When I learned that Liam, a friend of my 9-year-old son, would be joining us at the potluck dinner in the synagogue sukkah because (as he told his mom) “Jews have the best food,” I reluctantly abandoned my plan to purchase a tray of spanakopita. I felt stymied by the task ahead: to prepare a wholesome dairy dish of Jewish origins that would appeal to children and adults alike, and one that would also survive the trip to the sukkah on a brisk autumn evening.
Then I remembered kugel. My mother-in-law’s noodle kugel, to be precise, handed down to her by her own mother, who is known in these quarters as Grandma Rae. Rae, perhaps because her husband died young of a cardiac-related illness, specialized in healthy cooking, and her kugel bears little resemblance to the sweet, rich noodle kugels of my own youth, which call for at least a stick of butter and a tub of sour cream, topped by handfuls of crunchy cornflakes.
Rae’s kugel is neither savory nor overly sweet. She somehow managed to eliminate what my husband Jeremy calls “the fun stuff” and still retain the traditional essence of a noodle kugel, which Yiddish-speakers call lokshen kugel. Imported from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, it is a filling, warming dish suitable for any autumn or winter evening. The version we make is much lighter than the conventional one, and spicier too, thanks to Jeremy’s addition of nutmeg and cardamom.
On Sukkot, Liam piled his plate high with the various potluck contributions. The son of a Presbyterian minister, this is a fourth grader who delights in sampling new cuisines, whether he’s in the jungles of Peru or the food courts of Flushing, Queens. After a few minutes of eating beneath the chilly skies of the rooftop sukkah, he leaned toward my son. “I like this dish,” he said confidentially, pointing toward a few crispy noodles in the corner of his plate. It was Rae’s kugel.
Lighter Lokshen Kugel
1½ 12-ounce packages of Dutch egg noodles (whole wheat if possible)
2½ 16-ounce containers of low-fat or non-fat cottage cheese (ricotta can replace part of cottage cheese)
4 eggs (or five if cottage cheese looks dry; egg whites can also be substituted)
1 or 2 tablespoons of butter
2 or 3 peeled, cored and chopped apples, coated with cinnamon/sugar mixture
1 cup yellow raisins
Splash of vanilla extract
Cinnamon, cardamom and nutmeg (as desired — about ½ teaspoon each)
Wheat germ (Can also use other healthy, crunchy cereal)
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1) Preheat oven to 400˚ F.
2) Lightly grease 9 X 13-inch baking pan with butter or oil.
3) Parboil noodles (for about three minutes). Rinse and drain. Put noodles aside, mixing in one tablespoon of butter to melt while they cool.
4) Mix all other ingredients in a large bowl. Add noodles to mixture. Pour mixture into pan. Sprinkle wheat germ and brown sugar on top. Cover with foil.
5) Bake for about 45 minutes. Uncover and broil, on low if possible, until crispy, about 10 minutes. (Watch carefully to make sure kugel doesn’t burn.)
There’s nothing like a series of back-to-back Jewish holidays to help you pack on the pounds without even trying. Between my mother’s Rosh Hashanah brisket, my bubbie’s stuffed cabbage for Sukkot, and our elaborate post-Yom Kippur feast that features enough delectable breads, spreads, and pastries to more than make up for 24 hours without eating, it’s a wonder any of our clothing fits by the time October rolls around each year.
Given the deliciousness of the various items that typically grace our holiday table, the assault on my waistline is more than worth it. That said, we’ve made an effort over the past few years to mitigate the damage by swapping some of our old school, traditional kugel recipes for ones that are just as tasty but far more healthy.
We LOVE Yotam Ottolenghi (and hope you do too). He dishes on his favorite cookbooks. [Serious Eats]
What makes a perfect bagel? Mary Ting Hyatt tries to answer the unanswerable. [The Kitchn]
If that made you hungry, here’s where to get 10 of the best bagels in New York. [Village Voice]
How to Throw the ultimate bagel brunch (just incase you needed any more incentive). [Bon Appetit]
It took a while, but Spring has finally arrived. Celebrate with a zucchini kugel. [The Nosher]
This summer is an excellent season for cookbooks. Here’s your ultimate roundup of the most delicious titles. [Eater]
Photo: Flickr/Kenneth Lu
I’m the rabbinic intern for a small synagogue in Manhattan, but they also employ me as their kiddush caterer. I can be found leading services on Shabbat but I also have made sufganiyot with families for Hanukkah. I may have left the professional food industry behind, however food, particularly Jewish food, is still a big part of my life and will continue to be integral to my rabbinate.
Every time I bite into a slice of noodle kugel, I am reminded of another baked pasta dish: frisinsal, an unusual, savory and just slightly sweet recipe that we make back home in Venice around Tu B’shvat (the New year of Trees).
