With Passover and Easter just around the corner, here is an exciting side dish that fulfills the requirements for both celebrations. I developed this cauliflower-leek kugel with its vibrant almond-herb crust for Bon Appetit when I was writing the "Entertaining Made Easy" column. While kugels are typically "Jewish," and most often connote "sweet," this kugel is savory and, according to the editors at Bon App, tastes remarkably like artichokes! You can find the slightly-altered recipe on Epicurious, but the recipe below is the original, where the almonds are more finely chopped and the filling more compact. Part pudding/souffle in texture, it is a perfect offering for Passover as the dish is parve, with no dairy or any leavening in it. The cauliflower "mash" is thickened with matzoh meal. It is also perfect for Easter as the flavor screams "Spring" with its fresh burst of dill and parsley. It is a wonderful accompaniment to roast lamb and equally delicious nestled up to pot roast or a golden roast capon. It also fulfills the "entertaining made easy" requirement as it can be easily prepped and assembled and baked up to two days before serving. I am imagining it now, on my palate, with rosy slices of garlicky-minted lamb and a puree of carrots flecked with fresh lemon thyme for Easter. For Passover, I am licking my lips as I think about my slightly sweet-and-sour pot roast made with sticky dates. Either way, try it. You'll like it.
Cauliflower-Leek Kugel with Almond-Herb Crust
1 large head cauliflower, about 2 ¼ pounds or 1 ½ pounds florets 4 large leeks, about 1 ½ pounds 5 tablespoons olive oil 3 extra large eggs, beaten 5 tablespoons matzoh meal ½ teaspoon salt 1 small clove garlic 1/3 cup whole shelled almonds with skins ½ cup packed flat parsley leaves ½ cup packed dill fronds
Wash cauliflower. If using whole head, trim leaves and cut into florets. Cook, covered, in a large pot with ¾ cup water until tender, but not mushy, about 20 minutes. Toss periodically and if necessary, add small amount of water.
Trim dark green leaves from leeks. Cut remaining leeks down their lengths into quarters. Then cut across the leeks into ¼”-1/2” pieces. Wash thoroughly. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in large skillet and add leeks with their moisture still clinging. Cook over medium high heat, stirring, for five minutes, then lower heat and let cook slowly until soft and slightly brown, about 20 minutes. Stir often. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain cauliflower and put in large bowl. Mash with fork into coarse pieces. Do not make mushy. Toss well with leeks, beaten eggs, matzoh meal, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pour into 8 ½” soufflé dish.
Put garlic and almonds in a food processor: pulse frequently until finely chopped and place in a medium bowl. Put parsley and dill into food processor and process until finely chopped; do not overprocess into a puree. Add to almonds and toss with 2 tablespoons oil and 1 tablespoon water. Distribute herb mixture over cauliflower then gently press down to flatten. Bake 50 minutes. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Cut into wedges or spoon from soufflé dish. Serves 8