the balls held together, and you could only tell they were not made from matzah meal if you looked closely enough to see some quinoa shapes now and then on the surface. The taste was mild, which soaked up the broth flavor from the soup beautifully. The texture was decent, somewhat on the "sinker" side, but nothing a Grandmother would complain about. Success!
Gluten-free Quinoa “Matzoh” Balls
Makes 10-12 quinoa balls
1 cup quinoa flakes (look in the hot cereal aisle of Whole Foods or other store)
1/2 tsp xanthan gum (look in baking supplies at Whole foods)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup melted chicken fat or vegetable oil
1 Tbs. broth or water
1/2 tsp salt
A sprinkle of ground black pepper to your liking
Tablespoon of each chopped parsley and dill
Combine quinoa flakes and xanthan gum in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the two eggs. Add oil, broth, herbs, salt and pepper and beat again until combined.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry, mix well until combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 60 minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. (You don’t want the matzoh balls to be crowded).
Remove batter from refrigerator and wet hands. With wet hands, fashion a SMALL amount of batter into a smooth ball shape and drop into the boiling water. ( Each uncooked ball should be no larger than the size of a ping-pong ball… they will expand when cooking, and if they’re too big, the middle may not cook through sufficiently.)
Cover pot and cook the quinoa balls, maintaining a rolling boil, cook 45 minutes.
Remove the balls from boiling water with a slotted spoon and let sit to cool for a few minutes. Then, refrigerate the balls until ready to serve.
Before serving, place quinoa balls in pot of soup to warm them through.