Everything Old Is New Again

A new year is a time for reinvention. That’s why we want you to hear from women who are bringing a fresh and flavorful new attitude to traditional dishes from the Ashkenazi repertoire.

by Sue Tomchin

A group of young professionals are congregate around a long table, chatting, talking animatedly and sipping wine. Before them are plates, not of sushi or bruschetta, but of gefilte fish.

This isn’t the gefilte fish jammed into jars and found on supermarket shelves from Portland to Peoria. Those drab lumps wouldn’t inspire any self-respecting millennial to lift his or her head from an iPhone screen.

This fish is fresh, sustainably sourced, and gluten-free. Its flavor and color are brightened with fresh herbs and on-the-side dollops of two homemade horseradish relishes, one a ruby-hued sweet beet and the other, a sunny orange carrot citrus.

Five years ago, Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, then both in their twenties, decided it was high time to reinvent gefilte fish. They had both loved the Jewish foods eaten for the Shabbats and holidays of their childhoods but now worried that those foods would disappear, and they’d find themselves in a “world without the smells of chicken soup and apple strudel,” as Yoskowitz writes in the introduction of their delectable cookbook, The Gefilte Manifesto.

As the first step in their task to “reclaim our time honored foods,” they began manufacturing gefilte fish, naming their company Gefilteria. Other products, sold at New York’s outdoor markets, soon followed and included pickles, horseradish relish, borscht and black and white cookies. The pair subsequently catered meals in pop-up spaces around the country. Alpern’s desire to see Gefilteria succeed was so great that she went back for her MBA, taking classes in entrepreneurship and using the company as a case study.

“We were on a completely direct route to making gefilte fish irrelevant and off of our tables,” Alpern told me when we spoke. “I was never going to make it. I had only been served the jarred fish. The answer was not, ‘I’d better start keeping the carp in the bathtub again.’ The answer was, ‘How do I make gefilte fish relevant again.’ Now gefilte fish is a part of my life and part of thousands of people’s lives. I know because I hear from them.”

In The Gefilte Manifesto, Alpern and Yoskowitz show how to give a healthy and contemporary outlook not only to gefilte fish but also to such homely dishes as brisket (they braise this in white wine, rather than red, and accompany it with butternut squash, rather than potatoes, making it lighter and brighter); kugel (made with cauliflower and mushrooms, rather than potatoes or noodles, and elegantly served in individual ramekins, garnished with crispy fried shallots), and stuffed cabbage (made zestier with hot paprika and “Jewish” kimchi, with vegetarian as well as a meat versions).

One of the things the pair discovered when working on recipes was that “there isn’t a lot of active kitchen time in preparing many things,” including such pantry staples as mustard, farmer’s cheese, and multiple kinds of pickled vegetables, including the classic sour dills.

“Young folk especially are excited to learn that this cuisine reflects their values,” Alpern said. Within their own Jewish tradition, “there is seasonality, nutritional wisdom, a history of foraging, and making pickles and cheese from scratch. They love this and didn’t know it was theirs.”

Alpern and Yoskowitz aren’t alone in their crusade to dispel the jaundiced view of Ashkenazi dishes as too unhealthy, too bland, too overcooked, and too monochromatic for us to bother making or eating. When I talked to several other authors of new and recent cookbooks, I learned that each is doing her part to revivify and reacquaint us with foods that are too valuable a part of our culinary heritage to neglect.

Take food writer and recipe developer Miri Rotkovitz, author of Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen, published last year.

She spent many hours as a young child in her grandmother’s kitchen, absorbing her first lessons about manners, nutrition, and cultural traditions and believes strongly in keeping those traditions alive by asking loved ones about their family food memories.

While working on her cookbook she asked her dad for his recollections, and he told her that his grandmother had baked challah every week. (His mother didn’t cook because his grandmother lived with them and did all the meal preparation.) Now, even though Rotkovitz doesn’t have the original recipe, she is baking challah every week for her family.

She recognizes that recipes don’t need to be set in stone, especially when it comes to making something healthier or more compatible with current tastes and ingredients.

“We revere recipes as unchanging and that wasn’t really true,” she said. In Eastern Europe, seasons were fleeting. Depending on availability of fresh ingredients and individual tastes, “There were adaptations. Jewish food was constantly changing.”

The changes that impacted Jewish foods in the mid-20th century weren’t necessarily to their advantage, either for flavor or health, Rotkovitz notes. “When you look at recipes from the 1940s and ‘50s they’ll contain margarine, and packets of soup with MSG and sodium and other convenience foods that were being heavily marketed to women at that time.”

