When it comes to the Ashkenazic Jewish pudding known as kugel, I’m usually a sweet fan of sweet versions. That’s true whether the base is noodles or matzo. But this kale, spinach, and mushroom kugel has won my heart.
Savory kugels tend to be heavy. But not this one. It has a thin noodle base, layered with a kale, spinach and onion melange, followed by sauteed mushrooms, with a panko (crunchy bread crumbs) and goat cheese topping that browns nicely when the kugel bakes.
The casserole is super easy to put together; you don’t have to cook the noodles ahead of time! Even though that sounds weird, trust me. The noodles “steep” in a milk-and-egg-based liquid before baking. I found that trick in a sweet kugel recipe from Epicurious and have been playing around with it ever since, in mac ‘n cheese as well as kugels.
I’m bringing the kugel to a break-the-fast meal after Yom Kippur. That meal is traditionally centered on dairy and fish. This kale, spinach, and mushroom kugel will fit in well. Loaded with vegetables, it’s a nice counterpoint to bagels, sweet kugels and rugelach.
I’ll make the kugel this afternoon, refrigerate it until after the holiday ends tomorrow evening and warm it up before serving. My husband reports that he re-heated a piece for lunch in the microwave yesterday (from a prior batch) and thought it was excellent.
I’m a relatively recent convert to kale. When I first met this green, I threw it in a pan with a bit of oil and cooked the living daylights out of it, adding vegetable broth if it got too dry. The only word for that attempt is not to be used in polite company. I retreated from kale, vowing that I’d go back to green beans, broccoli, spinach and other much easier-to-love, chlorophyll-filled vegetables.
Then my darling and very determined daughter decided that I needed a lesson in how to enjoy kale. (Bah, humbug I thought. But she was spending time with me, so I humored her.) She taught me how to get rid of the bitterness in raw kale by massaging it with lemon, cutting off the thick stem and slicing it into tiny shreds. I had to admit that the salad was pretty good.
That emboldened me to add kale to the stuffing in Moroccan-style acorn squash. A timid step perhaps, but successful.
This time, I’ve paired kale with spinach; the kale adds flavor, while the spinach keeps the greens from being overwhelmingly “healthy” tasting. Guess I just admitted that “straight-up” kale is not happening in my house – yet. Even so, I’m beginning to see that the previously-intimidating vegetable is not my enemy. Just don’t look for a kale smoothie on this blog anytime soon.
If you celebrate Yom Kippur, have an easy fast and a good new year. Whether or not you celebrate the Jewish High Holy Days, are of another faith, or don’t identify with any religion, I wish for you and family and friends a wonderful, healthy year filled with joy.