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Potato kugel is always a hit at holiday meals. Traditionalists enjoy simple potato kugel like their grandmothers used to make, but even so there are debates about whether the kugel should be crunchy and light or soft and compressed. This particular version has a pumpkin custard-like topping and is a mix of sweet and savory. You end up with a little crunch around the edges and a soft filling in the middle. It also lends itself to experimentation—add cumin or za’atar for Middle Eastern flavors, or turmeric or garam masala for an Indian-inspired version.
Potato and Pumpkin Kugel
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Peel onion and potatoes and coarsely grate with a box grater over a clean kitchen towel. (Here, I used 3 small potatoes as one large potato.)
3. Over the sink or a bowl, squeeze the towel of grated mixture as hard as you can to extract as much liquid as possible.
4. Add 2 ½ Tbsp. oil to a deep pie plate. Put the plate in the oven to heat.
5. Add onion and potato mixture to a bowl. Sprinkle with starch, salt and ½ tsp. pepper.
6. Make a well in the middle of the mixture and crack one egg into it. Beat the egg with a fork and mix well.
7. Remove the pie plate from the oven, scooping out ½ Tbsp. hot oil. Set aside.
8. With a fork, add the potato mixture to the pie plate. Build up the sides of the pie plate to form a crust. (If you like lots of crunchy potato, make your sides wide.) Drizzle remaining hot oil on top.
9. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, until edges begin to brown.
10. Mix pumpkin purée with evaporated milk. Add remaining eggs, cinnamon and sugar.
11. With a measuring cup or ladle, pour pumpkin mixture into potato pie until it reaches the top of the potato edges. (Any extra mixture can be used to make sweet pumpkin flan!)
12. Add remaining ½ tsp. pepper and additional spice, if using, to pumpkin mixture, stirring lightly with a fork to prevent overflow.
13. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. If the edges begin to get too dark, cover with foil; the moisture from the pumpkin should help it stay crisp.
14. To make sweet pumpkin flan, add 3 Tbsp. sugar to leftover pumpkin mixture. Pour into oven-safe ramekins and bake for 30 minutes.
15. After removing kugel from oven, let cool slightly and serve with sour cream.
When the Jewish New Year arrives, people often wish their family and friends a “sweet and fruitful New Year.” Because the holiday occurs right at the beginning of apple season, apples are the fruit of choice. People with ancestry from Eastern Europe and Russia ceremoniously dip apple wedges in honey to symbolize this good wish. Sephardic Jews, or Jews who can trace their ancestry back to Spain (“Sepharad” means “Spain” in Hebrew), and especially Turkish Jews, have another custom: dulce de manzana.
Dulce de manzana means “sweet of the apple,” and this delicious rose-scented apple preserve is spread on pieces of challah at the beginning of the Rosh Hashanah meal. It is so delicious that any leftovers stored in the refrigerator can be used for weeks as a spread on toast and sandwiches, or even as a base for small custard tarts. If you have an apple peeler (as shown in the photo) your children can help peel the apples while developing their gross motor skills. I also like to use the coarse blade on my food processor. The grating is fast and the apples don’t have time to discolor (although the little bit of lemon juice will rectify that). My last suggestion is to use firm apples as suggested in the recipe. That way the apple strands keep their shape and you won’t end up with applesauce!
DULCE de MANZANA
1. Place the sugar and water in a 3 quart saucepan and bring to a boil over medium high heat.
2. While the mixture is heating, peel the apples and grate them by hand with a coarse grater or use a coarse grating disc on your processor. Immediately add the apples to the hot sugar syrup.
3. Reduce the temperature to medium and allow to cook for 30 -45 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is quite thick. (Note: the amount of time depends on the variety of apple and its juice content.) Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent sticking.
4. While mixture is cooking, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 4 minutes or until lightly golden. Set aside.
5. When mixture is thickened (it will get thicker when it cools) add the rosewater or the vanilla and place in an open container until cool. The toasted almonds may be added to the mixture or sprinkled on top as a garnish. Refrigerate until serving.
I absolutely love Rosh Hashanah and all things High Holiday season. I love fall weather, and I love the changing leaves and a bit of crisp in the air (though having lived in Miami and then Los Angeles for the last five years, I do miss the actual crisp in the air). Rosh Hashanah has been my favorite holiday ever since I was a little kid growing up in Atlanta. But it wasn’t until I learned how to really cook that Rosh Hashanah cemented itself in my heart as a culinary holiday. As I learn more and more about the holidays, I gain a better understanding of just how connected Jewish holidays are to the earth, the season and the harvest for that season. The recipe in this post is a testament to my commitment to honor the fruits and vegetables of the season. Roasted cauliflower and sweet potato is one of my go-to recipes for a quick, healthy and flavorful side dish on any Shabbat dinner table. But I wanted to jazz things up a bit, so I added some roasted garlic and perfectly ripe figs to balance the saltiness of the tahini. Whether you’re hosting a bunch of family this holiday season or feasting alone, do yourself a favor and try this dish. It’s great as a hot side or as a topping on a salad the next day. Enjoy!