She now replaces the margarine with healthy oils or butter, depending on the dish, and advises replacing the processed ingredients with real ones. “I get pleasure out of finding ways to integrate produce and whole grains into recipes while keeping the character of a dish, but making it fresher and healthier.”

“Rather than using processed potato flakes or onion soup mix, grate potatoes and use chopped onions,” she said, advising that if you worry that your brisket won’t be as tasty without the soup mix, caramelize onions and spread them on top before serving.

“We have access to spice blends our grandmothers who contributed to those spiral-bound synagogue cookbooks didn’t even dream of, and when you use fresh herbs, garlic, and onions in a dish, you don’t need as much salt,” she said.

Her take on humble kasha varnishkes (buckwheat groats with bow-tie pasta) turns it from a brown-hued side dish into a colorful and meatless main. She tops it with oven-roasted ratatouille full of eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and fresh basil.

Like Rotkovitz, Paula Shoyer isn’t content to let kasha varnishkes linger in the past. She grew up enjoying it at kosher delis, but could never persuade her children to eat it. She convinced them otherwise when she reinvented the dish by cooking up lentils and “tons and tons of caramelized onions” and mixing them with the kasha. “It’s moist and has the sweetness from the onions. Kasha is something our ancestors made all the time, yet I’ve made it more interesting and more flavorful,” she said.

Shoyer, a former JWI Woman to Watch, is known for her three cookbooks and her frequent speaking engagements about kosher baking and cooking. In December 2015, her publisher, Sterling Epicure, asked her to write a book on healthy Jewish cooking. At the time she was reeling from having recently lost her mom to cancer.

“It is hard to make decisions when you are mourning and tired all the time,” she writes in The Healthy Jewish Kitchen, due out in November. “All I knew for sure was that standing still was not an option. I needed a new challenge.”

When she looked around at Jewish cookbooks, she saw many recipes with too much salt and fat, too many processed ingredients, not enough whole grains, and too much sugar, “even in savory dishes.” She set about to create an alternative. The result is a colorful collection of 60 recipes, many drawing on Jewish tradition, but also on the flavors she has encountered in her international travels. “I believe that that the only processed product I use in the book is Dijon mustard,” she said. “I don’t use any margarine, puffed pastry, or commercial soup stock. It’s all from-scratch natural food.

“I show that you can have your grandmother’s stuffed cabbage recipe with brown rice and ground turkey instead of beef and not miss the heavier version,” she said. “I make a babka out of spelt flour and whole-wheat rugelach that are so delicious that you won’t care that they aren’t made with white flour.

“The idea with the book was to take recipes I grew up with and reinvent them,” she continued. “I really believe that if we don’t give our kids new versions of these traditional dishes, they’ll be lost.”

“I’ve made tzimmes for years and honestly the kids barely eat it. What I did instead is to cook up carrots, sweet potatoes, onions and dried apricots and puree it, like a French puree. It tastes just like tzimmes, yet it has elegance and a beautiful color.”

To make schnitzel, she breads boneless chicken breasts in a gluten-free nut crust and then bakes it in the oven, instead of frying; gives creamy deli coleslaw a healthy makeover by pureeing a mango for creaminess and adding cilantro and lime; adds grated carrots and parsnips to a New Year apple cake; and offers intriguing new challah recipes—sourdough challah; gluten-free challah; and whole wheat challah made with chopped onions, caraway seeds and poppy seeds on top, “just like Ratner’s legendary onion rolls.”

Instead of the margarine that Jewish cooks often use to keep baked goods pareve (dairy-free), she uses coconut oil, and diligently tested and retested her recipes in order to reduce sugar content. If you reduce even by a few tablespoons the amount of sugar in a recipe, even one you have been making for 30 years, you will be able to taste the other flavors better, she explains. “A lemon cake will taste more lemony, a chocolate cake more chocolatey, a carrot cake will have more of a carrot flavor.”

Probably no one has more of a handle on the state of Jewish cooking than Joan Nathan. In the foreword Alice Waters penned for Nathan’s new book, King Solomon’s Table, the legendary restaurateur describes its author as “The most important preservationist of Jewish food traditions.”

Over her six years of work on the book, Nathan estimates that she visited 30 countries. “I like to travel, but because I couldn’t go everywhere, I went to Brooklyn,” she said, laughing, when I spoke to her shortly after her book was published in the spring. The book has turned out to be very timely, Nathan noted, because of the focus on immigration. “Jews are immigrants and so many of the recipes have an immigrant story attached,” she said.

