Rebecca’s Mini Knish Recipe gives us tasty little bites of potato filling, covered in crisp, flaky puff pastry. The flavor can be kept simple, or easily ramped up with salty feta and fresh or dried herbs. Like most of the best dishes, the knish originates as immigrant food, popular on the Lower East Side of NYC in the early 1900’s. Perfect to make with children (no coincidence, since Rebecca invented this Mini Knish Recipe precisely for that purpose!)
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Tell us about yourself, Rebecca Kasper!
I’m an NYC based actor, singer, educator, and home cookin’ mama and the creator of Nosh and Kibbitz, a space for sharing food and stories.
I live in New York City with my husband and two children, ages 7 years and 7 months. New Jersey and Pennsylvania were where I grew up. Alongside my amazing close-knit extended family, many of my incredibly special family of friends have been in my life since childhood.
What are your favorite things?
I love singing and making music. Right now, I’m relearning piano and playing around on the guitar. I love a good spontaneous dance party and a karaoke night. I love making people laugh, and I love the side-splitting, breathless laughter that happens when I’m with my friends.
A few more of my favorite things: coffee, crossword puzzles (word puzzles of all kinds!), snuggles with my kids, the frozen yogurt at 40 Carrots in Bloomingdale’s. Being near the water. The first notes of the orchestra as the lights go down in a theater. The thrill of riding a rollercoaster. Joni Mitchell. Ella Fitzgerald. Nina Simone. Pretzel cones.
Tell us about your passion project
I created @noshandkibbitz as a place to share about two things I love, food and stories. “Nosh” is a Yiddish word that means to eat (usually little bits of lots of different things) and “Kibbitz” is a Yiddish word that means to chat (also usually little bits about lots of different things.) As a woman deeply connected to her Jewish faith, a mother, a performer, and a gal who loves to cook (and eat!), Nosh and Kibbitz is a space where I can share with people what I love and encourage them to share back.
Tell us about your connection with Judaism. How is it expressed in your life in general, and in your kitchen?
Being Jewish was a very significant part of my upbringing and an important and special part of my family’s identity, and mine. I have always felt a deep connection to my faith and to Jewish culture and the Jewish people. Jewish holidays have always been very special for our family; we make time to be together and observe, to cook and share food around the holiday table. For many years now, I have been a Jewish educator, teaching Religious School and preparing students to become B’nai Mitzvah. I feel very fortunate to be a part of this special rite of passage, working with a young person as they form their own Jewish identity, helping them discover what is meaningful to them, what challenges them, what calls to them.
How is your Judaism expressed in your hospitality?
My home has always been a gathering place, a place where family and friends (and friends of family, and friends of friends, and family of friends…) are welcome. I love feeding my guests, anything from a table full of snacks to a last-minute hodgepodge lunch to a fervently prepared festive meal. The Jewish value of hachnasat orchim, of hospitality, is one that speaks to me deeply. I love making people feel welcome and comfortable in my home; sharing with them what I have brings me joy.
What is the best thing you learned from another person about food and hospitality?
My Mom has always had space at her table for another. If she ever found out someone didn’t have a place to go for a holiday meal (whether it was their celebrated holiday or not), the extension was added, the card table unfolded, and the chairs squeezed a bit closer together, because to her, everything is sweeter when everyone feels included. My Mom also cooks for about 3 times the number of people invited to dinner— so she can package up leftovers for everyone to take home (sometimes even before the meal!) She taught me that “food is love” is an action, and that there is always plenty to share.
What three food items could you not live without?
Used in my kitchen often and with abandon: Garlic
For warmth, comfort, healing, and love: Matzah ball soup (preferably my Mom’s)
My favorite treat: apple pie (from fresh-baked to Entenmann’s, I love them all)
What is your best food tip?
When making meatloaf, puree the onion, garlic, and other veggies with the spices before adding them to the meat mixture. It keeps the flavor uniform and the meatloaf juicy.
What are your 2-3 go-to cookbooks?
Anything by Nigella Lawson, Rachel Ray, Ina Garten.
What’s the story behind your Mini Knish Recipe?
I like to call these Mini Knishes “Knish Me Babies”. They are a treasure born out of necessity (like most great inventions, and in fact, like the knish itself!)
My brother Lee and I were teaching a Jewish cooking class at a synagogue Religious School, and we needed super easy recipes that 7th graders could make (and be ready to enjoy) in our class time of 30 minutes. We taught them about the knish’s humble and hearty history as a food of the immigrants of the Lower East Side of NYC in the early 1900’s. Cheap, hot, filling, and easy to eat while you continue the work at hand.
As I make them here, these mini knishes are great as hors d’oeuvres or as a side for Shabbat dinner.
Variations for Rebecca’s Mini Knish Recipe
The basic filling for my Mini Knish is a traditional one, mashed potatoes, wrapped in pre-made puff pastry dough (I said it was quick and easy!), and I love to top them with everything bagel seasoning for a pop of savory flavor.
My husband is Greek, so to play on one of his favorite traditional flavor combinations, I also make a twist on the original by adding feta cheese to the filling and sprinkling the top with oregano. I love playing around with our traditional Jewish and Greek flavors to combine them into something unique, just like our family. (You should try my baklava rugelach! Seriously delicious.)
- Greek Variation: Add 4 ounces of crumbled feta cheese to your mashed potatoes before filling your knishes; top each knish with a generous sprinkling of oregano.
Photos of Rebecca by Mona Slomsky, Alison Deaner, and Stephanie SchleicherPrint
1 box puff pastry dough (2 pastry sheets)
About 2 cups prepared mashed potatoes (leftover fresh, or prepared from a box)
1 whole egg
2 teaspoons of water
Everything bagel seasoning (for sprinkling on top)
Thaw the puff pastry dough as instructed on the box (be sure to plan ahead, mine takes 40 minutes!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Make an egg wash by beating the egg with 2 teaspoons of water.
Unfold one sheet of dough onto a cutting board and cut vertically into thirds and then again horizontally into thirds to create 9 squares of dough.
Separate the squares and roll each out a bit with a rolling pin (or you can even just stretch it with your fingertips.)
Place about 1 tablespoon of mashed potatoes in the middle of one square of dough. Fold one corner in, over the filling. Then make your way around the square, doing the same with each corner to make a pouch. Twist the ends of the dough together at the top to seal the knish.
Repeat with the rest of the pastry squares.
With a small pastry brush (or even your fingers!), brush some egg wash across the top of each knish. Add a generous sprinkling of everything bagel seasoning (Trader Joe’s is my favorite) on top
Repeat the process with the second sheet of dough, and feel free to get creative with some mashed potato add-ins or different toppings.
Place the knishes on the baking trays, leaving a bit of space between each. (I put 9 on each tray.)
Bake for 16-20 minutes, until the tops are golden brown.
Allow to cool for a few minutes, and enjoy!
Keywords: knish, mini pie, mashed potato, snack
More Community Recipes
Jewish Food Hero’s Community Recipes feature is a space for us all to share our favorites and hear from a variety of people in our community. This is an easy and fun way to get new meal ideas and learn about each other. Since you’ve read Rebecca’s recipe, do you feel inspired to share your Kosher recipe? Don’t forget to get in touch to share your recipe too!
Check out these other recipes from our community: