When it comes to the Ashkenazic Jewish pudding known as kugel, I’m usually a 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. Not this one however. 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 polite. I retreated from kale, then vowed that I’d stick to green beans, broccoli, spinach and other much easier-to-love, chlorophyll-filled vegetables.
Next thing I knew, my darling and very determined daughter decided that I should learn 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.
Kale, Spinach, and Mushroom Kugel
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 ounces fine egg noodles
- 3 ounces chopped onion about 3/4 cup chopped or 1 small onion
- 3 ounces kale stems removed and shredded or cut into thin strips
- 3 ounces fresh spinach chopped
- 8 ounces mushrooms sliced
- 1 egg
- 1/4 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup panko (Japanese-style crunchy breadcrumbs)
- 1 tablespoon softened unsalted butter
- 1 tablespoon softened goat cheese about 3/8 ounce
- Oil a small pan (6-8 inch square) with 2-inch high sides with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the noodles in an even layer and set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
- Heat the second tablespoon of oil in a large pan. Sauté the chopped onions on medium-low heat for 3-4 minutes until they begin to turn transparent/golden. Add the kale and continue to sauté, stirring occasionally for about 6 more minutes. Add the chopped spinach for an additional 2 minutes until it is thoroughly wilted and mixed into the kale and onions. Spread the mixture on top of the noodles in the casserole dish and set aside.
- Add the third tablespoon of oil to the pan, raise the heat to high and cook the sliced mushrooms for 3-4 minutes, turning them to cook on both sides until they are browned. Add them as the third layer of the casserole.
- In a bowl, mix the egg, ricotta and sour cream. Add the milk, dill, salt, and pepper, stir the mixture and pour it over the casserole. Poke a few holes with a spatula or fork to make sure that the liquid can get through to the noodles. Let the casserole sit for 5 minutes.
- While the casserole is resting, mix the panko, butter and goat cheese. After the resting period, spread the topping over the casserole.
- Bake the kugel for 45 minutes, until the topping is slightly browned. Let it rest for a few minutes before cutting pieces with a knife or spatula.
The casserole dish should be no larger than 8-inches square and preferably a bit smaller, with sides that are at least 2-inches high.
I like to mix the topping with my hands, but you can use a fork if you left finger painting and Playdough far behind.
If you’re interested in more noodle pudding or kugel inspiration, check out these other versions:
Sweet Kugels or Puddings