When I first tasted the delicious, and later ubiquitous, butternut squash kugel, I thought I was eating something healthy. However, there is a reason it tasted like cake: It was cake.
My Shabbat host readily admitted that that kugel was full of flour, sugar and oil. That was many years ago. Since then, some version of a squash kugel (whether made from sweet potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin), has graced most Shabbat tables at which I have had the pleasure of eating, including my own. I never could bring myself to make the classic cake-like recipe. Instead, for years I used a Hungry Girl recipe that called for egg beaters and artificial sweetener. As I no longer eat animal products or artificial sweeteners, I had to come up with my own healthy alternative.
I don’t think you’ll find an easier recipe that can be made so quickly and for a crowd. Plus, you can practice your inner Martha Stewart and decorate individual ceramic crocks, as I’ve done here, or one large serving dish.
Cooking tip: if you want to play with the servings, figure that you will use 1 small sweet potato per person or 1 large sweet potato for every two people. In addition, you will want 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup per large sweet potato.
4 large sweet potatoes, cooked until completely soft
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup-1 cup dried cherries or cranberries
½ cup-1 cup pecans
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Peel the well-cooked sweet potatoes. If they were cooked earlier, re-heat them for 2 minutes in the microwave in a glass or ceramic dish.
Using a food processor, whip the sweet potatoes and the maple syrup until light and fluffy. You can also use an immersion blender for this step.
Place the mixture into individual ceramic crocks or 1 large serving dish and smooth out the
top. Decorate with dried cherries and pecans.
Place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm.
I didn’t grow up eating kugel regularly. My only exposure to kugel was on the one or two times a year we would all gather around my grandmother’s dining room table for Jewish holidays. My grandmother would serve two kinds of kugel which she would describe as “one sweet, one savory.” I would more aptly describe them as “dry and drier.”
When I was in college and dating “a nice Jewish boy” his mother made an incredible dairy noodle kugel with crushed pineapple, butter and sour cream. Now THAT was kugel. I was in love. And when I met my husband and his family, I fell in love with his Baba Billie’s salt and pepper noodle kugel.
Like everything Baba Billie made, this kugel is not for the faint-hearted, or faint-stomached. This is not a light recipe, but it is good. You may look at the amount of oil and think, come on – really? Yes, really. I don’t make this every day, nor do I suggest making it every day. We make it a few times each year always to rave reviews. Everything in moderation, or so my father always says, and this kugel is no exception.
My husband likes to use regular wide noodles, but I opt for the super-duper extra wide. You can use either variety you like.
Like a little kick? Make sure to use hot paprika on top. If you prefer to play to it safe just use a sweet, smoky paprika instead.
1 12 ounce package of wide or extra wide egg noodles
2 Tbsp jarred garlic
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3-4 Tbsp olive oil
Special equipment: Pyrex baking dish
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. When oven is heated, add 3-4 heaping Tbsp of olive oil to baking dish and place pan in oven for the oil to heat. This step will make for a crispier kugel.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook noodles as directed on package, around 7-8 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While noodles are cooking, whisk together eggs, garlic, garlic powder, salt and pepper.
Add cooked noodles to egg mixture and mix gently until completely coated. Remove baking dish with hot oil from the oven and add noodles to the dish. It will sizzle slightly - this is a good thing.
Sprinkle top with paprika. Bake for 40 minutes uncovered or until noodles are desired crispiness. Serve warm or room temperature.
Hello Nosher readers! I’m so honored to have a recipe on this lovely site. I’ve been a long-time reader of MyJewishLearning.com so am extra honored to be featured.
Now, about this recipe. Lately, I’ve been on a mad “one-pot” meal frenzy.
I’ve got several full time jobs, including one with health insurance benefits and one with hugs-and-kisses benefits, both of which take up a lot of time. When it comes to cooking for Shabbat (or any meal), I try to keep it simple. This little side dish would be perfect with some grilled lemon salmon or any baked fish, really. And, if bread crumbs are omitted or almond flour is substituted, it’s grain-free and gluten-free friendly, which also means Passover-friendly. I hope you enjoy!
1 pound cherry tomatoes, halved
1 head of cauliflower, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (or almond flour if gluten-free)
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Combine the tomatoes, cauliflower, garlic and olive oil in an 9x13-inch baking dish. Season with salt and pepper. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the cauliflower are browning, about 25 - 30 minutes. After 25 - 30 minutes, you might notice that the casserole has become a bit watery.
Note: you might want to spoon out some of that moisture to help the cauliflower keep its crispness.
Combine the panko breadcumbs and the butter, then sprinkle over the tomatoes. Next, sprinkle the Parmesan over the casserole. Broil for 30 - 45 seconds, then sprinkle the basil over the top. Serve.
A lot of my friends have fond memories of their grandmother’s chicken soup or their mom’s amazing brisket. Sadly, I don’t have these sacred food memories. My Jewish grandmother (who I love dearly) is not such a great cook. Her kugel is always dried-out, her soup is too fatty and still needs salt, and she serves jarred gefilte fish at holidays, which more closely resembles lint from a dryer than something edible.
But one of the dishes she makes that I do enjoy is her marinated cucumber salad. It’s a dish that she learned to make from her grandmother (my great-great grandmother) who lived most of her life in Russia.
I updated her recipe just a bit, using seedless English cucumbers instead of regular cucumber, and adding a bit of spice with just a pinch of red pepper. I also love serving my salad in mason jars – definitely a modern twist.
This quick salad is a cinch to whip up, keeps for several days in the fridge and is a real crowd-pleaser. My young daughter devours it, and even my father-in-law approves – truly the ultimate compliment.
1 large seedless English cucumber
1 onion, thinly sliced
6 Tbsp white wine vinegar
3 Tbsp water
2-3 Tbsp chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch crushed red pepper (optional)
Slice cucumber 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
In a medium bowl, whisk together vinegar, water, sugar, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and dill.
Add thinly sliced cucumbers and onions to bowl and mix until liquid coats all the cucumbers and onions.
Place salad into container and allow to chill several hours or overnight.
In our home there is a clear division of labor when it comes to the kinds of meals we both cook. The husband is in charge of meat and fish. I am in charge of soups, sauces and salads. (And dessert too of course). Thankfully we both help out with the cleaning-up, at least most of the time.
Salads are really so much fun to throw together. I love experimenting with seasonal ingredients I find at my local farmer’s market and also using ingredients I have hanging around in my house. And above all about salads: I love that you can improvise.
The salad calls for arugula but all you have is spinach? Just substitute! Have some apples in the house that you want to use before they go bad? Chop them up and throw them in! This is actually how some of my best salad creations came about in the first place including one of my favorites, this Spinach, Blueberry & Goat Cheese Salad with edamame and cucumbers. It was literally what I had in my fridge and it happened to combine together for a delightful and delicious result. Just take a look:
I have found that traditional Israel salad is just the kind of salad that can be made into multiple variations, each one slightly different. For a little more spice you can add a pinch or two of sumac. You can leave out the peppers, leave out the cucumbers, or even add a few things, like chickpeas, feta and mint.
This salad came about like so many of my other favorite salad combinations. It was Saturday afternoon, my daughter was playing at the park with her dad and I was given a few moments to enjoy lunch by myself – glorious. Wine might have also been involved. I looked in the fridge, and threw together what I had: tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, chickpeas and feta!
And by adding chickpeas and feta, this classic side salad becomes a light but hearty main dish packed with protein, fiber and most importantly, flavor.
Keep improvising and enjoy!
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 orange or yellow bell pepper, diced
¼ cup diced red onion
2 scallions, sliced
1 ½ cups canned chickpeas, rinsed
¼ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Juice from ½ lemon
Salt and pepper
Combine tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, red onion, scallion, chickpeas and feta cheese in a medium bowl.
Dress with lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle fresh mint on top.
For anyone who has been following me on Instagram you know I’ve been a tad obsessed with cooking whatever is fresh at my local Jersey City farmer’s markets. Not too bad, right!?
It’s like my own Top Chef-Chopped challenge every week – what is at the farmer’s market today, what do I have in my fridge, and what can I whip up for dinner? Which mostly means, we have been eating a lot of salads, pasta, and more salads over the past few weeks, much to my meat-preferring husband’s chagrin. I am happy to report that he seems to be surviving.
I have made countless salad combinations with my fresh finds the past few weeks, but my Orecchiette with Kale Basil Walnut Pesto has been the real recipe winner to result from my farmers market shopping. Orecchiette is a great pasta when you want to really taste the sauce because the little “ears” really get coated, making a super flavorful pasta.
I like to leave pesto without cheese in it so that if I decide to marinate some chicken breasts or steak, I still have that option. And this batch of pesto makes enough for another pasta dinner, for some grilled veggies or for a quick chicken dinner.
1/2 pound orecchette pasta (or pasta of your choice)
2 cups fresh kale
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 garlic cloves
1/4 cup olive oil
reserved pasta cooking water
parmesan cheese (optional)
In a saute pan on low-medium heat, slowly toast walnuts until just fragrant, around 4-5 minutes. Make sure they do not burn.
In a food processor fitted with a blade, add kale, basil, walnuts, garlic and a few Tbsp of the olive oil. Begin to pulse. Slowly add the remaining olive oil until smooth. You might want to add a touch more olive oil depending on your preference.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook according to directions. Reserve one cup of pasta cooking water.
Drain pasta and set aside. Return pot to low-medium heat on the stove, and add half the pesto to the pot. Add a few Tbsp of cooking water and stir.
Put drained pasta back into pot and mix until pasta is completely covered. Add more pasta water to loosen sauce if needed.
Serve with parmesan cheese and fresh basil for garnish.