Kugel with Raisins, Orange Zest, and Cinnamon, aka Noodle Pudding

This is how my brain works: you say Jesse’s birthday, I think carrot cake. You say Easter, I think Mom’s Roasted Lamb with Herb and Goat Cheese Topping.  For Christmas, it is Mamanika’s “S” cookies, and for Hanukkah, it’s kugel and latkes.

Holidays for me are about the joy of cooking and remembering my favorite relatives through the recipes, songs, and traditions I now share with my family (and friends!). Talking on the phone with family and close friends about what we are each cooking for a special meal or for dinner that night is one of the dearest joys of life. Each year, about a week before Thanksgiving, my mother would always call and ask me to email her copies of The Recipes. She could never keep up with her boundless collection. JudysChickens.org was started as a way to store those time-tested recipes for my brothers, sons, and nieces and nephews.

So what is kugel? It is a  sweet, baked noodle pudding often made with raisins and spices and served as a side dish at Jewish holiday meals.

I was fortunate to grow up in a blended family long before there was a name for families who came together after a divorce. In our case, our religious practices were blended, too. How many times did my stepfather light a menorah on a table close to my Italian grandfather’s creamy white ceramic nativity set? Kugel was one of the foods that became part of our blended holiday meals.

This is an old photo of my two youngest brothers.

Choosing a recipe for kugel is a lot like choosing one for Thanksgiving dressing (or stuffing) — people want these dishes to taste the way their mother, grandmother or great aunt prepared them. I love that. It shows how deep the connection between holidays, the people present at the table, and the foods served are connected in our memory and ultimately become the traditions we yearn for when family and friends come together.

For Mom’s kugel recipe, at first glance, and every glance really, there are a lot of calories from fat and sugar; that is the way this side dish rolls. In the end, after trying to make the recipe with fewer calories, I found I was only able to dial back the sugar by a quarter of a cup. Woohoo.  I love this dish!

Yield: Serves 8-12

Ingredients:

1  8-ounce package egg noodles (about 4½ cups cooked)
1 cup raisins
1  8-ounce can crushed pineapples with juice
½ navel orange, grate the peel and scoop up the juicy pulp
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
4 eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to salt the water for cooking the noodles
1 pound (almost 2 cups) sour cream
2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar: ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon and 1½ teaspoons sugar

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350º.

Bring salted water to a boil, add the dry noodles, and cook until done. Drain. Place noodles into a 9 x 13-inch casserole or a deep-dish casserole, as I like to do. Add the melted butter and stir. Set aside.

Pour raisins into a small bowl. Grate the peel of one-half an orange over the raisins. Squeeze out the orange’s juice over the raisins. Scoop out the pulp, chop it up, and add it to the bowl of raisins. Discard the pith. Add crushed pineapples with their juice. Mix together the raisins, orange zest, fruit, and juice until each is well distributed in the bowl. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla, sugar, salt, and sour cream until well blended. Set aside.

Pour the fruit mixture over the buttered noodles and stir. Add the egg batter. Stir until well blended. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake for sixty minutes until the top is golden brown and crunchy and the eggy part is a little bubbly. If the noodle tips start to burn, cover the casserole with foil for the last ten minutes of cooking. Allow to cool for ten minutes before serving. If you want a creamier interior texture, cook it for only 50 minutes. I think the flavors are more intense when it is cooked for the full sixty minutes.

Happy Hanukkah to my family and friends!

Here are lots of recipes, like these Brie Bites, to get you through special meals from now until New Year’s Day.

Meanwhile, I would love a good recipe for latkes. I have never made them but sure have enjoyed eating them.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Every Saturday morning, my husband, the dog and I head over to Richland Farmers Market, a happening and energetic place to shop in Nashville for organic vegetables and locally made food products. I am drawn to this market by both the variety of vegetables offered and the enthusiastic farmers, bakers, butchers, beekeepers, and fromagers who show up every weekend.

Last week, while visiting Corner Spring Farm’s booth, owner Marianne Cameron suggested I try the Japanese sweet potatoes she and her husband had grown. She told me they had a creamy and moist interior when cooked. The potatoes are oblong and have smudgy-red skin and white flesh.

