Like potatoes, beets, and carrots, protean cabbage turned up on Ashkenazi tables in many forms, from tart sauerkraut to a sugared filling for delicate strudel dough, not to mention lusty cabbage soup and meat-stuffed cabbage rolls. A favorite among Central European Jews was an irresistible tangle of sautéed cabbage ribbons and golden egg noodles, lavishly sprinkled with poppy or caraway seeds.
First parboiled, the cabbage is then lightly browned, intensifying its flavors to a nutty sweetness, which is heightened by the poppy seeds. Garlic cloves—lots of them—are my addition. They’re very slowly sautéed until the olive oil is deeply flavored and the garlic is soft and mellow.
I’ve also added eggs and broth, and made the recipe a kugel, or baked pudding. Sturdy, economical dishes that can be cooked ahead and reheated for holiday meals, kugels were originally starchy puddings baked along with the Sabbath cholent. Eventually, they became very popular and Jewish cooks began baking them in separate pans, binding the ingredients—savory or sweet—with eggs, and thickening them with various starches. They remain well-liked today, especially potato and noodle puddings, for preparing a kugel is an excellent way to avoid last-minute preparation and give “staying power” to a side dish or vegetable.
This kugel complements any grilled or roasted meat or chicken.
© 2000 Jayne Cohen. All rights reserved.