Kishke. There’s nothing elegant or pretty about it.
It’s a homely dish of humble origins. Strictly peasant food, made from whatever was left over to throw into a bowl (meat or vegetables or both), combine with a filler (flour, barley, bread crumbs, or matzoh meal), color with paprika, and spice mildly with salt, pepper, and maybe some garlic.
As far as I remember, my family only ever served the Jewish vegetarian version (celery, carrot, onion, spices, flour, in a synthetic sausage casing). And there was no such thing as making it from scratch. Grandma bought it from the deli down the street, sliced it, and then baked it “to death” (just the way I liked it).
When I was a kid, I had no idea what kishke was made of. It was just… kishke, a delicious entity of its own. I probably would have been appalled to know it was made of celery, carrots, and onions.
But this is definitely a case of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts. Combine these ordinary ingredients (I bet you have most, if not all, of them in your kitchen right now), add heat, and what you get is something a little ugly and oh-so-delicious.
Close your eyes, take a bite, and isn’t it glorious? Greasy. Crunchy. Savory. The very definition of umami.
Kishke is not to be found in our neck of the northeast woods. Not even a frozen, lesser variety.
Until now, the only way to satisfy my kishke craving was to make a pilgrimage to that deli in Toronto and smuggle a few logs across the border. Yes, we do that (we also cart back chocolate bars, halva, bagels, challah, and, oh, let’s not get into this right now…). In fact, we have one of those precious logs in our freezer, thanks to my sister’s last trip. And we’re saving it for a special meal.
So, it’s been on my mind for quite awhile to learn to make this dish. This month’s Let’s Lunch theme—a song- or music-inspired dish—provided the perfect excuse. The recipe I came up with, after reading every vegetarian kishke recipe I could find, is pretty good. It comes as close to the real thing as anything I’ve tasted. It won’t keep me from stopping in at the deli in Toronto for a fix, but at least it’ll keep me in kishke between trips.
And the song? Oh yes.
So what if the song was inspired by the dish and not the other way around? So what if I never even knew the song growing up? It’s still a hoot, and you can polka while the kishke bakes.
** I don’t care who the song says stole the kishke. I know the truth. After I sliced the kishke for a final bake, I left the slices unguarded on the kitchen counter while the oven heated. When I returned some minutes later, one of the slices was gone. The culprit? It was Hudson, our ever hungry, food-snatching cat.
Want to know what songs the rest of the Let’s Lunchers are singing today? Read their posts to find out (I’ll continue adding links as they becomce available, so check back here for a full list later).
Tiger Cakes ~ from Ellise at Cowgirl Chef
Honey Mac Wafers with Coconut ~ from Lisa at Monday Morning Cooking Club
Tommy’s Chili ~ from Felicia at burnt-out baker
Purple Rice Pudding ~ from at Pat at The Asian Grandmothers Cooknbook
Banana Bread ~ from Rashda at Hot Curries and Cold Beer
Chicken and Dumplings ~ from Cathy at ShowFood Chef
Quiet munchies for concert-going ~ from Patrick at Patrick G. Lee
Coconut Cake ~ from Steff at The Kitchen Trials
Cuban black beans ~ from Linda at spicebox travels
Gluten-free Thin Mints ~ from Linda at Free Range Cookies
One Meatball ~ from Karen at GeoFooding
Smoked Brown Sugar Crème Brûlée ~ from Maria at Maria’s Good Things
Put the Lime in the Coconut Macaroons ~ from Emma at Dreaming of Pots and Pans
Pear Frangipane Tart ~ from Danielle at Beyond The Plate
If you want to join us for the March challenge (theme still to be determined), just follow the #letslunch tag in Twitter.
Vegetarian Jewish Kishke
Yield: 2 8-inch kishkes
- 2 stalks celery, washed and trimmed
- 1 carrot, peeled
- 1 small onion, peeled
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (or as much as is needed to make a moldable dough that holds together)
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- With a rack in the center of the oven, preheat to 350°F.
- Very finely chop the celery, carrots, and onions (you can do this in a food processor).
- Combine the chopped vegetables and all other ingredients in a bowl and then stir to combine.
- Divide the mixture into two equal portions.
- Place each portion on a separate piece of aluminum foil and form a log from each portion, each approximately 8 inches long.
- Wrap the foil tightly around each log.
- Place the logs on a cookie sheet and bake for 1 hour.
- Remove the kishke from the foil. You can slice and serve it as is, or can refrigerate or freeze it for later on. If you’re like me, and like a drier/crunchier kishke, before serving, slice a log into 2-inch slices, put the slices on a baking sheet, and bake in 350°F until the slices are browned and crispy.
You can serve the kishke unadorned, or you can top it with gravy or any sauce of your choice (tart, fruity flavors like cranberry and lingonberry go very well with it). Last night, I tried it with this balsamic-fig sauce and it was wonderful.