Cauliflower-leek kugel with almond-herb crust

July 31, 2007 at 5:49 am (B plus, Cruciferous rich, Isa C. Moskowitz, Jewish, Tofu, Vegetable dishes)


Derek argued that this dish is not truly a kugel since it doesn’t have noodles. Apparently he’s never had potato kugel, and doesn’t know that (although literally a pudding in Yiddish) a kugel can be any sweet or savory casserole type dish. This recipe is from Vegan with a Vengeance, and the anecdote at the beginning of the recipe is quite amusing–I recommend you buy the cookbook and read it for yourself. Apparently it was adapted (switching eggs for tofu) from this Bon Appetit recipe. If you eat tofu on passover this would make a great passover dish.

Serves 8-12.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups sliced cauliflower florets (about 1 medium-size head of cauliflower, or half a very large head)
  • 1/2 cup almonds
  • 3 whole matzohs (2 in the filling, then 1 in the topping)
  • 1 (12-ounce) package silken tofu
  • 4 Tbs. olive oil
  • 4 cups coarsely chopped leeks (white and light green parts from about 4 leeks)
  • 1 cup diced onion (1/2-inch dice, from 1 small onion)
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1.5 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground black pepper

I’m going to re-write the instructions since I found the order and details of the instructions to be inefficient, and lacking in sufficient detail. My instructions look quite long but I assure you they will be easier, and faster than the original, shorter instruction set.

  1. In a 4-quart saucepan (with a lid) add an inch of water and a folding steaming basket. Bring the water to a boil while you prepare the cauliflower. When the water comes to a boil, add your sliced cauliflower, cover, and steam for about 10 minutes, or until soft. Then remove from heat, uncover, and let cool.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the almonds in a dry cast iron skillet or 12-inch stainless steel skillet until lightly browned and fragrant. Watch the almonds carefully. Don’t burn them! When toasted, chop them in a food processor with a few pulses. Set aside in a small bowl (about the size of a cereal bowl) .
  3. Crumble two sheets of matzoh into the food processor. Grind the matzoh into large crumbs (coarser than matzoh meal) and pour into a large (4-6 quarts?) bowl.
  4. Now chop your onion and leeks into large pieces, and add them to the food processor and pulse a few more times. Add 2 Tbs. of the oil to the skillet you toasted the almonds in, and raise to a medium-high heat. When hot, add the leeks and onions, and saute until the leeks are tender and the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
  5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  6. Meanwhile, chop the parsley and dill in the food processor. Add all but 1 Tbs. of each herb to the small bowl with the almonds. Add the remaining two Tablespoons to the large bowl with the matzoh. Next, crumble the tofu into the food processor, and puree until smooth.
  7. The cauliflower should be cool by now, and the leeks and onions cooked. Mash the cauliflower in the steaming basket with a fork. Add the tofu and leeks and onions and cauliflower (without the steaming water) to the large bowl, along with the salt and pepper, and mix well.
  8. Brush or spray a 9×13 inch casserole dish with oil. Spread the cauliflower mixture evenly in the dish. Pour the almonds and herbs into the large bowl you just emptied, and crumble in the remaining matzoh with your fingers. Add the remaining 2 Tbs. of olive oil and mix. Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the kugel.
  9. Bake, uncovered, for 35 minutes, until browned on top. Remove from oven and let stand for 10 minutes.

My Notes
Both Derek and I really enjoyed this recipe. We were worried it was going to be bland, but it wasn’t bland at all, it was quite tasty. We couldn’t taste the tofu at all, but it gave the dish an almost eggy consistency, that really reminded me of a traditional kugel. The fresh herbs were present, but not punchy. The leeks were delicious–I think with just onions this recipe wouldn’t be as good. The cauliflower didn’t add a huge amount of flavor, but with the tofu gave the kugel a great texture. I was worried it was going to be too salty so I only added 1 tsp. of salt, but in the end we added salt at the table so next time I’d add the full amount. This dish is quite rich, and Derek thought the oil could be cut in half without ill effect–just use 1 Tbs. to saute the onions and leeks, and 1 Tbs. for the topping. As is it’s about 47% fat, but with half the oil it would still be 40% fat, I guess due to the tofu and almonds. No wonder it’s so tasty! I really liked the cauliflower layer, but in my 9×13 pan it ended up quite thin. I think it could have used a slightly higher cauliflower to topping ratio. If I make it again I may try using 6 cups of cauliflower instead of 4, or maybe just doubling the whole base recipe (except for the topping). Also, I might increase the amounts of fresh herbs just a bit, maybe to 2/3 or 3/4 cup each.

Isa has you use the food processor for the matzoh and the tofu, but not for anything else. I say, why not chop your almonds and onions and herbs in the food processor as well? She also says to boil the cauliflower but I think it’s easier and healthier to steam it. Her instructions are to break the cauliflower into florets. Rather than spending time breaking the cauliflower into neat florets, I suggest just breaking the cauliflower into large pieces then slicing them–it saves time and you’re going to end up mashing the buggers in the end anyhow.

Even with my modifications, this still isn’t a quick and easy recipe. It’s not exactly difficult, but it does use a 4-qt pot, a steaming basket, a large skillet, a food processor, and a large and small bowl. So plan accordingly. To use one less pan, if your large skillet is oven-proof you may be able to bake the casserole directly in the skillet. I thought about baking it in my cast iron pan, but the casserole would have been much fatter than intended. It’s worth a shot, but since it was my first time I followed the instructions and used a 9×13 metal cake pan.

I cut my kugel into 8 large slices; each had about 240 calories. Two slices were quite filling and satisfying. With half the fat each slice would have about 200 calories.

Update Sept 1, 2007: On a second try I used about 6 cups of cauliflower, from one large head. I also used 1/2 cup + 1 Tbs. of each herb, and reduced the oil to only 2 Tbs. total. I had three quite large leeks, and only got 3 cups of chopped leek out of them. I used the food processor to chop the onion and leeks, which resulted in a much more rough, uneven chop than when I did it by hand. The whole recipe took me 45 minutes to make, plus about 15 minutes of clean up time (I don’t have a dishwasher).

Rating: B+

Derek:

1 Comment

  1. austingardener said,

    I made it again and left out the almonds in the topping. I also used half as much oil in both the topping and the leeks. It was just as good as when I used the full oil and nuts. It holds together well to take for lunch.

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