A Tale of Two Kugels

Savory Kugel

Submitted by Lyssa Kligman Harvey

My first blog entry for Kugels and Collards was a sweet kugel that my grandmother Ida Lomansky Kligman made. Now that we have our very own Collard Kugel recipe which is a savory kugel, I have a renewed interest in finding out more about savory kugels.

Rachel Barnett and Lyssa Harvey with the savory Collard Kugel

Rachel Barnett and Lyssa Harvey with the savory Collard Kugel

Savory Kugels may be based on potatoes, matzah, cabbage, carrots, zucchini, spinach, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions or cheese. In Lithuania there is a dish that is called “Kugelis”. It is a baked potato pudding, and it is a traditional Lithuanian dish. The main ingredients are potatoes, onions and eggs.

I have asked Christine Beresniova, Executive Director of the South Carolina Council on the Holocaust for more information about Kugelis. Her husband, Rokas Beresnoiva hails from Lithuania where Kugelis originated. Birute, Christine’s mother-in-law has given us her personal recipe for Kugelis.

Christine has sent two recipes: One is the handwritten recipe (in Lithuanian) by her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova. It features kugelis both with chicken and one without meat.

Screen+Shot+2019-03-19+at+10.41.37+AM.jpg

Christine explains, “I didn’t translate it because there is virtually no difference in the base preparation for any kugelis recipe. The second recipe is from the cookbook given to me and my husband by a family friend when we got married. It was originally printed in 1955 by Lithuanians living in the US, and it hasn’t changed since then.

The base recipes for kugelis are all essentially same; they involve grated potatoes, eggs, flours of some kind, milk, and salt. For some ethnic Lithuanians, they mix in pork or bacon. For other Lithuanians and for Jewish Lithuanians, they cook it with chicken. This is how my husband grew up (with chicken drumsticks stuck in it). You find the chicken recipe more common in rural areas where both Jews and Lithuanians were in close proximity and were both impoverished and they couldn’t afford a lot. Jews used to make kugelis on Shabbat. That was usually the only time of week they ate meat.

Birute Beresniova cooking in her home in Lithuania

Birute Beresniova cooking in her home in Lithuania

Just like borscht, there are different recipes for kugelis for each family with different add-ins. There is a sour cream butter sauce that some people make with bacon or onions. Others just serve it with sour cream. Some eat it with jam (lingonberry is common).

My mother-in-law swears that Lithuanian potatoes cook better, something about their flavor and starch content. She likes the yellow gold or the red potatoes. She doesn’t use russets or baking potatoes. She also swears that a good kugel is in how you grate and prep the potatoes. She does everything by hand and soaks the potatoes. She used a food processor once at our insistence and she was sorely disappointed. It is a lot of work to grate 3 pounds of potatoes by hand, but it tastes better.

Christine Beresniova and her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova

Christine Beresniova and her mother-in-law Birute Beresniova

There is also some debate over who invented kugelis, Jews or Lithuanians. Naturally, it emerged as a dish shared by both groups at the same time because of their close proximity in rural areas where social distance between groups was much smaller. It doesn’t have a lot in common with the more well known noodle kugel, so don’t serve it at a party and tell people it’s kugel. We did that once for Rosh Hashanah and people were confused.”

Screen Shot 2019-03-19 at 10.42.18 AM.png

Sweet Kugel

Submitted by Rachel Barnett

IMG_2153.jpg

My earliest memories of a kugel are that of egg noodles combined with eggs, milk, butter, cinnamon, sugar and raisins baked into a sweet dish that was, it seemed, always on our dinner table. This kugel must have been my paternal grandmother’s recipe that she taught to Ethel Glover, the African-American woman who cooked for three generations of the family. It’s a recipe that wasn’t written down, but through trial and error (and many other recipes in various cookbooks) I have managed to duplicate. I must add that it’s not my favorite kugel but, it’s the one from my childhood that takes me back to our family dinner table of fried chicken, seasonal fresh vegetables, and kugel. This may not sound quite as healthy as we eat today, but it was homecooked and always fresh.

Kugel recipes today are very creative. Our Collard Kugel, courtesy of Joan Nathan, is savory. Adding pineapple and cheeses can make a kugel luscious and more custard-like. But, none take me back to my family dinner table like Ethel’s somewhat dry kugel with its crispy noodles that were baked to golden perfection. I can taste it and smell it even today.

IMG_2154.jpg
  • Egg noodles (one 12 oz package wide noodles)

  • 6 beaten eggs

  • 1 1/2 cup milk

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1/2 stick butter cut

  • 1/2 cup raisins

  • Pinch salt

Cook noodles al dente. Mix eggs and milk together. Mix cinnamon and sugar together. Pour all ingredients over drained noodles and mix well. Add bit of extra butter sugar on top for browning. Pour into greased baking dish. Bake at 350 until brown on top.

