Before we moved back to Israel I purchased Bryant Terry’s cookbook, Vegan Soul Kitchen, in which Terry boldly and sometimes radically adapts the traditional african-american, fatty, pork-filled soul cooking of his youth, to suit his heathy vegan lifestyle. The book is filled with Terry’s voice, personal anecdotes, stories from picnics-gone-by, as well as the beginning of his adventures an a vegan eater and cook. Although the book falls short on accessibility– it reads a little like his personal journal and not everyone is likely to find his musings, or music-to-recipe pairings to their liking — it is inspiring that someone was able to take a cuisine like soul food and put a genuinely fresh and healthy spin on it, without introducing a lot of “weird vegan ingredients”. If I were to draw conclusions about Terry himself from the way he cooks, I would say that he is a person who walks with ease in & out, and between two very different worlds.
I find this inspiring because I have also been weaving my way through different countries, lifestyles, identities, and the cuisines that come with them, since I was very young. My struggles to uncover my true cooking-style are an absolute mirror to my confusion around who I am as a person, Jew, and citizen of the world. These past few years, I am lucky to have been living in a place where I can explore these things more openly than I have in the past (while living in a very diverse neighborhood that just happens to be next to a cook’s shopping-paradise) and I feel like I am inching closer and closer to “cooking my truth”.
One of the recipes I’ve been playing with, Jerusalem Kugel, is a perfect example of a dish I want to embrace (it’s so Jerusalem-y, so Jewish, so unique to this time and place in my life) but have had trouble doing so because MY LORD IT HAS A LOT OF SUGAR AND OIL. I mean, I want to be free, and not care about these things, and say, ‘hey it’s a traditional food…my grandmother lived to be 96 on foods like these!’ But it makes me feel icky to eat it and to feed it to my family when we could be eating a non-traditional food, such as tofu and rice noodles, that they like just as much, and doesn’t have guilt as a main ingredient.
So, I thought about it for a while and came up with a recipe for Jerusalem Kugel that I can not only live with, but tastes good too (if you like kugel, that is). So enjoy! Happy Kugel Eating!
Ari’s Jerusalem Kugel
Besides the lower sugar and fat content of this kugel, its best feature is not having to caramelize any sugar (see a traditional version here , by my friend, Liz). Caramelizing sugar in oil is the defining feature of Jerusalem Kugel but, inspired by Bryant Terry, I am bravely eschewing that step and replacing some of the deep flavor that the caramelized sugar lends, with Silan – date honey.
This recipe makes a small, square kugel. For a full, lasagna-sized kugel, double the recipe.
Half package of spaghetti noodles – 250 grams (I use spelt spaghetti from the Hadassa Health Food Store on Beit Ya’akov Street)
1/4-1/3 cup unsweetened apple sauce
3 Tbs Silan
cracked black pepper to taste (I like my kugel very peppery)
butter or oil
Cook noodles according to package directions in well-salted water. Drain and add back to the pot. Add a Tbs of butter or oil and mix well. Add apple sauce and silan to cool down noodles so you don’t scramble your eggs.
In a large mixing bowl beat the eggs with the salt and pepper. Pour in noodles and mix well. Pour the mixture into a greased 9-inch pan of your choice (I like glass) and bake covered with foil for 25 minutes or so. You can uncover for an addtional 5 minutes to get a little bit of browning and crispness on the top of the kugel. Serve with…. everything!