Thursday, September 12, 2013

Healthier Kugels: Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole and Cauliflower and Leek Kugel

Ashkenazi Jews, especially those of Anglo (N. American, British, S. African and Australian) origin, often feel that it is not a holiday or Shabbat meal without the addition of kugels. For years already, I have cut down on my kugel production and consumption after coming to the realization that many of the recipes are just desserts disguised as side dishes and laden with sugar, margarine, flour, etc.

Instead I prepare a whole variety of delicious vegetable dishes, salads, grains, potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. There is no question, however, that a kugel does impart that festive feeling to a meal.  No one said that kugels need to be unhealthy and dessert-like.I'd like to share with you two yummy recipes for healthier than average kugels:

Sweet Potato-Pecan Casserole


3 large or 4-5 medium sweet potatoes peeled and cut into 1-inch (2 1/2 cm) chunks
1/3 cup honey
1 egg
1 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground nutmeg
1/8 t ground ginger (optional)
1/3 cup candied pecans (in Israel="Pecan Sini")


Heat Oven to 350 F (180 C)
Lightly grease square, rectangular, or oval baking pan 
In the meantime, boil sweet potato chunks in pot until soft around 20-25 minutes. Cool slightly and mash until smooth in large bowl.
Mix in the rest of the ingredients.  
Spread evenly in baking pan and top with pecans lined up in rows.
Bake 40-45 minutes until it begins to brown around the edges.


Cauliflower and Leek Kugel


1 package of frozen cauliflower (or 2 fresh medium heads) 6 TBSP olive oil, divided 1 large or 2 medium coarsely chopped leeks or 2 coarsely chopped red or yellow onions 6 TBSP breadcrumbs or matza meal 3 large eggs 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley, divided 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill, divided 1 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper 1/3 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts, toasted


Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C) Cook cauliflower until tender, put aside in bowl break into smaller pieces or mash slightly if desired Saute leeks in 3 TBSPs of oil until tender and just beginning to color, about 5 mins Add leeks to cauliflower Mix in bread crumbs, set aside. In a seperate bowl mix eggs, 1Tbsp parsley, 1Tbsp dill, salt and pepper and then mix into cauliflower. Pour mixture into 11 x 7 baking pan brushed with one TBSP olive oil, Mix almonds remaining parsley, dill and oil together and sprinkle evenly over kugel. Bake uncovered until set in center and beginning to brown on top, about 35 mins. Let stand 10 mins.
Get a piece before your family and guests finish it,nothing is ever left of this kugel at the end of the meal!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Rosh Hashanah Post #2--Simanim and Black-eyed Pea Soup

First of all, I owe you all an apology.  After my first Rosh Hashanah post, I promised to post more recipes and then I got busy with work, life and cooking for Rosh Hashanah that I had no time to write about cooking.  I still have a ton to do, but the Jewish guilt got to me and I decided that I better get one more post in before the holiday.

For those who don't know, Simanim or significant omens, the custom of eating special foods that symbolize something good or that the name of the food (in Aramaic, by the way) connotates something good that we wish for in the coming year. This custom and the list of foods is mentioned in the Talmud and the list is as following: (though not necessarily in this exact order)

I must add that there are different opinions on what food is to be used for each Siman, I am sharing what is widespread and what I biasedly do.

Kara-gourd or squash
Rubia-Black eyed peas
Slika-chard (beet greens)
Rosh-sheep or fish head

We have a whole "taster's menu" of the simanim where we eat various dishes that I prepare from the symbolic foods and some we just eat by themselves. There is a special prayer known as a "Yehi Ratzon" that we say on each food.  Only after this "feast" and ceremony do we begin our main meal which consists of usual holiday fare such as roast, chicken, sides, etc. and we finish up with scrumptious homemade desserts.

As I write this, it is less than three hours before the holiday here in Israel so I apologize that I only have time to share one of my recipes with you.

Lubia or Rubya, AKA Black Eyed Pea Soup

This recipe is based on a recipe from "The Jewish Heritage Cookbook",by Marlena Spieler, another present from my sister in law Michelle.  I have been making this for Rosh Hashanah for around 10 years.

Rubia means plentiful in Aramaic.  While the prayer talks about us having many good deeds or virtues.  It is interesting that there is a custom in the southern United States to eat black eyed peas on the secular New Year and this custom is thought to bring prosperity. One of the theories to the origin of this custom is that Sefardi Jews immigrated to Georgia in 1730 and the custom then spread to the non-Jews of the area.


2 cups black eyed peas
2 T olive oil
2 large onions chopped
4 garlic cloves
spicy red pepper flakes (I give a couple of shakes)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 9 oz (250g) canned diced tomatoes
2 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup fresh coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon (optional)


Put the beans in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, then cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave to stand for 2 hours. Drain the beans, return to the pan, cover with fresh cold water, then simmer for 35-40 minutes or until the beans are tender.  Drain and set aside.

Heat the oil in a pan, add the onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for five minutes or until the onion is soft. Stir in the cumin turmeric, tomatoes, water, coriander and the peans and simmer for 20-30 minutes.  Stir in the lemon juice right before serving. 

Can be served hot or cold.