Spinach Potato Knishes – Jewish Comfort Food
I first tried spinach potato knishes (pronounced kuh-NISH-es) at Kenny and Ziggy’s in Houston TX, and wow was this some spectacular comfort food. I’m British so I am used to Cornish pasties (a tasty pastry-enclosed meat and potato recipe from the southwest corner of England) and I also enjoy pastry-wrapped or pastry-enclosed vegetable recipes for lunch or as snacks.
What are knishes, I asked myself, perusing the menu. Google to the rescue and I read the description. My mouth began to water and I thought wow I have to order these! So, now you’re asking what are knishes exactly? Well this tasty Jewish recipe is a savory pie. Knishes can be filled with potatoes, meat, sauerkraut, kasha, cheese, onions, spinach or a combination of these. Knishes may be baked, grilled or fried. The flavor remains similar but the spinach potato knishes texture varies depending on the cooking method employed.
Spinach potato knishes, which like the others are vegetarian knishes, can be compared to other pastry appetizers or baked dumpling type dishes, such as empanadas from Mexico, pasties from the UK, calzone from Italy or pirozhki from Russia. You can also compare the format and flavor to Jamaican patties, southeast Asian curry puffs, South and Central Asian samosas, Middle Eastern fatayers and Portuguese rissols.
History of Knishes in America
This delicacy was made popular by Eastern European immigrants in the US, primarily modern-day Poland, Belarus, Ukraine and Lithuania. You can get them from street vendors wherever there is a big Jewish population, perhaps from butcher’s shops or from hot dog stands.
The traditional knish filling is mashed potato, ground meat (minced meat), buckwheat groats (kasha), sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) or cheese. Black beans, fruit, tofu, spinach, broccoli and sweet potatoes are modern fillings which can appear in some new knish recipes.
Spinach potato knishes might be somewhat new but they are my favorite variety. If you’re into spinach, you might also like this spanakopita recipe which is a Greek pie made with spinach and cheese. Another idea is this creamy spinach soup recipe.
Different Types of Knish Recipes
They can be square, round or rectangular in shape, and some of the filling might be exposed or the filling might be totally enclosed. You can also find knish recipes in all sizes from single bite-sized ones to canape size or even sandwich size or (well, yes this is Texas after all!) sharing size.
Knishes were introduced into the US around 1900, and ‘knish’ is a Yiddish word that comes from knysz (Polish) and knysh (Ukranian). The first baker making these in the US baked them in 1910 in New York. Like a lot of dishes, knish went in and out of popularity, although it’s fair to say there has been new knish interest sparked in the last few years, largely thanks to specialty restaurants like My Mother’s Knish in Westlake Village, CA, Buffalo and Bergen, Washington DC, and the Knish Shop in Baltimore, MD.
So if you want to find out what spinach potato knishes taste like and you don’t have a Jewish grandmother or mother to indulge you, or a good local Jewish eatery, try the following spinach potato knish recipe and discover why these are so good!
- 1½ cups (185g) all-purpose flour (plain flour), and more for dusting
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, and more for brushing
- 2 teaspoons vinegar
- ¼ cup (60ml) and 2 tablespoons cold seltzer water
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ pounds (680g) peeled russet potatoes
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 16 oz (450g) thawed spinach
- 4 tablespoons olive oil, and more for brushing
- 2 finely diced medium yellow onions
- 4 minced garlic cloves
- ¼ cup (60ml) warmed heavy cream
- First make the dough. Put the flour in a food processor and pulse as you pour the oil through the feed tube.
- Keep pulsing, scraping down the sides of the bowl.
- Put the vinegar and seltzer in a measuring cup then stir in a teaspoon of salt. Pour this through the feed processor feed tube, pulsing, for 25 seconds.
- Turn the dough on to a floured board and knead for a minute.
- Flatten it into a disk and wrap it in plastic wrap.
- Refrigerate for 2 hours at least.
- Time to make the filling - put the potatoes in a pan and cover with water.
- Bring to the boil and add a generous pinch of salt, then simmer for 35 minutes or until fork-tender.
- Drain and let them cool a bit (maybe in the freezer if you're in a rush).
- Put the spinach in a clean towel and wring out as much liquid as you can, before roughly chopping it.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet and sauté the onions with ¼ teaspoon each salt and pepper.
- Cook for 15 minutes or until tender.
- Add the garlic and cook 2 minutes.
- Add the spinach, ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper and stir well, then turn off the heat.
- Let the dough sit on the counter for 40 minutes or until pliable.
- Peel the potatoes then mash them with the cream and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, then stir in the spinach mixture. Add salt and black pepper to taste.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C) with a rack in the center.
- Brush a baking sheet with oil.
- Put the dough on floured parchment paper and dust with flour, then stretch into an 8x6-inch (25x20cm) rectangle.
- Roll it into an 18x12-inch (46x30cm) rectangle with a rolling pin.
- Spread the filling in the dough, allowing a 2-inch (5cm) border along the edges.
- Roll the dough, brushing off excess flour as you roll, stretching the dough as needed.
- Pinch it closed along the center seam, then turn seam-side down on the parchment paper.
- Twist and seal it closed then pinch off any excess.
- Divide into 3 parts, pressing down to cut off each one.
- It's going to look like sausage links.
- Cut through the separations using a sharp knife, pinching the ends to check the seals are secure.
- Now cut them lengthwise to make 6 total.
- Arrange the 6 knishes cut-side upward on the baking sheet 2 inches (5cm) apart, pressing each one down to flatten into a 1½-inch ( 3¾cm) thick disk.
- Bake the spinach potato knishes for half an hour, then brush with oil and bake for a further half hour or until golden.
- These are good served warm with spicy mustard.
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