I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Starting off to a sweet new year

Having MZ in our lives has changed the way we approach the holidays more than we imagined. We used to plan carefully for our hosting or guest duties, but now we are more haphazard, as we juggle her needs with getting the food to the table. At the same time, we think more of her impressions and the family traditions we're creating, how to make her understand that these days are different from all others, and to be looked forward to from year to year.

I'm betting the food traditions make the most impression at this age, and the High Holy Days are filled with foods that make few appearances during the rest of the year. When else do we eat bagels for dinner except when we are breaking our fast? And lokshen kugel, there's a dish I don't make every day. It's a dairy fest, full of rich milky ingredients. The first few times I made Grandma Nora's recipe, I fiddled with low fat and nonfat ingredients, and found myself underwhelmed with the results. Now I just make it once or twice a year, and enjoy the warm, rich, custardy joy of it. The only flavorings are a touch of good vanilla and a light sprinkling of cinnamon. It's perfect comfort food after fasting all day.

There are two tricks to this recipe than might run counter to the way many people cook today: use old-fashioned egg noodles, nothing fancy, and cook to doneness. The kugel should meld into a soft pudding, and al dente noodles add nothing to this effect. And never, ever use whipped cream cheese -- your custard will never set.

Grandma Nora's Noodle Kugel

12 oz. wide egg noodles, boiled in lightly salted water and drained
4 oz. cream cheese
8 oz. small-curd cottage cheese
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 c. sugar
1 c. sour cream
1 c. milk
1 t. vanilla
6 T. melted butter
Corn flakes, crumbled

Cream eggs and cream cheese together. Add cottage cheese, sugar and sour cream, stir to combine. Add milk and vanilla, stir. Add noodles and melted butter, stir. Pour into a greased 9"x13" baking dish. The kugel can be refrigerated overnight from this point.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sprinkle top of kugel with corn flakes crumbs, dust lightly with cinnamon-sugar. Bake for 40-60 minutes, until custard is set. Serve warm or at room temperature topped with sour cream and apple sauce or other stewed fruit (strawberry-rhubarb is lovely).

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