For the Jews of Northern Italy, no recipe recalls the past as much as the frisinsal. The baked pasta dish consists of layers of fresh noodles tossed in goose fat (or juice from a roast), with the addition of pine nuts, raisins, and goose or beef sausage or goose “prosciutto.” It is an amalgam of flavors and culinary traditions, much like the Jewish community of the area which blends Ashkenazi, Sephardi and Italki (Italian Jewry) customs.
Some traditional dishes, such as the local hamin (once the warm course for the Shabbat lunch), have virtually disappeared from our modern tables but for some reason, frisinal still brings the community together.
It’s also known by the name Ruota del Faraone, or “Pharaoh’s Wheel,” a reference to this week’s Torah part which tells the story of Israelites crossing the Red Sea. Italian Jews will tell you that the pasta bake is shaped in a circle to resemble the wheels of Pharaoh’s chariots, that the noodles are the waves of the seas, the pine nuts the heads of the Egyptian horses, and the raisins or pieces of sausage the Egyptian warriors, being submerged by the unexpected waves.
“I beg to differ…what you have made is NOT a kugel.”
This is the opening line to a comment by Jezzie in Scottsdale, AZ in a recent New York Times article, named “Kugel Challenge.” What started out as simple question to replicate a quinoa kugel featured at a dinner has turned into one of the greatest comment battles about Jewish food in a while (read: since the annual High Holiday brisket and matzo ball soup discussions).
Martha Rose Shulman, of the “Recipes for Health” column of the Times offered five recipes for healthy, alternative grain kugels for this wary reader. Naturally, “healthy” and “alternative grains” have struck some serious cords within the Jewish (or otherwise) kugel-consuming communities out there.
Take a tasty tour through New York’s Holyland Market for Israeli staples from amba to za’atar. [Serious Eats]
Healthy, fall ingredients like carrots, quinoa and caraway seeds combine to re-imagine the traditional kugel four times over. [The New York Times]
Ever tried a vegan Reuben before? Locali, a “conscious convenience store” in Los Feliz, Calif., uses tofu, pickling spices and Daiya cheese for a clever, cruelty-free copy. [LA Weekly]
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver: statistics savant, presidential pick predictor … food blogger? His Burrito Bracket blog from back in the day puts tacos from his (and President Obama’s) Chicago home in an NCAA-style bracket. [Grub Street]
A mom in St. Louis had a say in the results of Hazon Colorado’s Best of the West Kugel contest. Nancy Green’s daughter, Hannah Green, a student at the University of Denver, was attending the Rocky Mountain Jewish Food Summit in Boulder on Sunday. And Hannah was so excited about being a kugel judge that she texted her mother — who quickly texted back what Hannah should look for. Nancy wrote that the “qualities of a good kugel” include moistness, holding together somewhat (but not too much), and good flavor and texture.
Taking her mom’s advice to heart, Hannah even re-tasted entries and changed some of her ratings. When the ratings of all 13 judges, chosen at random, were tallied, first place went to Sara Rachlin in the Sweet division, while Lindsay Gardner won top spot in the Savory category with a three cheese and spinach kugel. Shari Goldstein took the Sweet second place, and Benjamin Stuhl was second in Savory, with all four taking home prizes.
Read on for the winning kugel recipes and share your kugel recipes in the comment section below.
There is no shortage of home cooking blogs out there. But Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen, a relate-ably personal, yet eloquent blog, is one of the lucky few to have gained a large and loyal following. In fact, it’s her blog’s popularity — she has about 4 million unique visitors a month — that led Perelman to the holy grail of food blogs — a book deal.
And with Knopf no less. “It’s so exciting because they published Julia Child. I don’t know what they’re doing with the likes of me,” the always-humble Perelman said.
Perelman says the cookbook, which should be out in spring or fall 2012, will be a lot like her site, with stories and personal introductions to the recipes. “It’s a conversation,” she said. Perelman will often start a post on a subject that seems to have nothing to do with food (case in point: a recent post about how messy her closet is), and end it all with a fantastic dish (in this case, a dijon chicken recipe she found while clearing out said closet).
When I was in second grade in Syosset, New York, my class did a unit on “ethnic” foods. We celebrated with a potluck party: Every kid brought in a dish that represented their family background. I brought noodle kugel.
To the best of my knowledge, the only ethnicity that I had was Jewish. I knew that it was also our religion, but all the foods that I identified with my family background were the foods we ate on Shabbat and during the holidays. Although I tried to learn more about where my ancestors came from, my parents gave only the vaguest of answers — Russia, a word that is even less precise to me now than it was then, what with changing borders and the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. What once was Russia might also have been Poland or Yugoslavia. Who knows?