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?
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