I have an abscess. It’s on the gum above what the dentist calls my upper number two tooth. The number one on that side was already pulled years ago. That was the one where they couldn’t even do a root canal because I had been doing some serious tooth grinding. It had split the tooth all the way down through the root. It was my first lost tooth, but not the last. Since then, I have developed a lot of gum amidst my teeth. Somehow, I manage to eat corn on the cob and even steak, though I’m really losing my taste for beef. I’m also not thrilled with chicken.
Honestly? I’m not passionate about flesh. Part of it is hating the idea of slaughtering animals. It has always bothered me, but I was better at ignoring it when I was younger. Now, I see the meat and I think of those happy cows grazing along the Blackstone and me, putting camera aside, patting those sweethearts on their nicely horned heads. It’s hard to reconcile that with chomping down on pieces of their body.
I’m tired of our usual food. We were suffering from gastronomical ennui before the pandemic, but now? Steak in the expensive meat section at the grocery is about as tender as one of Garry’s old belts. Sometimes it looks great, but you can’t chew it. It just gets bigger the more you chew it. The pork is even worse and no amount of marinating tenderizes it. Bacon is good. Pity they have to get it by slicing up a pig.
So tonight, I made dessert for dinner. It isn’t really dessert. It’s usually served hot as part of a (much) larger dinner, but if you chill it, it’s definitely a dessert. There’s no meat in it. There are many eggs, ricotta cheese and sour cream, sugar, dried fruit or really, any fruit including canned fruit cocktail, a bit of vanilla, a good shaking of nutmeg, with cinnamon on top. Also, it’s very easy to leave out the sugar, add spices and vegetables rather than fruit, and make it a great vegetable dish.
I didn’t take pictures. I meant to take pictures. That’s why I didn’t post this recipe the last time I made it. Lack of photographic evidence. Sadly, we have eaten heartily from it and while more than half of it is left, it isn’t pretty anymore. This is a dish intended to feed a lot of people and probably more than once. The recipe says will feed eight to nine people, but that would be some serious eaters. I used to make this for special (Jewish) occasions if I knew I’d have a lot of people at the table.
Times have changed and big dinners are few and far between. Friends have scattered. Some died. Others moved to wherever their children are living. This was done in expectation of seeing these same kids more frequently only to discover they STILL never see them. Other stragglers eat their special occasion dinners at their kids’ houses where they don’t have to do the cooking, a dining enhancement I can really get my head behind. In fact, Owen here at home cooks the Big Dinners.
Garry doesn’t cook. I’m sure he never will. It’s why I can’t die of tooth decay. Garry would starve to death or live entirely on spam and pizza. I think that’s an awful lot like starving to death, just more slowly.
This is a recipe for (in Yiddish) “Lokshen Kugel” which translates to Noodle Pudding. Kugel means pudding. Lokshen means noodles. What you put in it is … well … whatever you like, really. It can be made savory or sweet, but more often is sweet, thus serving as a secondary dish with a dairy (Kosher!!) dinner or as dessert (chilled). For us, we just eat the pudding because there’s no room left after we’ve tanked down half a lasagna pan of Kugel. This was a specialty of my father, who was amidst all his wickedness, a really good cook. He made a fruit and brandy sauce that I thought could be eaten alone, forget the Kugel. I don’t make a sauce because I never got that recipe and besides, Garry and I don’t drink. Not even a little bit.
In Israel because of the Kashrut complexities, we often made it without cheese or any dairy. We used oil or non-butter margarine, eggs, sugar, raisins, and bread crumbs. The amount? Whatever you threw in, It was always fine. A friend of mine got mixed up and used cumin instead of cinnamon — and it STILL came out delicious. This really is a “whatever” dish. Since I’m not Kosher and not tied to the dairy vs. meat issue, if you are trying to overfeed a lot of people at the same time, Kugel is the way to go. And just as a note, for reasons no one can explain, this dish is typically served on Shavuot, a week-long harvest festival in the autumn.
Here’s my recipe. After you make it the first time, you can make up your own recipes.
Boil the noodles. You can use anything from 12 oz. to 1 lb. of wide noodles (eggs or not), boiled however long the bag says to boil them.
6 beaten eggs. Today I used seven eggs because I had 7 eggs in the carton. I refused to save the whole box for a single egg. I broke all the eggs directly into the Kitchenaid beater, turned it to 2 or 3 and went off to let them beat while I collected the rest of the stuff. You can also do this by hand. That’s how I did it last time and this was a lot easier, even with cleaning up the mixer.
15-oz. container ricotta (or cottage) cheese. I like ricotta better, but traditionally, it’s supposed to be cottage cheese. It doesn’t matter. Either will do the job.
16-oz. container of sour cream. The real thing, not reduced fat (yuk). Without the fat, it won’t thicken up in the oven. Also, it won’t taste right. NOTE: You can use a block of real (not whipped or low fat) cream cheese instead of sour cream. Let it soften before you add it to the mixture.
1 cup sugar. I’ve used white sugar. I’ve used light brown sugar. I’ve used dark brown sugar. I’ve used whatever I had in the cupboard. I haven’t tried using maple syrup, or golden syrup, but that would probably work too.
4 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon (more or less) of real (not the fake stuff) vanilla. Or almond flavoring. Whatever. Flavoring. You can use more flavoring if you prefer. You’re going to eat it, after all.
A thorough sprinkling of nutmeg.
Turn on the beater, then assemble the fruit. Before I started everything else, I put the raisins in a cup of hot (tap) water to plump up. Other dried fruit you can use? Dried pineapple, cranberries, lingonberries, dried cherries. I’d really love to use chopped crystalized ginger, but not everyone loves it as much as I do. It’s a gamble. Then, I drain a 14-oz. can of fruit cocktail. I throw all the fruit, whatever it is, into the mixer with the cheese, eggs, and butter. Whatever you use, you need about three cups of fruit of whatever type. I thought about chopped prunes, but decided it might have unexpected side effects.
By now, the noodles should be draining in a colander in the sink. Put the noodles back into the pot unless you have a really huge mixing bowl. Pour all the stuff from the mixer into the noodles. Mix with a big spoon. Wood is good.
Spray a lasagna pan with oil, EVEN if it’s nonstick. Just to be safe. Pour the contents into the pan, Shake cinnamon over the top.
Bake for 1 hour at 350 F (177 C). Set a timer for 1/2 hour and put a layer of aluminum foil over the top for the rest of the baking unless you like it super crispy. I like it softer, so I’m pro foil.
The result should be soft, but not runny and have the consistency of pudding. Which it is. If you have a big dinner planned, serve it with the roast or the turkey or (how non Jewish can you get?) baked ham. Or, chill it and serve it as dessert.
We eat it AS dinner. There’s so much of it, even if everyone eats until kugel is coming out of their ears, more than half of it will be left-over. For this you will need two big covered plastic containers which you will store in your refrigerator. You can use it as a side dish with whatever you are eating the next day, give one of the containers to kugel-worthy friends, or wait until you just can’t eat any more of it and toss it.
The Duke strongly objects to any form of disposal unless he is the disposal unit.
Meanwhile I’ve got a bad tooth, a fever, I ache everywhere because my pain meds combined with the antibiotics aren’t a great combination, and I’m not planning to die yet. Oh, and loperamide is dangerous taken with clindamycin so if my stomach totally gives up on me, there’s nothing I can take. We got into a quibble about calories and kugel. I say it’s no more fattening than any other pasta-based dish. I have no proof that this is true, bui that’s what I think and I’m sticking with it.