Roasted Cauliflower and Sweet Potato with Figs and Tahini
2. Spread the cauliflower florets and sweet potato in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, pepper and turmeric. Using a spatula, mix the cauliflower and sweet potato to spread the oil and spices around.
3. Place garlic cloves and remaining olive oil on a small piece of aluminum foil. Wrap garlic and oil in the foil so no oil can escape. Place foil in the corner of the baking sheet holding the veggies.
4. Place baking sheet in the oven and bake roughly 40 minutes, or until cauliflower and sweet potato are crispy on the edges.
5. Meanwhile, prepare the tahini by adding the tahini paste, lemon, kosher salt and garlic
6. Once vegetables are done, let cool for 5 minutes (make sure to open the foil of garlic and let it cool as well). Place all veggies and sliced figs on a serving dish and drizzle with tahini. Serve with an additional topping of cilantro or parsley, if desired.
Challah for the Jewish New Year is special—round to celebrate the circle of life and sweet (typically with raisins) in the hope of a sweet year. For the occasion, I make what I call my cinnamon roll challah, with rum-soaked raisins (an homage to Italian desserts featuring rum) and a pretty swirl of brown sugar and cinnamon inside.
Rosh Hashanah Cinnamon Roll Challah with an Italian Twist
Recipe reprinted with permission from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life
Yield: Two large loaves. (Dairy with butter or Pareve with margarine or oil.)
1. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil and set aside.
2. Heat rum in the microwave or on stovetop until hot. Pour over raisins to submerge them completely. Let stand about 10 minutes. Drain and discard the rum and pat the raisins dry. Set aside.
3. Dissolve the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl, about five minutes. Mix in the sugar, three whole eggs and the one egg white, butter and vanilla. Stir in 2½ cups of the flour and the salt, and combine well. Then add 2½ more cups of flour and mix well. Add additional flour as needed to form a cohesive dough.
4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Press the dough into a large thick disk, and insert a handful of the raisins, spaced apart. Fold the dough over the raisins and flatten again; continue inserting raisins this way until all are incorporated and well distributed.
5. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, then lift out, turn over, and place it (oiled side up) back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.
6. Uncover the dough and press down on the middle to deflate. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.
7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare the filling by stirring together the brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla extract and the melted butter or margarine.
8. Divide the dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a large rectangle, about 20 inches long by 9 to 10 inches wide. Brush a thin layer of the butter over the dough. Then sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture.
9. Starting at one long edge of the dough, roll it (jelly-roll style) gently but firmly to the other edge. Press the seam and ends to seal. Gently pull and roll this log until it is about 24 inches long, keeping the original thickness on one end and gradually narrowing the other end. Twine the narrow end around the larger end to make a large pinwheel. Press the loose end to seal. Gently press down on the top of the entire loaf to level it.
10. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Prepare the egg wash by lightly beating the reserved egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water to combine. Brush on shaped loaves. Gently cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled. Halfway through the rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
11. Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 15 to 18 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped (the interior should be between 185 and 190 degrees). Some of the sugar mixture might seep out and create a sweet undercrust, which I consider ideal. Serve the same day or freeze.
Marcia Friedman is the author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. She continues to write about her journey and the intersection of Jewish and Italian food at meatballsandmatzahballs.com.
Apples, the symbolic fruit for the Jewish New Year, can find their way onto your holiday menu in many ways. This recipe may not have its origins in Europe or the Middle East, but it plays on the tradition of elevating even the simplest of ingredients into a festive dish.
I serve this as a side for brisket or chicken, but you can also combine it with quinoa or barley as a more substantial side dish or vegetarian main course. Although you can buy a whole butternut squash and peel and cube it yourself, I find it’s worth the time and money to buy the squash already peeled and cubed. You might have to cut some of the chunks into smaller pieces if they’re too large, but otherwise this is a fast and easy dish to make. You don’t even have to peel the apples!
Roasted Butternut Squash with Apples and Onions
Serves 6-8 as a side dish
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cut onion in half and slice each piece crosswise into ½-inch strips. Place on a large rimmed baking sheet and set aside.
3. Using an apple slicer, cut apple into eighths and then cut each wedge into three or four chunks. Add to the onions, along with the squash cubes.
4. Add the remaining ingredients and toss well. Arrange in a single layer and bake for 20 minutes. If onions are not yet golden and squash is still firm, gently turn the mixture and return to the oven for another 6 minutes, or until done.
5. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle with dried cranberries and sunflower seeds and serve.
Some people have strong feelings about the kind of recipe that aims to create a Passover-friendly version of a dish that is typically leavened. Detractors think creating Passover bagels, muffins, and rolls miss the point of the holiday’s specific diet. Those in favor see the practice as helping to make a difficult holiday more bearable. Some will even point to foods like Passover Popovers as an example of Jewish ingenuity.
Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle. I don’t see the point suffering through a week of “I can’t believe you want to call this a bagel.” (But hey, if you can convince yourself that whatever you’ve come up with tastes like a bagel, more power to you. I’ll have eggs for breakfast this week.) On the other hand, when the introduction of matzah into a dish creates a delightful new twist on an old favorite, I’m all for it.
This brings us to Matzah Kugel, a sweet, dairy-filled confection of matzah layered with sweetened cheese. Sure, you could make a kugel with Passover noodles and come up with an almost-but-not-quite-satisfying proxy for the regular version, but you will never forget that it’s not the “real” thing. Matzah kugel, on the other hand, takes the idea of a noodle kugel as a jumping off point and transforms it into something different but equally delicious.
This dish can function as a side dish or a main course. (It pairs well with a side salad and a piece of gefilte fish.) You can freeze leftover portions: they reheat well in the microwave and even make a delicious and quick breakfast when you just can’t take one more piece of matzah with cream cheese.
Cheese Matzah Kugel for Passover
2. Add cottage cheese, salt, sugar, cinnamon, and butter and mix to combine thoroughly.
3. Grease an 8 inch square baking dish with butter.
4. Arrange half of the matzah so that it covers the bottom of the dish.
5. Pour half of the cheese mixture over it. Repeat with balance of the matzah and cheese mixture. If you wish, sprinkle additional cinnamon and sugar over the top of the kugel.
6. Bake at 350°F for 40 minutes or until set.
Hamentaschen, a popular treat for the holiday of Purim, translates to “Haman’s pockets.” Haman is the villain in the story of Purim and in addition to booing whenever his name is mentioned, on Purim we eat sweet filled cookies that are in the triangular shape of Haman’s hat. This is a savory twist on the traditional Hamentaschen and can be served as an appetizer or as part of a Purim meal. It is made with pre-made pie crust, so it is a quick and easy dish to prepare.
1. Preheat oven to 450℉. Thaw the broccoli in a colander by running cold water of it. Then set it aside on a kitchen towel to dry a little. Then, thaw the spinach in a colander by running cold water over the spinach. Once thawed, put the spinach in a clean kitchen towel and squeeze the excess water out of the spinach or push the moisture out through a sieve.
2. Mash the goat cheese, cottage cheese and feta in a bowl with a fork until uniformly mixed. Add the salt, pepper and lemon zest. Scoop out 1/3 of the cheese mix to set aside. The other 2/3 will be mixed with the spinach, broccoli, dill and onion.
3. Finely chop the broccoli and the dill. Slice and mince 1/2 the onion. If the spinach is whole leaf then chop the spinach as well. Stir the broccoli and spinach into the cheese mixture. Set the mixture aside and prepare your pastry.
4. Roll the pie crusts out slightly so they are about 1/8 inch thick. Trim the sides to make approximately a 9-10-inch square. Do not worry if your measurements are off as long as you have a rectangle or square-like shape. You can keep the trim to roll out again later. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares or whatever looks even. You will have about 9 squares per pie dough.
5. With a knife you can score diagonally across the square (or just eyeball it). Then cut a triangle window out of one side of the square with at least a 1/2-inch border. Carefully pull the uncut side of the square over onto the cut side and push along the middle crease. Then flip the dough over so you’ll have a triangle cutout on top of a triangle of dough.
6. With a fork, press down along the edges of the triangle to crimp the dough. Fill each pastry cutout with a small spoonful of just the cheese mixture and then a larger spoonful of the spinach, broccoli and feta mixture piled high in the center. You can pinch the edges to fill out the corners of the triangle.
7. Brush the sides of each hamentaschen with egg and sprinkle with nigella seeds (optional). Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pie crust is a light golden brown.
Hamentaschen or “Haman’s Pockets” are the traditional dessert of Ashkenazi Jews on the holiday of Purim. Originally containing poppy seed filling in medieval Germany, it later became popular to fill the Hamentashen with prune filling. This tradition was started in 1731 to honor a Jewish prune jam merchant named David Brandeis. David was acquitted after being charged erroneously with trying to poison the magistrate of Jungbunzlau in northeastern Bohemia (now part of the Czech Republic). To celebrate his acquittal the people in his community filled Hamantashen with his plum jam and called it Poivadl (plum/prune) Purim. Today Hamentaschen are filled with many different flavors of fruit jams, nuts and even chocolate.
It is difficult for people suffering from Celiac Disease and others whose bodies are sensitive to gluten to participate in many food customs when one’s diet is restricted in this way. Creating recipes that allow people on restricted diets to participate fully in the enjoyment of Jewish culinary traditions is a very important goal of mine. The following two recipes can be made dairy free as well as gluten-free if you so choose and it is delicious either way. Choose either to make chocolate cookie dough or traditional sugar cookie dough, both with delicious chocolate filling. Enjoy!