According to Nathan, old recipes can feel a little tired. “I want people to use the recipes,” she said. “I don’t feel that what we think of as old recipes were the authentic recipes. Recipes have been changing, always, always, always.”

Take borscht, for example. Nathan’s recipe for Curried Beet Borscht with Apples and Ginger, is “slightly sweet, and slightly spicy, more in tune with her tastes today.” When it was served at an event, Nathan related, “Everyone was eating it, and saying ‘I never really liked borscht or I only remember bottled borscht.’”

She doesn’t believe, however, in taking an Eastern European Jewish recipe and, in order to update it, putting “something totally out of context in it,” say, Parmesan cheese in stuffed cabbage.

“You have to know what’s good about Jewish food because you don’t want to lose that identity. There really is a fine line,” she said, adding. “You have a respect for what was.”

Yet, as she discovered in working on the book, Jewish cooks can use native ingredients in a traditional dish to great effect and in the process capture their family saga. While visiting in El Salvador, Delia R. Cukier, the Cuban-born president of the sisterhood of the country’s one synagogue, brought latkes made with yucca and garnished with cilantro cream to a potluck Shabbat dinner. On a trip to Miami, Nathan met Gisela Sencherman Savdie, who made kamishbroit with guava paste in the center. Savdie, formerly a dentist whose dental textbook is used throughout Latin America, is now an artist who creates avant garde still lifes. Savdie is married to an Egyptian Jew but was born in Venezuela to a Columbian Jewish mother whose parents came from Lithuania.

In her book, Nathan also includes a recipe for schnecken that comes from Leah Selig Elenzweig of Little Rock, whose immigrant forbears came to Arkansas from Alsace. Elenzweig  uses pecans rather than the traditional walnuts, thus regionalizing the spiral-shaped sweet bun eaten in central European Jewish homes.

“Stories about food linger on and they strengthen you,” Nathan said. “That there’s a schnecken recipe that came from your grandmother from Alsace, that’s what makes your family different from someone else’s family. In a world where everyone is alike today, you want differences. I want differences.”

Traditional foods have an ability to get people talking, Nathan believes. Though families may eat sushi and pizza during the week, she believes “you’re not going to get lots of memories from that and you won’t get lots of conversation either.”

Nathan relishes getting together on Shabbat and holidays with family and friends and serving traditional Jewish dishes. “Even if, like the vast majority of us, you are not religious, it’s a chance to get rid of time for a bit, get rid of the cell phones, to be with people and have a decent conversation. That’s the time to use recipes like your brisket or roast chicken, recipes that make your family what your family is.”


Recipes

 

Curried Beet Borscht with Apples and Ginger

Excerpted from KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

I prefer my cold beet soup less sweet than most bottled borscht and without eggs stirred in. This curried borscht is what I make when beets are growing in my garden. It is slightly sweet, and slightly spicy, more in tune with my tastes today.

Yield: about 6 to 8 servings

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large beets (2½ pounds/1 1/10kilos)
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick/ 56 grams) unsalted butter
  • 1 medium Vidalia or any sweet onion (235 grams), chopped fine
  • 2 to 3 apples (450 grams), finely chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons harissa
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons curry powder, or to taste
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste
  • ½ cup (100 grams) crème fraîche, sour cream, or yogurt, to serve
  1. Heat the oven to 350°F. In a bowl, drizzle oil over the beets. Put the beets on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake for about an hour, or until the beets can be pierced with a fork. When cool, peel the beets and chop into large chunks.
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, melt the butter. Add the onion and sauté until it is almost caramelized, about 30 minutes. Add the chopped apples, beets, ginger, harissa, 1 teaspoon of the curry powder, 1⁄2 teaspoon of the cumin, salt, pepper, and 4 cups (940 ml) water. Stir to combine and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, about 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft.
  3. Pour the mixture into a food processor and purée, in batches if necessary, until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more water if you’d like a thinner soup. Stir in the lemon juice and serve warm or cold with a dollop of crème fraîche, sour cream, or yogurt.

Note: If I have any dill or cilantro in the refrigerator, I’ll garnish the soup with a few sprinkles of it. If I am roasting beets for this soup, I’ll always cook a few extra that I can toss into salads that week.

 

Kasha Varnishkes with Ratatouille

From Bubbe and Me in the Kitchen: A Kosher Cookbook of Beloved Recipes and Modern Twists ©2016 by Miri Rotkovitz, published by Sonoma Press, used with permission. Photos by Evi Abeler.

