Bonnie Stern’s Recipes Work Well for Holiday Meals


Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR.

Rosh Hashanah is only two weeks away, but there’s still time to try some new dishes before the holidays.

This week’s recipes, Salad Nicoise and Phyllo Tart with Feta and Herbs, are courtesy of cookbook author and national food columnist Bonnie Stern.

See the culinary calendar below to sign up for a virtual panel discussion on Eastern European Jewish cuisine with cookbook authors Jeffrey Yoskowitz Michael Twitty, and Leah Koenig; to join the Bernard Betel Centre’s virtual Cooking Club; or to order honey from Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs.


The Salad Nicoise recipe here is actually a combination of two of Stern’s recipes – Salad Nicoise from her cookbook Simply HeartSmart Cooking: Over 200 Healthful & Delicious Recipes, and Warm Roasted Potato Salad, which is found in Friday Night Dinners: Menus to Welcome the Weekend with Ease, Warmth and Flair.

Stern writes that the Warm Roasted Potato Salad could be turned into a Nicoise Potato Salad by adding cherry tomatoes, green beans, black olives, hard cooked eggs and chunks of tuna.

To get the proportion of the salad ingredients correct, I used the Salad Nicoise recipe from Simply HeartSmart and added the hard-cooked eggs. Stern said the yellow and green beans can be interchanged.

This parve Mediterranean salad is ideal for lunch on Rosh Hashanah because the salad is a complete meal that can be served at room temperature.

The dressing and the cooked ingredients – potatoes, green or yellow beans and eggs – can all be made ahead.

The Nicoise salad dressing recipe below has been tripled, and the arugula has been omitted from the original recipe.

Last week, I signed up for the cooking webinar that Stern gave through Thornhill Lifelong Learning. The recipe she taught, Phyllo Tart with Feta and Herbs, is from her upcoming new cookbook, which has no release date yet.

Her phyllo tart is similar to spanakopita, a Greek dish of phyllo pastry stuffed with spinach and cheese. Stern uses more herbs than traditional spanakopita. She also combines feta and ricotta cheese, which is a departure from the Greek recipe, as is her addition of the sesame and nigella seed topping, and Tahini Sauce.

This phyllo tart would work well for the break fast meal after Yom Kippur ends. You can make the tarts a day or two before serving time and just reheat them.

Stern’s phyllo pastry technique is very forgiving. The phyllo sheets are rolled around the filling to create a long rope, which is then wound into a round, spiral-like shape. You can make one large spiral tart or four individual servings.

I made individual tarts because it’s a safe presentation given the COVID pandemic. I prepared the recipe on Sunday and served it two days later. The phyllo tart looked good. It was really tasty and the pastry was nice and crispy.



3 tbsp sherry vinegar
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1½ tsp (8 ml) kosher salt
3 tbsp (45 ml) grainy mustard
3/4 cup (190 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
6 tbsp (90 ml) chopped fresh parsley


2 lb (800 g) red potatoes cut in 2-inch (5 cm) chunks
1 lb (400 g) green or yellow beans, trimmed
1 small head Romain or leaf lettuce
1 cup (250 ml) cherry tomatoes
1 7-oz (198 g) white tuna (water packed), drained and flaked
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh chives or green onions
1 tbsp (15 ml) chopped fresh tarragon or ½ tsp (2 ml) dried 

Dressing: in a bowl combine vinegar, garlic, salt and mustard. Whisk in the oil. Stir in the parsley. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Salad: Place the potatoes in a large pot of water. Cook the potatoes in boiling water for 20 minutes or until tender. While the potatoes are cooking add the green beans to the boiling water and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the green beans with tongs and rinse them with cold water to stop the cooking. Pat them dry and reserve. When the potatoes are cooked, drain and cut them into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes.

Line a large salad bowl with lettuce and arrange the potatoes in the middle. Surround the potatoes with green beans and cherry tomatoes. 

Pour the dressing over the vegetables. Spoon the tuna and cooked eggs on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle the parsley, chives and tarragon over the salad. Makes 6–8 servings.


2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 large leek, trimmed, washed and sliced (or 1 medium onion, sliced)
8 oz (250 g) baby spinach, roughly chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) each chopped fresh dill, parsley and cilantro (see ingredient notes)
6 oz ricotta cheese, drained if necessary
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled (substitute goat cheese if preferred)
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Grated nutmeg to taste

For the phyllo pasty:

6 sheets of pastry, approx.12×18-inch (30×45-cm)
½ cup butter or 1 stick (125 ml), melted (or extra virgin olive oil)
¼ cup (60 ml) bread crumbs (optional)
1 tbsp (15 ml) sesame seeds 
1 tbsp (15 ml) nigella seeds (optional) 

For the Tahini Sauce:

¼ cup (60 ml) pure tahini
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 ml) ice water or more if necessary
½ tsp kosher salt or more to taste

For the Toppings or Garnish:

1 ripe tomato, halved, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 hard-cooked eggs (optional) 
Diced handful micro-greens or sprigs of fresh herbs

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line a rimmed 12×18-inch (30 x 45-cm) baking sheet with parchment paper.

