Judy Elbaum: Leave It To Bubbe, Food Memories and Jewish and Colombian Chicken Soup Recipes

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 40
January 24, 2024
Photo by John Paul Endress

Leave It To Bubbe founder Judy Elbaum’s love of food started in childhood.

“Both of my parents were Holocaust survivors, so food was very important,” Elbaum said. “Getting together for a meal, being able to eat a meal in freedom.”

Though Elbaum started cooking at 15, her love and craft has developed over the years.

“My husband’s mom passed away about a year before [we got married], and he said he really missed her stuffed cabbage and these cookies she used to make, called spritz cookies,” she said. “So I ran to the bookstore and bought some books and I learned how to make stuffed cabbage and … spritz cookies.”

Elbaum bought more books and learned how to make other things. Then she started taking cooking classes too.

“I collected hundreds of cookbooks and I have hundreds of cooking magazines; the house is filled with [books, magazines and files of recipes],” she said. “Eventually I actually started to teach classes.”

On LeaveIttoBubbe.com, Elbaum shares her favorite kosher seasonal and holiday recipes, as well as cooking tutorials. She is also a food columnist and author of a new book,”Judy Elbaum’s Seasonal Delights,” which she is using as a fundraiser for Leket Israel.

Elbaum, who often shares her mother, Nanny Fela’s, recipes, says her mom learned how to cook from friends and relatives.

“She didn’t have a big repertoire, but she had a natural knack for making good food,” Elbaum said. “She made the typical Ashkenazi foods, but she made them really delicious.”

This included chicken soup and matzo balls (recipe is below), gefilte fish and meatloaf.

“Anytime I got sick, I was fed endless bowls of chicken soup,” she said. “My mom’s chicken soup was really amazing.”

Elbaum served her mother’s epic chicken soup for many years, before it was replaced by what she calls Colombian penicillin.

“My husband and I were in Florida, and he developed a flu-like illness,” she said. “We had become friendly with this lovely Colombian couple, and I had spoken with [the wife] in the morning, and mentioned that my husband Steve was ill.”

She showed up a couple of hours later on their doorstep with this pot of Colombian chicken soup, made by her family cook, Luzma.

“It was like the ultimate comfort food,” Elbaum said. “It’s the Colombian version of Jewish chicken soup. However, it’s got different ingredients in it.”

In addition to the chicken, there’s tomatoes, potatoes, turmeric and cilantro, which you can replace with parsley or chives, if you prefer.

The Columbian penicillin recipe is below, as well. 

For more recipes follow Judy Elbaum @baba_judy on Instagram and go to LeaveItToBubbe.com.

For the full conversation, listen to the podcast:


Nanny Fela’s Epic Chicken Soup With Matzo Balls

Photo by Judy Elbaum

This is my Mom’s epic chicken soup. Served with her fluffy, ethereal matzo balls—it is a family favorite.

Chicken Soup

8 chicken leg quarters (thigh and drumstick)

1 strip of flanken (short ribs cut against the bone)

3 carrots, peeled and cut into chunks

3 parsnips, peeled and cut into chunks

1 turnip, peeled and cut into chunks

3 stalks of celery with leaves, cut into chunks

1 large onion, peeled and cut into chunks

6 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced in half

1 handful of Italian parsley, tied with kitchen string

1 handful of dill, tied together with the parsley

1 bouillon cube, crumbled

Matzo Balls

2 eggs

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 packet of Manischewitz matzo ball mix

1 tablespoon of matzo meal

To make chicken soup:

Wash and dry the chicken leg quarters and flanken. Place in a large stock pot and fill with water to cover by 1 to 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, skim off the foamy solids that rise to the top.

Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the carrots, parsnips, turnip, celery, onion, garlic cloves, parsley and dill, and bouillon cube.

Once all the ingredients are at a simmer, partially cover the stockpot and cook the soup for about 2 hours.

Place a cheesecloth in a large sieve and strain the soup. Discard most of the vegetables, but save the carrots and slice them into rounds to put into the soup. Also, make sure to save the chicken and the flanken. You can cut the chicken into chunks and serve it in the soup, or you can make chicken salad with it. The boiled chicken freezes well, so you can freeze and save it for future use.

I like to place the strained chicken stock into a gravy strainer to remove the fat from the stock. Or, you can refrigerate or freeze the stock and remove the fat the rises to the top and solidifies when cold.

The boiled flanken is very tasty and tender. You can serve it in the soup. Nanny used to serve it to Poppy David as part of a main course.

Place the chicken stock in the fridge or freezer. Skim off the fat that forms at the top before heating and serving.

Nanny served this chicken stock with her famous matzo balls.

To make matzo balls:

In a mixing bowl, beat well the 2 eggs and the vegetable oil.

Slowly stir in the contents of 1 packet of matzo ball mix.

Add 1 tablespoon of matzo meal to the mixture.

Chill in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.

While the mixture is chilling, fill a large pot with water. The water should come to within an inch or two of the top of the pot. Bring the water to a boil.

Remove the chilled mixture from the refrigerator and form 1-inch balls, rolling them with your hands.

Drop the matzo balls into the boiling water.

Cover tightly, reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes.

Makes about 12 matzo balls

Luzma’s Colombian Penicillin

Photo by John Paul Endress

4 chicken legs with thighs (you can use different parts of the chicken, depending on your preference)


1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons chicken bouillon powder

2 plum tomatoes, chopped

½ Spanish onion, chopped

6 garlic cloves, put through a garlic press

pink Himalayan salt

4 small potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

freshly ground pepper

½ teaspoon turmeric

2 handfuls fideos (Fideos is Spanish for noodles that are coiled into nests. You should be able to find these in your supermarket. A good substitute is angel hair pasta)

1 bunch scallions, white parts only, sliced

cilantro, chopped (ok to sub parsley or chives)

Wash, rinse and dry chicken legs (or whichever part of the chicken you want to use). Luzma made the soup with chicken necks and boneless chicken breasts. Chicken wings would be a good option as well.

Place chicken in a large saucepan or soup pot and fill the pot with water to cover the chicken by 1 to 2 inches. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Skim the foamy solids that rise to the top of the soup pot, so that you will have a clear broth. After the chicken has simmered for ½ hour, add the white wine vinegar and the chicken bouillon and simmer 10 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, salt to taste, and simmer together for another 10 minutes. Now add the potatoes and simmer until the potatoes are soft—about 30 minutes. Add some salt and pepper to taste, then add the turmeric and simmer all together briefly.

Add the fideos, and cook until soft; about 10 more minutes. Add a handful of chopped scallions and simmer for 5 minutes more, then add some chopped cilantro right before serving.

4 to 6 servings

Photo by Judy Elbaum

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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