The food ways of the Jews in Mexico incorporate local ingredients with those of both Ashkenazi and Sephardic dishes and inspired this hearty soup, perfect as a dinner main course or starter.
Matzo balls (knaidlach) are dumplings made from matzo meal (ground-up matzo). They first appeared in Jewish food about the same time as bread-based dumplings began being added to soups and stews in Germany, Austria, and France. Originally a feature of Ashkenazi Passover meals, they have been adapted by many Jewish cultures and are often given a local twist or are combined with other regional flavors in soups or stews.
Pozole is a traditional, long-cooked soup or stew from Mexico made with hominy (corn that has been treated with an alkaline solution). Canned hominy is available in many supermarkets and Mexican groceries.
Since canned hominy already has added salt, be sure to taste and add salt at the end of the cooking time. For a milder soup, either seed the jalapeños or skip them altogether. If hominy is not available, use two (15-ounce) cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas.
In a large pot, bring the chicken broth to a simmer over medium heat (do not let it boil). Add the chicken, cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Simmer until the chicken is just cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the chicken to a bowl and set aside to cool.
Return the broth to a simmer. Add the onion, garlic, black pepper, and mixed vegetables, cover and cook until the vegetables just begin to soften, about 15 minutes. Add the bell pepper and jalapeño (if using), cover, and simmer until the mixed vegetables are tender enough that the outsides can be pierced with a fork but there is still some resistance in their centers, 10 to 20 minutes.
Shred the chicken. Raise the heat to medium, add the chicken, hominy, and matzo balls to the soup, and bring it to a gentle simmer. Lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Add one cup of the chopped tomatoes, the corn, and the spinach and simmer until the spinach is wilted and the matzo balls are heated through, about another five minutes. Add the salt. Taste and add more salt and black pepper, if desired.
Serve topped with the remaining 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, the cilantro, the green onions, and radishes or place the garnishes in individual bowls and pass them at the table so diners can make their choice. Squeeze lemon juice into the soup and stir before eating. Pass the salsa to stir in (if using).
Make it in advance- the chicken broth and matzo balls can be made ahead, stored in airtight containers, and refrigerated for up to five days or frozen for up to three months.
Make It Vegetarian – Use vegetable broth. Omit the chicken. Add three cups cooked chickpeas (or two 15-ounce cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed) when adding the hominy.
Recipe excerpted with permission from 52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen. 52 Shabbats explores the flavors, ingredients, techniques, and traditions of Jewish food from communities around the world while inviting everyone, regardless of background and experience, to honor the tradition of Shabbat with a special meal on Friday nights. Photography by Clara Rice. Buy the book on Amazon.