Having the passion for food that I do, I’m always eager to try new things and learn about the traditional foods from different backgrounds. I’m lucky enough to have been exposed to an array of exciting and delicious Jewish foods, as well as the history and stories behind each dish, thanks to Evan’s grandmother. I look forward to each and every holiday with Evan’s wonderful family and I enjoy so much spending time visiting with them and sharing in their family traditions.
My favorite of the many delectable dishes I’ve had with Evan’s family is undoubtedly the kugel. A kugel is a sweet, noodle pudding that is normally served as a side dish (but can very easily pass as an indulgent dessert) during Passover. Other versions of kugel start with a potato or sweet potato base, but Evan’s grandma’s luscious concoction of egg noodles, pineapple, and golden raisins has me convinced that noodles are the way to go. Although I might miss her incredible candied sweet potatoes, I could easily be satisfied with a Passover feast composed of a plate filled with only kugel.
I’ve experimented with a couple different recipes in the past, but the kugel that I created for this year’s Passover was my best effort yet. I incorporated pineapple and golden raisins as a tribute to Evan’s grandmother’s version, and even threw in a few bites of creamy, baked sweet potato in order to have both of my favorite of her dishes represented in the meal. I topped it with ground cinnamon, just as she does, along with a salty-sweet matzo crumble, my own little twist. Evan agreed that the kugel was the best of my previous attempts and described it as being delicious and extra “dessert-y” (Me? Dessert? Big surprise). It may not be the most glamorous dish but, kugel doesn’t need any fancy frills or even a holiday to be delicious.
Inspired by: ‘Grandma’ Millie’s “Pineapple-Raisin Kugel”
Adapted from Andrea Marks Carneiro & Roz Marks’ “Apple-Raisin Noodle Kugel,” The Modern Girl’s Guide To Cooking Like A Jewish Grandmother
1 sweet potato
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted, divided
½ teaspoon salt
12 ounces chunk pineapple (in juice) ¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup golden raisins 3 eggs
6 ounces egg noodles ¼ cup heavy cream
½ cup cream cheese 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup sour cream 2 teaspoons cinnamon, divided
½ cup ricotta cheese -recipe yield: about 5-8 servings
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line a sheet tray with tin foil. Peel and dice the sweet potato and place in a medium bowl. Toss the diced potatoes with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, ½ teaspoon sugar, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon black pepper until potatoes are evenly coated. Arrange coated potatoes in an even layer onto the lined tray and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Set aside to cool and reduce oven heat to 325 degrees. Butter the bottom and sides a 2 ½-quart souffle dish and set aside.
Pour into a saucepan about ½ cup or so of the extracted pineapple juice. Heat the juice over low-medium heat for a few minutes until warmed through. Turn off the heat and pour the hot juice into a small glass bowl or mug. Add in the golden raisins and allow them to rehydrate and soak in the juice for about 10 minutes, until they have slightly plumped. Strain the raisins, discarding the juice, and in a small bowl, toss them together with the cooled sweet potatoes. Slice each of the pineapple chunks in half and toss them with the potato-raisin mixture as well.
Bring to boil a large pot of lightly salted water. Add egg noodles to the boiling water and cook until just tender for about 6-8 minutes, or according to package instructions. Drain noodles and set aside.
In a large bowl, beat together the cream cheese and the remaining granulated sugar until fluffy and creamed. Beat in ricotta cheese and sour cream until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition. Whisk in heavy cream, vanilla and 1 teaspoon of the ground cinnamon. Gently stir in the pineapple-potato mixture. Pour in the cooked, drained noodles and drizzle in the remaining 2 tablespoons of melted butter. Toss the entire mixture together until noodles are well coated. Pour the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
Mazto Crumble Topping
This crisp-like topping is completely optional, as the kugel is divine on it’s own. The crumble gives it a little extra crunch and salty-sweetness that can help balance out the ultra-richness of the noodle-pudding.
¼ cup whole grain (as this dish is so health concious) matzo meal*
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, very cold and cut into small pieces
Empty all ingredients into food processor and pulse until texture is crumbly, adding a teaspoon of cold water if necessary. Sprinkle the crumble into an even layer onto the kugel before baking, and top with another teaspoon of ground cinnamon.** Bake kugel at 325 degrees for about 30-40 minutes, or until it has set and the top is golden.
Allow kugel to cool and set for at least 15-20 minutes. Kugel can be enjoyed warm or cold (both are delish, but Evan and I prefer it cold) and should be covered and stored in the refrigerator.
*Although the matzo made the dish much more Passover-traditional, I only used it because I had some leftover from the matzo ball soup I’d prepared earlier in the week. The matzo meal can easily be substituted for flour.
**If choosing to omit the crumble topping, sprinkle the top of the kugel with an extra generous teaspoon of ground cinnamon before baking.