For my forbears, kasha varnishkes, or toasted buckwheat groats with bowtie pasta and onions, was a humble, though much loved, side dish. But for me, it’s an ideal meal, topped with oven-roasted ratatouille, rich with eggplant, peppers, tomato, zucchini, and a hefty dose of basil. It’s still pure comfort food, but it’s painted in broader, more colorful brushstrokes and to my eye—and palate—the picture feels more complete. Crumbled goat cheese or feta adds even more delicious dimension to the dish, if you want to make it dairy.

Serves 4 to 6, Pareve

For the Ratatouille

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cored and chopped
  • 1 medium zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 medium tomatoes, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste or tomato sauce
  • Generous pinch dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, plus extra for garnish
  • Sea salt or kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

For the Kasha Varnishkes

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 pound bowtie (farfalle) noodles
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup kasha (medium granulation)
  • 2 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Make the ratatouille:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Warm the oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof chef’s pan set over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and sauté until it softens and begins to turn translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
  2. Add the chopped eggplant and cook, stirring frequently, until it begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the red peppers, sauté for 2 minutes, then add the zucchini, stirring occasionally, until the zucchini softens, about 3 minutes more. Sir in the tomatoes, tomato paste (or sauce) and thyme.
  3. Cover the pan and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. The vegetables should be saucy and tender, yet still mostly hold their shape. Remove from the oven, stir in the basil, and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Make the kasha varnishkes:

  1. While the ratatouille is baking, set a large pot of water to boil for the pasta. In a chef’s pan or large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until they turn soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions start to caramelize, about 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In the meantime, when the pasta water comes to a boil, stir in the bowties and cook until al-dente, about 10 to 11 minutes. Drain and transfer the pasta to a large serving bowl.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the egg. Add the kasha and stir well to coat the kasha grains. Transfer the onions from the chef’s pan to the serving bowl with the pasta. Return the pan to the stove top and place over medium heat. Add the kasha and cook, stirring constantly, until the egg dries and the kasha separates into individual grains, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add the water or stock to the kasha and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes.
  5. When the kasha is cooked, add to the bowl with the bowties and onion. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of oil and stir well to combine. Spoon into shallow bowls and top with the ratatouille. Garnish with additional basil.

Storage: Store the ratatouille and the kasha varnishkes in separate covered containers in the refrigerator. The ratatouille will keep for 4 or 5 days, the kasha for 2 to 3 days. You can also freeze both dishes in freezer-safe containers for up to 3 months.

 

TzimmIs Puree

Reprinted with permission from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen © 2017 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Epicure. Photography by Bill Milne.

Not to make a whole tzimmis about it (tzimmis being Yiddish for “a big fuss”), but tzimmis, a stew of sweet potatoes, carrots, and dried fruit, is becoming one of those lost and forgotten jewels of Ashkenazi cuisine. I make it every Rosh Hashanah so my children know what it is. Here is my updated version, which truly tastes like my usual tzimmis, but is presented more elegantly as a French purée. I’m planning to serve it on Thanksgiving as well.

Serves 10 to 12

ADVANCE PREP: May be made two days in advance

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 pounds (1 kg) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) cubes
  • 4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch (2.5-cm) chunks
  • 1 cup (200g) dried apricots
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest (from 1 orange)
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 cups (480ml) water
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes, or until translucent and just starting to color. Add the garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
  2. Add the sweet potatoes, carrots, apricots, orange zest, cinnamon stick, and water and bring to a boil. Stir the mixture, cover it, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the carrots and sweet potatoes are soft. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes, covered.
  3. Remove the cinnamon stick and use either an immersion blender to purée the mixture until it is smooth, or transfer it to a food processor. Taste the tzimmis and add salt and pepper if desired.
 

Wine-Braised Brisket with Butternut Squash

Excerpted from the book THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO by Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern. Copyright ©2016 by Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Lauren Volo.

This brisket is braised for hours, just as many Jewish briskets are, but we incorporate white wine instead of the more typical red, and butternut squash instead of potatoes. This makes for a lighter, brighter brisket…Note that the second cut brisket we recommend for this recipe will not slice as thinly as first cut. It’s softer and fattier. This doesn’t bother us. The meat will be so tender you could cut it with a spoon—who needs a thin slice? Also note that if you’d like to make this amore wintry brisket, you can swap the squash for potatoes and/or turnips and put the veggies in an hour earlier than the recipe calls for.

