Candace Karu

Simple Soul Food - Jewish Style


img_0627 In addition to my two amazing children, one of the many things I took away from my marriage was the ability to cook and appreciate Jewish soul food. While I was married I learned how to cook the food of my husband's family. We had roast chicken and matzoh ball soup on Fridays and huge feasts at Passover, table groaning with brisket, kugel, tsimmes, kasha, and other holiday delicacies. Though the marriage didn't last, the memories and flavors survived.

For a nice (lapsed) Catholic girl, I know my way around Jewish cuisine and have come to associate this food with happy times and home. So every once in a while, even in the summer, the craving strikes and I make time for Brisketpalooza -- a night of indulgence in traditional Jewish food with a healthier twist. It isn't hard to find someone to cook for, someone whose childhood memories are steeped in rich meat gravy and chopped liver on crisp matzohs.

This summer Maine has had more than its share of cold, rainy days. I took advantage of one this week and made my favorite comfort food meal. Wherever possible, I have attempted to make healthy changes and substitutions to these classic recipes -- not exactly your bubbie's kugel, but filled with love and memories nonetheless.

Super Easy Chopped Liver

1 lb. chicken livers, rinsed

2 tbl olive oil

1 large yellow onion diced

8 oz sliced mushrooms

1 hard boiled egg

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute livers in half the olive oil until brown, about 4 minutes per side. You can finish with a few tablespoons of red wine if you have it handy. Saute the onions and mushrooms until soft and slightly caramelized. Combine in a food processor. Do not over process, it should retain body. Chop egg and combine. Serve on matzoh.

You can snack on the chopped liver while you prepare the brisket and kugel.

Perfect-Every-Time Brisket

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

5 lb. first cut brisket

1 large yellow onion, cut in chunks

1 lb baby carrots

6 celery stalks, large dice

1 head of garlic, peeled

1 small can V-8 juice

1 cup red wine

1 cup beef broth

Salt and pepper to taste

In roasting pan, place brisket fat side up and salt and pepper generously. Place vegetables around the meat and top with garlic. Pour liquid on top. Cover with aluminum foil and place in center of oven for 4 - 5 hours, or until meat is ridiculously tender. Transfer meat and vegetables to separate platters and cool. Meanwhile, refrigerate pan liquid until the fat congeals and can be removed. Puree half the carrots and the rest of the vegetables and use them to thicken gravy. When it has cooled, cut the meat to 1/4 inch slices, return to roasting pan and cover with thickened gravy. This can sit overnight to absorb the flavors or can be reheated and served immediately. Serve with remaining carrots, which will be very soft, moist and full of flavor.


Not-So-Sinful Kugel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

12 oz. yolk free broad egg noodles

4 tbls. Cabot unsalted butter

4 oz. softened cream cheese

1 cup Cabot Sour Cream

6 oz. Cabot Honey Greek Yogurt

1 lb. Cabot No-Fat Cottage Cheese

1/2 cup sugar

6 eggs, beaten

1 tsp ground cinnamon

Boil noodles per package instructions. Mix together all other ingredients and combine with cooked noodles. Place in a greased 9" x 13" casserole dish and bake until eggs are set and top is golden brown, about 45 minutes. If you prefer a savory kugel, you can substitute sauteed chopped onions for the sugar and cinnamon.


I served the brisket and kugel with mashed potatoes and the roasted carrots. There was also a generous dollop of Rabbi's Roots Horseradish. Their motto? " It puts the 'rad' back in horseradish!" To share the repast, I invited my friend Brian Lazarus, a craftsman of refined taste and judgment, and more important, a Jewish Soul Food afficionado.

I think he approved.