For anyone who’s ever met me, it’s obvious that I am about as Irish Catholic as they come. Fair skin, blue eyes, the natural inclination to correctly pronounce “Smithwick’s Ale” (order it “Smit-icks”, or don’t order it at all). I even have red hair (ignore the box of Miss Clairol behind the curtain). Despite the fact that a chunk of my ancestry is actually Italian, it’s Irish I am correctly assumed to be by anyone who cares to ask, or anyone who knows not to bother even asking if I’d prefer a beer or a cosmo. I’ve got the Irish part down. The Catholic part? Eh…I could stand to log a few good hours in a confessional, if you catch my drift.
My husband is Jewish. Not the go to Temple, eat kosher foods, fast on Yom Kippur kind of Jewish, but more the “enjoys a good slice of Gram’s brisket but can’t tell you the calendar dates of any of the High Holidays or even the definition of pareve” kind of Jewish. As a “mixed faith” couple, as we
jokingly lovingly refer to ourselves, we’ve really got it made when it comes to not feeling obligated to participate in religious observances we never warmed to. We were married by a Unitarian minister, thereby avoiding Pre-Cana, and we can make our own decisions when it comes to things like children being baptised or bar/bat mitzvahed (unless my husband’s Gram is reading this, in which case what I meant to say is “Of course our children will be bar/bat mitzvahed!!”)
I have to admit, however, there is a contradictory side of my personality that loves tradition. Not just the excess associated with many Holidays, but the bringing together of family, the comforting predictability of traditions associated with the cycle of seasons, maybe even the familiarity of a childhood prayer. One of the exciting parts of being a “mixed-faith” couple is that we get to create our own traditions. And I have decided that I am officially adding Rosh Hashanah to the repertoire.
Rosh Hashanah! It’s the Jewish New Year! It’s happy! My boss tells me I pronounce it like a goy! But never mind that, cause I am totally all about it now. And last week, along with a few of my husband’s cousins, we celebrated it for the first time at our house. As part of our spread, we enjoyed a kugel, and it’s a recipe I know I am going to come back to, regardless of whatever Holiday it happens to be.
8 cups cauliflower florets (2 heads)
6 tablesoons olive oil
4 cups coarsely chopped leeks
1 chopped vidalia onion (this is my own addition!)
6 tablespoons unsalted matzo meal (crushed saltines would work fine too!)
3 large eggs
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
1/3 cup chopped toasted almonds
salt & pepper
Step 1: In a large pot of salted boiling water, cook the cauliflower until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain, return to pot, and mash coarsely with a potato masher. Step 2: While the cauliflower cooks, sautee the leeks & onions until just beginning to color. Add this mixture to the cauliflower, along with the matzo meal. Step 3: In a small bowl, beat the eggs, adding 1 tablespoon dill, 1 tablespoon parsley, salt & pepper. Mix this into the cauliflower. Step 4: Brush an 11 x 7 baking dish with oil, and spread the mixture into the dish. Step 5: In another small bowl, combine the almonds, remaining parsley & dill, 2 tablespoons oil, and some salt. Spread evenly on top of the kugel. If making ahead, cover and chill at this point. Step 6: Cook kugel in a 350F oven, for 35 minutes, or until set in the center and golden on top.
Kugels are typically made with potato or noodles, which can be super-yummy, but also super-heavy. This kugel was so light, yet so flavorful. It felt special occasionish, despite coming in relatively low on the fat/calorie scale. I am definitely considering busting it out for Thanksgiving, or maybe even making it a traditional part of our newly annual Rosh Hashanah meal. L’Chaim!