Serves 6-8

  • 1½ cups canned diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups beef, chicken, or vegetable broth, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 (750-mL) bottle white wine (pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, etc.)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2½ pounds second-cut brisket (also called deckle)
  • 1 large onion, sliced
  • Handful of fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into large chunks
  • Chopped fresh herbs, for serving
  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, broth, wine, salt, and pepper. In a large enameled Dutch oven (with a tight-fitting lid), heat the oil over medium heat. Place the meat in the pan to sear, 2 to 3 minutes on each side, or until it is evenly browned.
  3. Remove the meat and set aside. Line the bottom of the Dutch oven with onion slices. Place the brisket on top of the onion and pour the tomato mixture over the meat, making sure that the liquid covers the meat entirely. If you are using a larger pot and liquid does not cover the meat and vegetables, add water until it does. Add the thyme sprigs.
  4. Cover and place in the oven for 3½ hours, checking every hour or so to make sure the liquid is still covering the meat. If at any point it isn’t, pour hot water into the Dutch oven to make sure the meat remains covered. After 3½ hours, add the butternut squash, making sure to submerge it under the liquid. Cook for 1 hour more, then remove the pot from the oven. Let sit at least 45 minutes before slicing.
  5. Brisket tastes even better the next day, reheated in the oven. To serve, scoop out about 3 cups of liquid from the Dutch oven and place in a small saucepot. Cook over medium-low heat until it has reduced into a sauce. Serve the brisket and squash on a platter, with the sauce ladled over the top, and garnish with fresh herbs.
 

Cauliflower and Mushroom Kugel

Excerpted from the book THE GEFILTE MANIFESTO by Jeffrey Yoskowitz & Liz Alpern. Copyright ©2016 by Gefilte Manifesto LLC. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Lauren Volo.

Be aware that this kugel has a delicate consistency and serves more like an Italian sformato (vegetable soufflé) than the dense kugels you might be used to. Normally we like to make this dish in ramekins and serve it in individual portions, for an elegant look and feel. In Seattle, we found squat 8-ounce mason jars and baked individual kugels in those, but baking in a 9-inch square glass baking dish works well, too—just let the kugel cool slightly before slicing or scooping into individual portions. For Passover, you can swap out the bread crumbs for matzo meal. If you’re making it a dairy kugel, you can use butter and sprinkle it with Parmesan cheese. Serve individual portions topped with crispy fried shallots and garnished with fresh parsley.

Makes about six 8-ounce servings.

  • 1 large head cauliflower (about 2 pounds), broken into florets
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil or unsalted butter, plus more as needed
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 8 ounces fresh mushrooms, cleaned and chopped (porcinis, shiitakes and wild forest mushroom varieties are ideal, but any variety from the store is fine)
  • 1¾ teaspoon kosher salt, plus more as needed
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 large eggs, plus 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons bread crumbs, store-bought or homemade
  • 4 shallots, for topping (optional)
  • About ¼ cup grapeseed oil, for frying the shallots (optional)
  • Chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the cauliflower and boil until the florets are tender but not mushy, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain the cauliflower thoroughly. Place in a food processor.
  2. In a medium pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent and lightly golden, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the mushrooms, salt, and pepper and cook, undisturbed, for at least 1 minute to help the mushrooms darken. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are browned and their liquid has evaporated, 5 to 7 minutes more. Transfer the mushrooms and onion (and any extra oil from the pan) to the food processor with the cauliflower. Add the eggs and egg yolks and process until the mixture has a smooth consistency with minimal clumps. (If you do not have a food processor, mash the vegetables, eggs, and yolks together with a large fork or spoon until the mixture is as smooth as possible.)Transfer the mixture to a large bowl, stir in the bread crumbs, and mix well.
  3. Grease six 8-ounce ramekins or a 9-inch glass baking dish. Fill with the cauliflower mixture. Each ramekin should hold a little under 1 cup of the filling. Tap the bottoms of the ramekins or baking dish against the counter so that the top of the kugel flattens out and you’ve released any air bubbles. If using individual ramekins, place them in a roasting pan with at least 3-inch-high sides. Pour boiling water into the pan to come about halfway up the sides of the ramekins (this will ensure that the kugel stays moist). Bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour. The kugel is done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean and kugel is lightly browned on top. Remove from the oven carefully, remove the ramekins from the water, and let cool slightly.
  4. If using, while the kugel is baking, slice the shallots as thin as possible (if you have a mandolin, use it here on the thinnest setting). In a small nonstick pan, heat the grapeseed oil over medium heat. Immerse the shallots in oil and fry them, stirring frequently, until they are crispy, crunchy, shrunken, and dark in color, 15 to 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don’t burn. Transfer the shallots to a paper towel-lined plate to drain and sprinkle lightly with salt. Set aside until serving.
  5. Garnish the kugel with the fried shallots (if using) and the chopped parsley. Store any leftover fried shallots in an airtight container.
 

Kamishbroit with Guava

Excerpted from KING SOLOMON’S TABLE by Joan Nathan. Copyright © 2017 by Random House. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Kamishbroit (the Yiddish word from Ukraine means “funny bread”) is usually sprinkled with cinnamon and has neither almonds nor a filling (unlike mandelbrot), but for some reason in Colombia this treat has both.

Yield: about 24 cookies

  • 2 cups (270 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon (75 grams) unsalted butter, or 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3/4 cup walnuts (65 grams), chopped
  • 8 ounces (about 3/4 cup/ 226 grams) guava paste, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream the butter or the oil with the sugar, using a paddle attachment. Stir in the 2 eggs and vanilla, then gradually stir in the flour mixture to form dough.
  3. On a floured work surface, shape half the dough into a narrow rectangle about 12 inches long, 4 inches wide, and 1⁄4 inch thick. Press half of the walnuts gently on top of the dough.
  4. Arrange half of the guava on top of the nuts down the length of the dough. Starting from the short end, carefully roll the dough up like a jelly roll so that the guava pieces stay tucked in. You will have a stubby 4-inch fat roll. Then gently roll and form the dough into an 11-by-2-inch cylinder, sealing the ends together so none of the guava spills out. Repeat with the remaining dough.
  5. Arrange the cylinders, seam side up, about 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheet. Mix the egg yolk in a small bowl and paint the rolls well. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden. Don’t be alarmed if some of the guava paste seeps out.
  6. Remove from the oven and let cool for a few minutes, then cut into 1⁄2-inch- thick slices on the diagonal, separating them as you cut. Lay them on their sides and return to the oven and bake for 10 more minutes, or until mostly crisp (the cookies will continue crisping once out of the oven).

Note: You can substitute 4 tablespoons diced dates or prunes for the guava filling.

 

Root Vegetable and Apple Cake

Reprinted with permission from The Healthy Jewish Kitchen © 2017 by Paula Shoyer, Sterling Epicure. Photography by Bill Milne.

Serves 12 to 16; Parve

No Jewish New Year is complete without an apple cake, so here is one you can feel good about, as it contains two kinds of vegetables.

ADVANCE PREP: May be made two days in advance

  • Cooking spray
  • 1 large or 2 small Gala apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch wedges
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup (120ml) sunflower or safflower oil
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • 1/2 cup (75g) brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) orange juice (from 2½ oranges)
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup (65g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (65g) whole-wheat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup (55g) grated carrots (from 1 peeled carrot, using the small holes of a box grater)
  • 2/3 cup (85g) grated parsnips (from 1 peeled parsnip, using the small holes of a box grater)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Grease an 8-inch (20-cm) square baking pan with cooking spray.
  2. Place the apple wedges and brown sugar in a shallow bowl, and toss to coat. Transfer the apple wedges to the bottom of a pan in rows, in one layer, overlapping them if necessary. Use small pieces of apple to fill in any holes.
  3. Place the eggs, oil, sugar, brown sugar, orange juice, and vanilla in a large bowl, and mix well. Add the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, nutmeg, ginger, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon to the bowl and mix well. Add the grated carrots and parsnips to the bowl and mix them into the batter. Pour the batter over the apples and spread it evenly.
  4. Bake the cake for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned and a wooden kebab skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let it cool for 30 minutes and then turn it over onto a serving platter. Serve at room temperature.

Greasing pans: The best way to grease a cake pan is to use a baking spray, which contains flour. You can also grease the pan with regular cooking spray, add 2 tablespoons of flour or potato starch to the pan, shake it all around, and then tap out the excess flour. When I use round, square, or rect­angular baking pans, I often trace the bottom of the pan on parchment paper, cut out the shape, grease the pan with oil, press in the cut parchment, and then grease the top of the parchment. This method makes it super easy to pop a cake out of the pan and makes it easier to clean.

Testing doneness: Toothpicks are too short to insert into a large cake to test for doneness. Instead, buy long wooden kebab skewers and store them near your oven; they allow you to test the deepest part of your cake. Once the inserted skewer comes out clean, the cake is done.