Sauté Vegetables: Heat the oil in a skillet. Cook leeks gently until tender about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the spinach and combine it with the leeks. Cook about 1 to 2 minutes, just until spinach is wilted. Place in a strainer and press or squeeze out the excess liquid. Chop if necessary. Add the herbs.

Filling: Combine the ricotta with feta. Stir in the spinach mixture. Season well with salt and pepper. (You will have about 3 cups of filling.)

Assemble phyllo tart: Cover the phyllo sheets you are not using with plastic wrap. Arrange one sheet on work surface with the long side horizontal. Brush with melted butter or olive oil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs if using. Top with 2 more sheets, brushing each with melted butter and sprinkling with breadcrumbs.

Cut the stack of phyllo horizontally in half so you now have two stacks. 

Mound ¼ of the filling along the long edge of each stack closest to you. Leave a little space at the ends without filling. Gently roll up the phyllo over the filling so that you now have two filled ropes. Tuck in the ends.

Roll one into a snail shape and transfer to the prepared baking sheet 

Wind the second rope around the outside edge of the first one – making the ‘snail’ wider. Brush it with butter and sprinkle with seeds.

Repeat with the other three sheets of filo to make another snail. (Or make the first one larger by winding the two new ropers around the first, or make 4 individual tarts).

Bake in the preheated oven 25 to 30 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tahini sauce: Make while the tart is baking or ahead of time. In a small jar, whisk the tahini with the lemon juice, ice water and salt. Add a bit more ice water if the sauce is too thick.

To serve: Drizzle each tart with tahini sauce and top with hard cooked eggs (optional), tomatoes and greens. Serve in wedges or individually. Makes 4–6 servings.


Phyllo Pastry 

Defrosting pastry: Remove the phyllo from the freezer the night before using and defrost in the refrigerator. Remove phyllo from the refrigerator two hours before using.

Keeping the pastry moist: Cover the pastry sheets you are not using with plastic wrap, until you are ready to use them. A sheet of heavier plastic works better than plastic wrap.

Ricotta Cheese: Some brands of fresh ricotta cheese have a lot of moisture and some are smooth and creamy. If the cheeses has a lot of moisture, cut it into chunks and drain off the extra liquid.

Tahini: Tahini is made from sesame seeds. When you buy a jar of tahini it should only have sesame seeds listed as an ingredient. The tahini tastes delicious from the jar. It shouldn’t have a bitter aftertaste.

Fresh Herbs: If you do not have all the fresh herbs in these recipes substitute more of the fresh herbs you have instead of using dried herbs


Sept. 9, 2 p.m. ET: Ashkenazi Cuisine: Identity, Memory, and Culture 

Jeffrey Yoskowitz will be in conversation about Eastern European Jewish cuisine with award-winning author, Michael Twitty, and acclaimed cookbook author, Leah Koenig. Register for Free at

Sept. 9, 8 p.m. ET: CHEWDAISM: A Taste of Jewish Montreal is an hour-long documentary that follows the Yid-Life Crisis duo, Jamie and Eli, as they discover Montreal Jewish community classical Jewish eateries of the last 100 years:

Sept. 9, 11 a.m. ET: Make Korean-inspired salads with Irine Dubinski through the (virtual) Cooking Club at the Bernard Betel Centre. Register for free at

Sept. 6-13, Shoresh Jewish Environmental Programs’ Annual Rosh Hashanah Market 

Orders for Bela’s Bees Raw Honey and beeswax candles can be made online.

Place orders before Sept. 13 at 8 p.m. and pick up at one of the following locations: 

Thornhill: Sept. 9, 4–8 p.m., 99 Heatherton Way
Midtown: Bathurst Manor Sept. 10, 4–8 p.m., 215 Searle Ave.
Midtown: Oakwood Village, Sept. 13, 12– 8 p.m., 132 Cedric Ave.
Downtown: Bloorcourt Village, Sept. 14, 4– 8 p.m., 362 Concord Ave.
Downtown: Annex, Sept. 15, 4 Sept. 15, 4–8 p.m, 91 Walmer Rd.
Forest Hill: Sept. 16, 4–8 p.m, 248 Russell Hill Road