Remembering Canada’s Kosher Julia Child

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

May 29, the first day of Shavuot, would have been the 80th birthday of Norene Gilletz, Canada’s first lady of kosher cuisine. She died in Montreal this past winter after a long illness.

Some people have referred to Gilletz as Canada’s kosher Julia Child or the Jewish Martha Stewart. Gilletz had a huge influence on Canadian kosher fare.

Norene Gillitz (Photographer: Doug Gillitz)

She was the editor of the storied kosher cookbook, Second Helpings, Please! The Canadian best-seller it was originally published in 1968 sold more than 150,000 copies. The book launched Gilletz’s culinary career. She went on to write11 more cookbooks. 

Her last book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, which she co-wrote with Dr. Edward Wein, was published just months before her death.

Gilletz was a much beloved community figure. One of her proudest achievements was the founding of Norene’s Kitchen, an international Facebook community of 10,000 plus like-minded people who are l connected through a shared love of food and their Jewish heritage.

Gilletz left a huge culinary legacy. Healthy eating was an important theme in many of her cookbooks, but she never sacrificed taste. Here are three of her vegetarian recipes – they’re all from The Brain Boosting Diet – to enjoy on Shavuot. 

Venezuelan Guacamole would appeal to guacamole aficionados. The Venezuelan version calls for hearts of palm to be incorporated into the avocado dish. This appetizer is lighter tasting, but just as flavourful as traditional guacamole. 

Gilletz’s recipe for Smashed Potato Latkehs is easy and great comfort food. Pair the potatoes with a healthy dollop or two of sour cream.

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing is tasty with lots of crunch and a rich Asian dressing.

VENEZUELAN GUACAMOLE (GUASACACA) by Norene Gilletz

1 can (14 oz/ 398 g) hearts of palm, well drained
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp (30 ml) fresh parsley
1 small onion
1 large clove garlic, about 5 ml (1 tsp), minced
½ green or red bell pepper, cut into chunks
1 medium tomato, quartered
1 firm, ripe avocado, peeled and pitted
1 tbsp (15 m1) extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp (15 m1)  lemon juice (preferably fresh)
½ tsp  (2 ml) salt 
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper or chilli powder
Freshly ground black pepper

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the hearts of palm, cilantro, and parsley with quick on/off pulses, until finely chopped. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl. You should have about (1 cup) 250 ml.

Process the onion, garlic, and bell pepper with quick on/off pulses, until coarsely chopped. Add the tomato, avocado, oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Process with quick on/offs pulses, until it’s finely chopped.

Add this mixture to the hearts of the palm mixture and mix well. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Cover tightly with plastic wrap, pressing it directly against the surface. Refrigerate up to 4 days. Serve chilled. 

SMASHED POTATO LATKES

12 baby red-skinned potatoes
Lightly salted water
1-2 tbsp  (15-30 ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Additional seasonings to taste: basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

Place the potatoes in enough lightly salted water to cover them.

Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until they are fork-tender.

Drain the potatoes well.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C.)

Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or sprayed foil.

Place the potatoes in a single layer, about 3 inches apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover them with a piece of parchment paper.

Smash each potato once or twice with the flat part of your palm, making a flat disc. Round off any ragged edges by pushing them together with your fingers.

Brush the potato tops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings.

Bake the potatoes, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden and crispy. If desired, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking and brush the tops with oil. Makes 4 to 5 servings.

KALE SLAW WITH PEANUT DRESSING

Slaw

1 medium bunch kale (about 1 lb/500 g)
1 tbsp (15 ml) canola oil
4 cups (1 L) shredded red cabbage (or one 16-oz/500-g pkg)
2 cups (500 ml) shredded carrots (about 4 medium carrots)
1 red bell pepper, diced
½ cup (125 ml) diced red onion
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
½ cup (125 ml) toasted slivered almonds (for garnish) 

Peanut Dressing/Marinade 

2 cloves garlic
¼ cup (60 ml) peanut butter (preferably natural with no added sugar)
2 tbsp (30 ml) rice vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) soy sauce or tamari (preferably low-sodium)
2 tbsp (30 ml) honey
1 tsp (5 ml) toasted sesame oil
3–4 tbsp (45–60 mL) orange juice (preferably fresh)
Pinch red pepper flakes

Mince garlic in a mini-prep or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, orange juice, and red pepper flakes. Process until blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. If too thick, drizzle in a little more orange juice.

Store in a jar in the refrigerator until ready to use. Shake well before using.


Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a freelance writer and food blogger for The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemakers Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail and Tablet Magazine.