I roasted them with an equal amount of regular sweet potatoes, chopped rosemary, salt, garlic pepper, and olive oil. Marianne was right, the interior of the Japanese potatoes was soooo creamy and delicious. I couldn’t get over the texture. I served them for dinner with Mom’s Meatloaf and blanched thick and meaty green beans — my favorite kind of dinner.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
1 pound sweet potatoes, unpeeled
1 pound Japanese sweet potatoes, unpeeled
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon McCormick’s California Style Garlic Pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425º

Scrub potatoes. Do not peel. Cut into 1½-in chunks. Arrange on a parchment-lined rimmed, sheet pan. Strip rosemary leaves from stems and chop. Sprinkle over potatoes. Add olive oil, salt, and garlic pepper. Toss ingredients together until well blended. Roast for 45 minutes on the middle rack of oven.

The Japanese sweet potatoes were so yummy, I went to Whole Foods to look for another popular variety I had been reading about, Stokes Purple Sweet Potatoes. I thought, together, the color combo would be exciting. Stokes Purples look like Japanese sweet potatoes on the outside, but the interior is solid purple. I cooked them using the same recipe as above. The colors were beautiful.

Sadly, I wasn’t as wild about the flavor of the roasted Stokes Purples. With the remaining three pounds of purple potatoes I had bought, I had another idea: make mashed purple sweet potatoes!

They were delicious. I used my recipe for Old-Fashioned Mashed Potatoes, substituting the Stokes Purples for the all-purpose potatoes. The mashed sweet potatoes were sweet, buttery, creamy, and eye-poppingly colorful and would sure look different on the Thanksgiving Day table! Speaking of which, Thanksgiving is eleven days away. Take a look at the list of recipes I’ve put together here!

Today is the fourth anniversary of Judy’s Chickens! It all started here!

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Remember to always check this website for updated versions of a recipe.  

© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

Crostini with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes, Burrata, and Basil

Although my tomato garden started out pretty, it did not produce all summer. I heard similar comments from many of my backyard gardening friends. About two weeks ago, I cleaned up my 26 tomato plants and gave them one last chance to make fruit before pulling them. I picked every tomato in sight in various stages of ripeness.

At our next monthly Master Gardeners of Davidson County meeting, I asked our UT Extension Agent, David Cook, if he had an explanation. He said in long periods of heat and drought, tomatoes take longer to ripen. Additionally, he said the plants do not set new fruit because the heat coupled with high humidity cause the flowers to shrivel up and drop. He said he’s been wondering if it is time to rethink when we plant tomatoes locally.  Perhaps later in June would work better since we have a long growing season. Coincidently, I learned my father-in-law planted his tomato beds on July 1st, and they were lush and producing when I saw them last week.

The first thing I did with the ripe portion of tomatoes I harvested was to make and freeze a few batches of @JudysChickens Marinara Sauce. Soon after, I had the pleasure of tasting Robin Verson’s slow-roasted tomatoes while attending an indigo dyeing workshop at Hill and Hollow Farm, in Kentucky. I’ve made oven-roasted tomatoes before, but their flavor wasn’t nearly as intense as these. These were like little flavor bombs.

I asked her how she prepared them. She wrote, “Cut off the tips of Roma tomatoes, then cut them in half. Place in baking pan and sprinkle olive oil, salt, and pepper. Put a nice
amount of freshly pressed garlic on top of each half. Bake at 225 for many hours, usually half a day.” Thus began my days of slow-roasting tomatoes.

Slow Roasted Tomato Ingredients

4 pounds small tomatoes (I used 3# Roma and 1# cherry)
5 -6 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic pepper (used only for cherry tomatoes)

I divided the tomatoes into cherry (Juliettes and Sungolds) and the larger tomatoes (Romas and Lemon Boys). I found that garlic doesn’t stick well to whole cherry tomatoes, so I used garlic pepper for them.

Instructions
Preheat oven to 225º
Line two 13″ x 18″ rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

For the pound of cherry tomatoes: mix tomatoes with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of garlic pepper. Spread them on a baking sheet. Set aside.

For the three pounds of Romas and Lemon Boys: cut the tomatoes in half, lengthwise, and scoop out the seeds with your index finger. Mix olive oil and minced garlic in a small bowl to moisten the garlic. Place tomatoes on a baking sheet in a single layer. Use a teaspoon to drizzle the olive oil and garlic over the tomato halves.

Slow cook tomatoes for 4-5 hours. The cherry tomatoes were ready about 30″ before the Romas.

We call the cherry tomatoes “poppers.” They are fun to eat individually or to throw in sauces, salads, and vegetable dishes for a burst of flavor.

The roasted Romas are good to eat as an appetizer, a side dish, or as a mix-in for foods like hamburgers, vegetable dishes, and even over pasta. They are especially good smushed on bruschetta, or on crostinis, as we shall see. They will last in a covered dish for about a week in the refrigerator, or they can be frozen.

Crostini Ingredients
Yield: 18 Crostini

1 baguette
½ recipe of slow roasted tomatoes (see above)
4  2-ounce balls of burrata cheese
a few leaves of basil, minced
balsamic vinegar
Cracked sea salt and pepper

Instructions
Preheat oven to 400º

Slice a baguette into ½-inch slices. Lightly brush each with olive oil. Place slices on a sheet pan and toast for about 7-8 minutes.

Slice the burrata and place some on each slice of bread.

Top with one roasted tomato half.

Grind a little sea salt and pepper over each crostini. Sprinkle with chopped basil. Drizzle each with a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Arrange crostini on a serving platter.

If you are looking for other ways to cook tomatoes check out Tomatoes! on the MENU page.

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.

How to Make Artisan Bread the Easy Way

In this post, I am going to show you how to make a boule of bread as beautiful as this one

using just flour, yeast, salt, and water.

There will be no kneading, no proofing of yeast in a bowl to make sure it is active, and no punching down dough that has doubled in size. In fact, you will pretty much need to forget everything you ever learned about making bread from scratch and use the new and “revolutionary” methods developed by bakers Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francis in their bestselling cookbook, The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. The authors even have a book on gluten-free bread.

Since reading their book and using their method for the last two months, I feel very comfortable making bread and have not needed to buy any.

This bread is wonderful toasted for breakfast,

lovely for sandwiches at lunch,

and chewy and tasty when served warm at dinner along with a stick of butter.

But, I haven’t told you the best part: you pre-make and store the dough in the refrigerator until you are ready to shape and bake it. Yup, open our refrigerator door on any given day, and you will see a Cambro (a large, lidded, commercial grade food storage container) of dough, ready to be pulled out whenever we desire warm, crusty bread. The dough is good for up to two weeks and develops a mild sourdough flavor as it ages.

Let’s get started. Read over the entire post before you begin. It might sound complicated, but once you do it a few times, it will become second nature. Some tools that are helpful, but not required, are a digital scale, a round, 6-quart Cambro, a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and parchment paper. Know that the first few times I made this recipe I was in a beach house without any of the tools mentioned above, and I was able to make delicious bread.

Yield:  3 one-pound boules of bread
Preheat Oven: 450º, but not until you are ready to bake the bread.

About Flours:  This recipe calls for all-purpose (AP) unbleached flour.  The authors use Publix’s brand. I bake with King Arthur flours which have more protein than other AP flours and thus require an extra ¼ cup of water, per the authors. The authors suggest bumping up the water to 3⅓ cups if using bread flour. The authors suggest not using cake or pastry flours.

Measuring Flour — Weighing vs. Scooping:  For accurate and consistent results, use a digital kitchen scale. If you use a scale, zero out the weight of the empty container before adding flour. If using a measuring cup, do not pack the flour and be sure to level the cup with a knife.

Ingredients: this is the basic recipe
2 pounds (6½ cups) all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 tablespoon (fine) salt or 1½ tablespoons (course) kosher salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3 cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Ingredients: Below is my modification of the recipe. It still has 2 pounds of flour, but I’ve incorporated about 15% whole wheat flour without affecting the chemistry.

5 ounces King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour (a heaping cup)
1 pound, 11 ounces King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1 tablespoon (fine) sea salt
1 tablespoon granulated, active, dry yeast
3¼ cups lukewarm water (at 100º)

Instructions

Mix the Dough:
Weigh a 6-quart mixing container on a digital scale. Zero it out. Add in the flour(s), salt and yeast. Mix dry ingredients together with a wire whisk.

Add the warmed water. Mix the ingredients with a spatula, incorporating all of the flour from the bottom of the container. Put the lid on, but do not seal it so the gasses can escape. Allow dough to rest for two hours on the countertop. It won’t be resting though; the yeast will become activated by the water and the subsequent fermentation process that ensues will make the dough bubble and rise — and become delicious.

The dough will be wetter than what you may be used to.

After two hours, you could make your first loaf of bread, but I prefer to put the dough in the refrigerator for a few hours or overnight. Chilling it makes the dough easier to shape into a boule, and it gives time for the flavors to become more complex. Do not punch the dough down. Ever.

Shape the Dough
Before you get started, prep the workspace where the dough will rise. I shape the dough and let it rise over a parchment paper-lined pizza peel, but you could put the dough on a cornmeal-covered baking sheet if you don’t have a peel. Sprinkle flour on your hands and over the top of the dough in the Cambro before diving in to scoop out dough. This will help keep the tacky and moist dough from sticking to your hands. Pull out one pound of dough, about one-third of it.

Shape the dough into a ball. This next step is important: stretch the top surface of the ball around and tuck it into the bottom, rotating the ball a quarter-turn at a time. Repeat this motion for about 30 seconds.  Here’s a video by one of the authors. Add just enough additional flour to keep your hands from sticking to the dough. The goal is to flour the “skin” or “cloak” of the boule and not to incorporate flour into the interior. Place the dough on a sheet of parchment paper, uncovered, to rest and rise for 40 minutes.

The dough will spread out as it rises. It doesn’t get tall. That’s okay; the heat and steam in the oven will cause the dough to rise and round out as it bakes. The process is referred to as “oven-rise.” As proof, I once dropped a loaf of risen dough on the flour as I was putting it in the oven. I picked it up, quickly reshaped it, put it back on the peel, and slid it into the oven. The bread still rose — higher than ever. It’s a mystery. (PS: I swear the floor was spotless.)

Prepare the Oven:
While the dough is rising, prep the oven space. Place the oven rack in the lower third of the oven. If you have a pizza stone, put it on the rack. On the rack beneath it, place an empty pan (that will be filled with water later) to create steam. The steam created by the addition of hot water once the bread is placed in the oven is the most crucial step in getting the bread to rise higher. Turn oven on to 450º. Here’s a photo of the set-up.

Back to the Rising Dough:
After the bread has risen for 40 minutes,

dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and using a sharp knife, make 3 or 4 slashes on top. Allow dough to rest for five more minutes after that.

Slide the dough onto the pizza stone if using one, or if not using a stone, place the baking sheet in the oven and bake the dough for about 35 minutes. The bread will be browned and sound hollow when tapped when done.

Remove bread from oven and place on an open wire rack to cool so the bottom of the loaf can crisp up. Allow to cool completely before slicing, or the interior could become doughy.

The only times I skip the step of cooling bread completely is when I’m serving it hot for dinner. These three boules were still hot when I quickly sliced them for a tableful of waiting family members sitting around the dinner table.

(photo credit: Kristen Ivory)

The bread disappeared with lots of gushing going on by those who were slathering each slice with butter as they ate them. That’s always a sight to behold for a cook.

To have a continuous supply of dough in the fridge, make a new Cambro of dough whenever the last container is emptied.

Failures:
There haven’t been any failures in the taste department. Something magical happens while that moist dough ferments. Every loaf I’ve made has tasted extraordinary, even if it wasn’t always a pretty loaf.

My early failures were related to getting the dough to rise sufficiently so the bread wouldn’t be too dense. That problem went away when I started weighing the flour and added steam to the oven to encourage oven-rise.

I hope I’ve inspired you to give bread-making a try. It a very fulfilling experience. Please feel free to ask questions in the Comments section.

(photo credit: Andrew Wright)

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© 2014-2018 Judy Wright. All rights reserved. Photos, videos, and text may only be reproduced with the written consent of Judy Wright.