When my daughter, Emily, was doing her college internship in Jerusalem, she would tell me about the wonderful food she was consuming at Machane Yehuda market. She lived across the street at Abraham Hostel, where she was interning. One afternoon, she called to tell me she had the soup of her life. (I thought I made her the soup of her life!)

“Mom, it’s made with beets and there’s dumplings in the soup.”

“What kind of dumplings?” I inquired.

“Mom, it’s like if a matzo ball and kreplach had a kid!”

Emily had the good fortune of traveling to Israel a few times and spending it in educational programs. Me, mom, had never been. That’s what we do—we give to our children first.

When I turned 50 in 2014, I finally made it to Israel. It was truly the most eye-opening and incredible trip I had ever been on. I loved it so much that I became obsessed with everything Israel. I proceeded to visit two more times because I couldn’t stay away. I found myself in Israel. I loved so much about it that I immersed myself in my Judaism and history. It’s the fuel that lights my heart.

On my last trip there in July 2019, I spent three weeks traveling and eating my way through the country. My eldest sister Julie accompanies me on my trips; she studied in Tel Aviv and has many friends there. One day for lunch, Julie said to me: “My friends are taking us somewhere really authentic where they serve Yemenite, Turkish, Iraqi and Sephardic food. They can’t wait for you to try it.”

We took a beautiful, hot walk to Machane Yehuda market (also called “the shuk”) and met my sister’s friends there. We walked underneath the shuk, where there was a very modest restaurant. It looked like if you were at Demo’s Greek Restaurant in Watertown—a family business cooking ethnic food. We started the meal off with shots of ouzo, and since Julie does not drink it, I took hers. I took two. I never take two! Anyway, the waiter came over to our table and our friends were ordering and they only spoke Hebrew, and fast. The food then started coming out. A famous soup that they are known for was served first. It was the color of magenta with big balls floating in it. “This is kubbeh,” my friends told me. They handed me a big spoon and watched me intently.

I sliced a piece of the dumpling with my spoon and gathered it with broth and beets. I took the first bite. I think I cried. It was that emotional for me. I have tasted so much soup in my life, but nothing like this. I could taste the depth, the fullness and bright, assertive flavors. I knew I was eating thousands of years’ worth of recipe creations, and I could feel and taste the history in each bite.

I knew I would make it when I came home, and I received great tips, but it’s my palate that has the most vivid memory for me. I played with the flavors until it brought me to that same spoonful of soul I tasted in Jerusalem.

Here’s my version of this royal Iraqi soup.

Kubbeh Soup


  • For the beet broth:
  • 10 raw beets, peeled and julienned
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 6 cups beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons harissa paste
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Paprika, cumin and coriander
  • For the kubbeh filling:
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1½ pounds ground beef
  • Cumin, cinnamon, paprika, salt and pepper (two shakes of each)
  • For the dumpling dough:
  • 4 cups semolina flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 2 cups water


  1. Place all the broth ingredients in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then place on simmer.
  2. Brown the ground beef with spices for 6-8 minutes and set aside.
  3. Gently mix the dumpling ingredients to form a dough, but do not over mix—mix by hand.
  4. With a scoop, take some dough and flatten it out to the size of a silver-dollar pancake.
  5. Place a spoonful of the meat filling in the middle and wrap to enclose it and form a ball.
  6. Place all the stuffed dumplings in the simmering beet broth and continue to cook for 45 minutes, covered.