UPDATE:  I made the kugel for this post (see photos above). This kugel is simple and really delicious and now will again be on my dinner table!

Kugels & Collards presents Joan Nathan

Submitted by Rachel Barnett and Lyssa Harvey

Food is always good, always good for people, always a token of good feeling,” the anthropologists Mark Zborowski and Elizabeth Herzog wrote in Life Is with People, a description of the Eastern European shtetl. “To give food symbolizes not only maternal love but also the friendliness of the household to its visitors. Not to offer a guest ‘honor’ in the form of food…would be the equivalent of a rebuff.”

Get ready because the Queen of Hospitality through the ancient tradition of food is coming to Columbia. Joan Nathan, known throughout the Jewish world as the real mayvin on Jewish food, is on her way.
— Rabbi Jonathan Case, Beth Shalom Synagogue
IMG_4961.jpg

On February 3rd, from 2 – 3:30 p.m., Kugels & Collards, in conjunction with Historic Columbia and the History Center at the University of South Carolina, will proudly host “King Solomon’s Table with Joan Nathan” at Beth Shalom Synagogue. Nathan, a James Beard award winner, much-loved cookbook author, and authority on Jewish cooking across the globe, is celebrated for her ability to tie together cuisine and history. According to Kugels & Collards co-founder Rachel Barnett, Nathan’s expertise will bring fresh insight to the blog’s mission, which is to “expand on the history of the Jewish community in Columbia using Jewish cooking to engage family stories and history.”

The presentation by Nathan will be followed by a reception with southern Jewish recipes from one of Nathan’s 11 cookbooks. Attendees will get to experience what Risa Strauss, Beth Shalom’s Director of Education, calls Nathan’s “gastronomic delights and cultural descriptions.” In preparation for Sunday, Nathan has provided Kugels & Collards with two recipes, adapted from The Sephardic Cooks by Congregation Or VeShalom in Atlanta, Georgia, that capture the essence of southern Jewish cooking.

Recipes adapted from Joan Nathan and The Sephardic Cooks by Congregation Or VeShalom (Atlanta, Georgia)

Nathan collard kugel2.jpg

 Collard Kugel

  • 2 bunches of collard leaves, stemmed and washed

  • 2 cups wide noodles

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

  • 6 large eggs beaten

  • ½ cup grated parmesan

  • ½ cup cottage, cream, or ricotta cheese

  • ½ cup Feta cheese

  • Aleppo pepper to taste (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease an 8-inch square baking pan. Once you have stemmed and washed your collard leaves, derib the leaves. Then take a handful of leaves and cut in chiffonades. Repeat with the rest. You should have about 6 cups of leaves.  Using a medium frying or saucepan with a cover, add the leaves with a cup of water and about a teaspoon of salt and some pepper. Heat the leaves and as they start to wilt, cover them with a top and steam them for about 10 minutes. Then remove and set aside.

Heat another saucepan with water and add some salt. Bring to a boil and add the noodles.  Cook a few minutes until they are al dente – not more–. Remove, cover with cold water and drain and set aside.

While the noodles are cooling, mix the eggs with the cottage or other cheese, feta, and Parmesan cheese. Then stir in the collards and the noodles and add a bit of Aleppo pepper to taste if you like.  Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes or until the kugel browns slightly and serve. Yields 6 to 8 servings. 

We appreciate Joan Nathan creating this special savory kugel with collards for us! It is the essence of a Jewish Southern dish that reflects the culinary delights of South Carolina.
— Lyssa Harvey

Baked grits with black-eyed peas

  • 6 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 6 to 8 tablespoons olive oil (about)

  • 2 cups of Anson Mills or other good stone ground grits

  • 1 small onion, chopped

  • 1 10-oz. package frozen black-eyed peas or 2 pounds fresh

  • 2 tablespoons tomato sauce or fresh tomato, chopped

  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Sauté the garlic in 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat in a medium size saucepan. After the garlic becomes translucent, add 8 cups of water, the grits, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Stir a few minutes or until the grits are dissolved in the water.

Sauté the onion in another tablespoon of oil in a small frying or saucepan. Add a teaspoon of salt, the peas, the tomatoes or sauce, and a cup of water. Cover and cook about 10 minutes or until tender. Stir into the grit mixture and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook until the mixture, which should still be liquidly, comes to a boil. At that point, turn the flame down and allow this mixture to simmer for about 5 minutes while it thickens. Stir occasionally and keep uncovered.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking pan with the remaining olive oil. Pour the thickened mixture into the casserole, and let it continue to firm up in the refrigerator for about an hour. With a sharp knife cut into about 12 squares. 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and put the grits into the oven for about 15 minutes to warm up. Then raise the temperature to 500 degrees and brush the olive oil that will well up around the pan over the top of the grits and heat for about 10 minutes or until the top is browned. Yields about 8 to 12 servings.