Last night, I gathered with some dear friends to celebrate the festival of lights. It’s been a while since I’ve spun a dreidal or lit the menorah, and although I am a bit rusty on the prayers and ancient texts it is always a joyous occasion to gather with my oldest friends to celebrate an even older holiday.
Although we technically had five nights before last to prepare, we realized a bit too late that aside from latkes and donuts, none of us actually knew what a ‘traditional’ Hannukah dinner looked like. Passover has it’s matzah and Sedar plate, Rosh Hashannah has it’s apples, honey, and gefilte fish, and Yom Kippur has bagels and anything that you can get in your mouth fast enough… but Hannukah left us a little in the dark. (Ironic considering it’s a holiday that celebrates the miracle of light). But just like the Jews in the desert we soldiered on, and channeling our Bubbies, Mommoms, Nanas, and Mothers we pulled together a holiday feast that Moses would have parted the seas to get a piece of. Everyone brought something to the table (pun intended), and together we managed to get all the classics present and accounted for. Becky made her first-ever matzah ball soup that was warm and soothing, the perfect winter night started. Molly made a delicious and simple salad with spring mix, apples and goat cheese (because no Jewish holiday is complete without apples). And Amanda and Sophie tag teamed the latkes-gone-hash browns that were delightfully crispy and filling when paired with the obligatory applesauce and sour cream.
As for my contribution, Molly requested I make another Jewish classic – kugel. So I thought traditional, and then I threw traditional out the window. This is not your grandmother’s kugel. You won’t find this kugel at your local shul or Shabbat table. There isn’t an egg noodle in sight, nor are there any raisins to be had. However, you will find sweet roasted cauliflower, minced fresh herbs, and beautiful red quinoa. This new-age kugel is the ultimate brunch dish. I wasn’t sure how the cottage cheese would come through, but the result was a light and refreshing dish that I imagine served at a street café in France. It has almost a quiche like consistency that is satisfying without being heavy, and the roasted cauliflower adds an earthy and rich undertone to the lightness of the cottage cheese. It’s great warm or cold, and works as a light supper, classy lunch, or lazy-Sunday brunch dish.
It’s kugel in a fur coat. It’s kugel in pearls. It’s kugel with class.
Based off the recipe from the NYTimes
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup quinoa
1 c. water
1 pound cauliflower (1/2 medium head), broken into florets
1 cup low-fat cottage cheese
1 scant teaspoon cumin
2 T. finely minced fresh parsley
Prepare your oven to 450 degrees. Grease an 8×8 pan.
Toss cauliflower with a little bit of olive oil and salt and put on a baking tray. Roast the cauliflower for 20-30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
While cauliflower is roasting, heat 1 T olive oil in a sauce pan and sauté onion on medium heat until it starts to become tender. Add the dry quinoa and toast in the pan until you can smell the quinoa – about two minutes – add 1 cup of water and some salt. Turn down the heat to low, cover, and let simmer for 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. (Be careful not to burn the quinoa while you are toasting it!) When the quinoa is done, remove the lid and lay a dishtowel over the top. Put the lid back on and let it rest while everything else is coming together.
Add the cottage cheese to a mixing bowl, and mix until it gets smooth. (You can also use a blender). Add the eggs, cumin, and parsley, salt and pepper. Stir until everything is combine into a nice creamy texture.
When the cauliflower comes out of the oven, finely chop the cauliflower and add it to the cottage cheese mixture. Add the quinoa mixture and stir everything until combined. Season with S&P, pour into your baking dish, and put it on the oven.
Bake for 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Take out of the oven and rest for a few minutes before you cut into it.
Put on your fancy pants, lift your pinky, and daintily dig in.