Vegan Knishes and a Very Happy Birthday Weekend

Image by Stacy Kowalchuk.

Image by Stacy Kowalchuk.

I’m not one of those people who thinks birthdays are a sedate affair. I respect folks who like to keep their day low-key, but whenever someone tells me it’s their birthday, all I want to do is to jump around, throw confetti, hit a piñata or two, and play Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

Kristen Wiig's Very Excited Sue Surprise Party. Saturday Night Live.

Kristen Wiig’s Very Excited Sue Surprise Party. Saturday Night Live.

Birthdays are the one day of the year when someone makes a cake JUST FOR YOU. I’m a giving person (and on the verge of developing diabetes), so I’m always willing to share cake, but who could blame you if you ate the whole thing?

Louis C.K. meme. Credit: Eric Barker.

Louis C.K. meme. Credit: Eric Barker.

Despite everything that could go wrong, here you are. You’re alive! When you think about all the crazy things that could happen to keep you from breathing, living another year means you’re an evolutionary giant, maybe even a freak of nature.


The only thing I love more than celebrating someone’s birthday is participating in a surprise party, so it was with great glee that I learned on Friday night that Cameron had planned a birthday weekend of surprises, starting with an Old West Murder Mystery Surprise Party that included lots of friends, a dog who steals cupcakes, and a mustachioed James Dean cardboard cut-out.

Image by Cameron Turner.

Image by Cameron Turner.

All weekend he dazzled me with surprises–a delicious brunch at Snooze, Argentine tango dance lessons, and a birthday dinner with his family–and the best part was being able to spend it with him. Today’s my official birthday, and instead of bemoaning the fact that I’M NOT GETTING ANY YOUNGER, I’m going to toss some metaphorical confetti and spread the birthday cheer.

Below you’ll find one of the savory snacks I’ve been meaning to make since I checked out Vegan with A Vengeance from the library. From what Ms. Moskowitz relates in her cookbook, knishes can be made vegan without change to the traditional recipe. Her version creates potato-filled rolls that bake up in less than an hour and are heavy on the carbs. While I’d probably tweak the recipe to make the potato filling more flavorful (add some chives or dill and a bit more fat), these are good a entry point to knish-making chaos, which is what my kitchen embodied after pulling together all the ingredients for the recipe.

vegan knish recipe

Image by author.

If you’ve made knishes, I’d love to hear how yours worked out, and if you have any vegan or vegetarian additions to the filling that tasted particularly great, let me know. In the meantime, have a great February 11th. I sure plan to.

vegan knish recipe

Image by author.

Knish Madness: Sweet Potato, Potato, and Spinach-Potato
(recipe from Vegan with a Vengeance cookbook)
Makes 16-24 knishes

For the dough:
– 1 medium russet potato
– 2 TBS olive oil, plus extra for brushing
– 3/4 cup cold water
– 1 tsp salt
– 1 tsp baking powder
– 3 cups all-purpose flour

For the fillings:
– 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped (about 2 cups)
– 4 TBS olive oil
– 6 small russet potatoes (if you can only find large ones, I’d buy just three of them.)
– 1 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
– 1 (10-oz) pkg frozen spinach, thawed and drained well
– 3 medium-size sweet potatoes
– 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
– 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
– 1/4 tsp ground allspice

vegan knish recipe

Image by author.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Prick the regular potatoes with a fork, wrap in foil, and place in the oven. The sweet potatoes can just go in as is. Take out the sweet potatoes after 40 minutes (or when they’re soft); the regular potatoes will need to bake another 30 minutes (or until they feel soft when squeezed). Remove from the oven and let cool.

To make the dough:
In a large bowl, place one peeled baked potato for the dough, let the others continue to cool. Add the oil and water to the potato and mash until well combined. Add the salt and baking powder, and then add the flour in batches, kneading with each addition. Knead until you have a smooth dough. This can take up to 15 minutes. Let the dough rest for an hour. (I used my Kitchen Aid dough hook, and it only took 5 minutes to get the dough ready. AMAZING.) Meanwhile, prepare the fillings.

For the potato knishes:
1. Sauté the onions in 2 TBS of the olive oil over medium heat for 15 minutes, until browned and slightly caramelized.

2. Mash the remaining regular peeled baked russet potatoes in a large bowl. Add the cooked onions, the remaining 2 TBS of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash together well.

For spinach knishes:
Add the thawed, drained spinach to half of the potato mixture and mix well until well combined.

For the sweet potato knishes:
Mash the baked sweet potatoes. (The next time I make these, I’ll remove the skins for a smoother mixture.) Add 1/4 tsp each ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt, and mix well.

To assemble and bake:
1. Cut the dough into three equal portions. Roll one portion out as thinly as possible, into a 14×6-inch rectangle. It won’t be a perfect rectangle, more of an oval, and that’s fine. Sprinkle with flour as you roll to keep the dough unsticky.

vegan knish recipe

Ghost Blob Knish Dough Roll-out. Image by author.

2. Place 2 1/2 cups of a single filling down the center of the rolled-out portion of dough. Spread out so that the filling is roughly 12×2 inches. (I spread out the filling more than this and will try this version the next time.)

vegan knish

Image by author.

Fold the dough over the filling the long way to create a roll. Trim the ends of the roll up to where the filling begins. Place folded side down on lightly greased baking sheet.

vegan knish recipe

Image by author.

3. Repeat with the other two portions of dough and the other two fillings. (You’ll have plenty of filling left over. Don’t overstuff the knishes. You can save the filling for another recipe.)

4. With a knife, score each roll into fifths. (I made more scores for smaller portions.) That will give them a nice shape and make them easier to cut when they are done, Brush lightly with olive oil. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes or until golden brown.

vegan knish recipe

Image by author.

5. Remove from oven; let cool just enough so that you can slice them. Serve warm, with plenty of mustard for the potato and spinach ones.

10 thoughts on “Vegan Knishes and a Very Happy Birthday Weekend

  1. Hey, Happy Birthday! Hope you have a wonderful day! Sounds like you had a great run-up to the big day too. ;-) I have never heard of a knish before, but they look really tasty and I will have to try them out one day. Thanks!

  2. That birthday sounds amazing!!! And tango classes! I’ve learned since I’ve been here that Denver has one of the biggest tango scenes in the country – I can’t wait to dance when I get back!

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