Not My Mother’s Noodle Kugel

My mother was famous for her noodle kugels, a dish requested for every family gathering to either break the Yom Kippur fast, gather for a birthday brunch, or, heaven forbid, contribute to the buffet table after a funeral.  Her kugels were exceptionally light and fluffy, owing to her use of little o-shaped egg noodles about the circumference of a dime, instead of the more traditional wide egg noodles.  Her description of their fluffiness was a Yiddish word I’ll try to transliterate – “poochkie” – with the “oo” pronounced like the “oo” in “look”, and the  “ch” pronounced like the “ch” in “l’chaim”.  Try saying that a few times and you’ll make it your own, or at least clear your throat.

The noodle kugel I’ve been making since the original recipe first appeared in Gourmet in 1994 is also poochkie, as a good kugel should be.  It should never be weighed down by the filling holding the egg noodles together.  Like a great lasagna or mac & cheese, it should be soft in the mouth and bursting with flavor.

The original recipe was called “Orange Current Noodle Kugel” and was described as a traditional part of Jewish sabbath and holiday meals.  Sabbath I would question, since a traditional meal would be meat or chicken, not be be served with a dairy side dish.  Gourmet also suggested this would “work well as a dessert.”  No way!  This is a combination of sweet and savory elements – a side dish I love to serve with the salmon croquettes we’re having tonight.


(adapted from Gourmet, February 1994)


ready for the oven


8 ounces wide egg noodles cooked al dente and drained

1-1/3 cups light sour cream

1-1/3 cups Breakstone 2% fat cottage cheese

3 large eggs

1/2 cup sugar divided

5 Tbsp unsalted butter melted and divided

1 T grated orange zest (or 1-1/2 t dried orange zest, which I like to keep on hand)

1 t vanilla extract

3/4 t cinnamon divided

1/4 t kosher salt

1 large crisp apple such as Gala, Granny Smith, or Macoun, peeled and coarsley grated

1/2 cup golden raisins (optional for those who dislike raisins)

1/3 cup chopped walnuts


Preheat oven to 350 and butter a 2-quart square baking dish.

Put drained noodles in a large bowl.  Add the grated apple and raisins, if using. Combine sour cream, cottage cheese, eggs, 6 T of the sugar, 4 T of the butter, orange zest, vanilla, 1/2 t of cinnamon, and the salt in a blender and blend until smooth.  Pour over the noodles and combine well.  Pour into your prepared baking dish.  Sprinkle with the chopped walnuts.  Combine remaining 2 T sugar and 1/4 t cinnamon and sprinkle over the top.  Drizzle with reamining 2 T butter.  Bake in center of oven 40-45 minutes until cooked through and golden.


Allow to cool slightly before cutting into squares for serving.  Can be made in advance, chilled overnight, and reheated.  Serves 6-8 as a side dish.





Mini Puff Pastry Meat Knishes

Happy Rosh Hashanah, everyone! Ordinarily there would be a brisket in the oven and chicken soup on the stove, but plans have been downsized this year.  For the longest time I’ve been craving a really good meat knish, like the ones my mother used to make from leftover brisket and puff pastry.

I made a batch of my favorite beef stew over the weekend, with chunks of richly-marbled chuck cut to the size of short ribs, and had just four pieces of the meat left over with a bit of the gravy and baby carrots.  The inspiration for knishes was right there under my nose!

Called Trader Joe’s to make sure they had their superb puff pastry in stock – just $3.99 for an 18.3-ounce package of pure butteriness imported from France (far superior in taste, texture, and handle-ability to Pepperidge Farm), and I was off to the races.


The filling was a breeze to improvise, and the first batch – which I’ve resisted tasting until my darling husband comes home – is fresh out of the oven, just as I had imagined:



(makes 32)


Filling: Leftover brisket or beef stew chunks, about 2 cups, with some of the gravy; 1 small sweet onion chopped fine and sauteed to soften in olive oil, bacon fat, or schmaltz; 1 lightly beaten egg; S&P to taste.

Pastry: One package Trader Joe’s Puff Pastry, thawed for 2 hours and gently unrolled from their wax wrappings.  No need to roll out any further.  No pesky seam, either, like you get with Pepperidge Farm.

