Shavuot [shah-voo-WOTE] is one of my very favorite Jewish holidays, and it begins at sundown tonight. It commemorates bestowing the Torah upon the Israelites and the beginning of their covenant with God; and the holiday is welcomed with a variety of learning and study sessions, which can only be enticing to someone whose ex-husband once referred to her as an "intellectual snob." (Not true!!! Though I do admit to difficulty in suffering fools ....)
To a food-obsessed chickie like moi, though, Shavuot is really about the cheesecake ... and the blintzes ... and the ice cream. Because it's traditional to eat dairy foods at Shavuot, so you get a free pass to eat all the creamy goodies you can stand. This morning I made a sweet kugel [KOO-guhl] that not only made the house smell wonderful to greet the day, but which will then be ready for me to simply re-heat when I get home later tonight after taking our anonymous patient home from the hospital. Kugel is comfort food supreme, and will be much appreciated after a long day.
I debated whether to go for the gusto and make blintzes, which just struck me as too much work after an exhausting several weeks having led up to the weekend's hospitalization. Make crepes, fill crepes, fold crepes, fry crepes ... and do I really want to clean up the mess??? So then I considered my traditional blintz casserole, which is not what everyone else's blintz casserole seems to be. Others take frozen blintzes and place them into a baking dish, then pour a creamy batter over them before baking and slicing. Mine involves pouring some crepe batter into the bottom of a dish, baking it just until set, then topping that with the cheese filling and pouring the rest of the crepe batter over the top; once it bakes, it is cut into squares. But I didn't feel like making that, either ... no reason, just 'cause. Feeling fickle today, I guess, since I usually love anything blintz-like.
But a craving struck, and it struck like a flash of both lightning and brilliance: kugel, a noodle casserole without which a Jewish feast is not complete. I'm not too big a fan of the savory kugels; and the Kugel Yerushalayim -- with caramelized sugar and black pepper, which Israelis adore -- is fairly dry and crunchy and disgusting, in my opinion. But give me ricotta cheese, sour cream, a hint of almond and lemon, and a generous amount of cinnamon .. oh, I am a happy, happy girl!
And since this dish involves noodles, it met the one very easy and welcoming condition for joining the Presto Pasta Nights recipe round-up I just signed up for yesterday. Susan, of The Well-Seasoned Cook, is our charming hostess this week; but we must not forget the fabulous woman who began it all -- Ruth, of Once Upon a Feast. Thanks for letting me crash the party -- what a fabulous way to collect recipes and make new friends!!!
1 15-ounce container ricotta cheese
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon almond extract
grated zest from 1 large lemon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1 12-ounce package whole wheat noodles, cooked according to package directions
1/3 cup butter, melted
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup Nilla wafers, crushed fine
1 cup Barbara's Shredded Spoonfuls cereal, crushed fine
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine ricotta, sour cream, almond extract, lemon zest, salt, sugar and eggs in a large bowl.
Stir in noodles, then place into a greased 9"x13" baking dish.
Combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over kugel.
Bake for 40-45 minutes until topping is golden, some of the noodles are a bit crisp, and a knife inserted into the center comes out clean.
Let set for 15 minutes before serving. It's best served warm, and reheats beautifully.
Hag Sameach!!! [HAHG sah-MAY-yahk] = "Happy Holiday!" in Hebrew
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