Egg wash: One large egg lightly beaten with one Tbsp water



Preheat oven to 400.

Pulse the meat in your food processor to small shreds – do not puree.  Mix together in a medium bowl with egg, sauteed onion, S&P.

Spread one pastry sheet on lightly floured surface, brush lightly with egg wash,  and score with a pizza wheel into 16 squarish sections.  Place a spoonful of meat filling in center of each and shape them by pulling up all four corners, pinching together wherever necessary to totally enclose the filling.  Place on your baking sheet and lightly brush again with the egg wash.  Bake about 20 minutes until lightly golden.  Remove to rack to cool.

Best use of leftover braised meat I can imagine.



Don’t Laugh… Tuna Noodle Casserole

Every now and then when nostalgia sweeps over me, I have the need to resurrect a childhood favorite dish, bringing to it the updated ingredients and skills I’ve learned over the decades.

Such was the case today, the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965, when I sought out the comfort of my mother’s tuna noodle casserole or, as she often called it when served over toast points, “Tuna a la King.”

For starters, I found a fairly sound recipe on Epicurious, but made enough changes to truly make it my own.  I tried it out once several months ago and it’s on the menu for tonight:



1 medium sweet onion chopped, 2T chopped shallot, 1/4 cup each chopped red bell pepper and celery,  4-1/2 T unsalted butter,  8 ounces crimini mushrooms, halved if large, and sliced 1/4″ thick,  2t light soy sauce,  1/4 cup Madeira or Marsala,  1/4 cup AP flour,  2 cups chicken broth,  1 cup whole milk (or combine low-fat milk with some half & half to enrich it,) 2t lemon juice,  1/4t kosher salt,  2 5-ounce cans Genova tuna in olive oil, drained,  10 ounces imported Italian penne cooked al dente & drained,  1-1/2 cups panko,  4 ounces coarsley grated sharp cheddar,  1T olive oil


Preheat oven to 375 and butter a shallow 2-quart baking dish.

In 12″ heavy skillet, sauté onion, shallot, red bell pepper and celery over moderately low heat in 1-1/2T butter with a pinch of salt until softened, about 5 minutes.  Raise hit to medium high and add mushrooms, satueeing another 2 minutes or so until they begin to give off liquid.  Add soy sauce and continue to sauté until liquid is evaporated.  Add the Madeira or Marsala and reduce until evaporated.  Remove pan from heat

Melt remaining butter in heavy 3-quart saucepan over low heat and whisk in flour.  Cook the roux, whisking, about 3 minutes.  Add chicken broth as you continue to whisk, bringing to a boil.  Whisk in the milk and simmer, whisking occasionaly, about 5 minutes.  Stir in mushroom mixture, lemon juice, salt and the tuna and stir gently.  Season sauce to taste with S&P.

Add the drained penne to sauce mixtureand stir gently to combine.  Transfer to baking dish, spreading out evenly.  Toss grated cheese and panko together and sprinkle evenly over the casserole.  Drizzle with the olive oil.  Bake about 25 minutes on convect, until topping is crisp and sauce is bubbling.




Passover Brisket

As Passover approaches, I’m reposting one of my very first blog pieces from two years ago, because there must always be brisket!


With Rosh Hashanah approaching next week, I’m reposting my best brisket recipe because it’s surely not just for Passover!

Brisket is to Passover what turkey is to Thanksgiving – traditional, expected, long-cooking, and  – just as with those oversized stuffed birds – everyone has their own   one-and-only, tried-and-true, never-mess-with-it, shut-up-or-I’ll kill-you version.  I created my own best brisket many years ago, taking the best of what I liked from several recipes from my cookbook library and eschewing the overly-fussy ones on the web.  I’ve passed it on to friends and family who also swear by it.  But no matter what your brisket preference is – and I do hope you enjoy this one – remember always to:

  1. Make it the day before serving
  2. Reduce the sauce
  3. Slice it against the grain, on the bias, once it’s cooled
  4. Store it sliced and covered with your sauce until ready to reheat for…

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Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew

Making this stew now – it’s a labor of love, but worth all the effort.


This recipe first appeared in Bon Appetit in February 1981. I have made it almost every year since, tweaking it along the way. A hearty winter dish, similar to a beouf bourgiunon and extremely company-worthy.  A bit more labor-intensive than my previous beef stew post, and definitely for mushroom-lovers.  Break out your Dutch oven and cast iron skillet for this dish – it’s well worth the effort.


6 ounces salt pork, blanched 5 minutes – remove & reserve rind, then cut salt pork cut into 1/4” dice
(or simply use same amount thick cut bacon diced – a time-saver)
2 large sweet onions chopped
5 large shallots chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped (not crushed)
4 lb. lean beef chuck, cut into 1-1/2” cubes
about 3/4 all purpose flour, seasoned with salt & pepper
unsalted butter for browning the beef
1/2 cup Cognac
2-1/2 cups beef stock
2 cups bold red wine divided (Cabernet…

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Thoughts on Lemons, Herbs and Spices

No new recipes to share this morning (except a couple that are linked), but as I was preparing the marinade for Roast Butterflied Middle Eastern Chicken (Posted December 6 last year –, the inspiration for this post came as I was zesting and squeezing the juice from a lemon and reaching for my array of spices.

Lemons.  Anyone who discards a juiced lemon without first having used the zest is missing the essence of lemon flavor.  There are recipes both savory and sweet that just sing with lemon flavor, with only the zest – no juice – to bring that out.  Also, I’ve never found a lemon reamer that did a better job than my own fingers.  So easy to extract maximum juice just doing this:  after cutting the lemon in half, cradle each half skin side up between your palms, thumbs on top, and reach inside with the four fingers on both hands to wiggle and press that juice out.  Then you can invert that half to work the rest of it out, including some pulp – and nothing wasted.  The seeds can be easily removed with the tines of a small fork from whatever vessel you’re using.  Same goes for limes and oranges when you need just a small amount of OJ in a recipe.

Spice Rack

Herbs and Spices.  Whatever you use the most, buy it in bulk.  Those little jars at the supermarket may be fine for the items you use sparingly or only occasionally (think ground cloves, red chili flakes, saffron, to name a few), but there are so many excellent sources for buying in bulk.  Penzey’s or MySpiceSage, for example.  I use a whole lot of mint, oregano, cinnamon, paprika, cumin, za’atar, sesame, dry mustard, turmeric, curry powder, black peppercorns, and buy these and others online in 1 lb. foil bags from my former client, Frontier Natural Products in Iowa.  I have so many of these foil bags on the top shelf of the food pantry that the DEA might have me under surveillance.  This is both economical, and ensures freshness, because every time I re-open one of these foil bags to fill a jar on the 48-jar spice carousel, the aroma is just as fresh as the day it was first opened.


There are a few herbs one should never dream of using in dried form: parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary.  And please, when you buy parsley or cilantro, be sure to dry it off thoroughly before storing or you’ll have a mush-pile within a couple of days.  Do they really have to shower whose beautiful bunches with all that water?  And never refrigerate your basil, either.  It will turn black.  Treat it as you would a bunch of flowers, cutting off a bit of the stems and store on your kitchen counter in a glass of water.

I also love to use fresh oregano, mint, sage (the velvety touch of sage leaves makes me crazy in a good way), and thyme (whose leaves drive me crazy in a bad way), but don’t mind the dried versions at all in a marinade, dressing, rub, or soup.  Lucky if you can grow your own, but an indoor herb garden is tabu for me with four cats who’d find a way to attack it, and outdoors is more work than I’m willing to commit to.  As long as fresh herbs are available at a reasonable price (often at the Asian market) I’m good with that.

Spices are another matter entirely.  No one grows their own.  It pays to keep a multitude on hand for a broad palette of ethnic cuisines.  And if your collection is eclectic enough, you can usually make your own spice mixes, such as ras el hanout, garam masala, or even curry powder, as well as rubs for your meats and seafood.  I’ve never purchased any spice rub other than the Smoky Paprika Chipotle by Victoria ( that I found on sale at Homegoods.  This is essential in one of my favorite yogurt marinades for chicken that comes from the Epicurious site –  I use it for ingredient #1 in the recipe – a mixture of Aleppo pepper and paprika.

Would love to hear your tips and thoughts on anything I’ve addressed here – thanks for reading!