Tahini Adds Richness to Sweet and Savoury Dishes

Dec. 4, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

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

Last Sunday, it was warm enough to serve brunch al fresco. We wore our jackets and ate a simple meal in a sunny corner of the garden. 

Two days later, my husband was out shovelling the driveway after a substantial snowfall in Toronto.

If the weather keeps up, we will have a white Hanukkah. We light the first candle on Thursday, Dec. 10.

This week, “Kitchen Talk” has a guest contributor for the Spotlight feature. Jacqueline Louie, a Calgary-based freelance writer and editor, has written about Israel Cookalong, a weekly cooking class from Israel. The classes are run on Zoom and attract participants from all over the world.

Louie has included a recipe for Tahini Cookies from Israel Cookalong.

I have kept this week’s recipes to the tahini theme. Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a Middle Eastern food that has become very popular worldwide and is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes.

I have found two savoury recipes from two wonderful cookbooks that utilize tahini. Tahini Glazed Carrots can be found in Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from my Israeli Kitchen by Adeena Sussman, and Beets with Tahina is from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Philadelphia-based restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

I tried the Tahini Glazed Carrots last week. It’s a delicious dish that would work well for Hanukkah or any festive occasion. The carrots can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold.

Solomonov said Beets with Tahina is one of the most popular menu items at Zahav, the award-winning restaurant he co-owns with Cook. 

SPOTLIGHT

Israel Cookalong Has A Global Reach

By JACQUELINE LOUIE

Every Sunday at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time), Miriam Kresh logs onto Zoom and leads the Israel Cookalong from her kitchen in Petach Tikvah, Israel.

The Cookalong, which Kresh started in the spring of 2020, attracts Canadians from Calgary, Winnipeg and other cities, along with participants from the United States, South Africa and Israel. 

They cook together in real time via Zoom. At the end of each session, everyone has freshly cooked dishes inspired by Israel’s multi-ethnic cuisine.

Examples of the Cookalong recipes include Herb-and Nut-Crusted Schnitzel, Chicken Tajine with Apricots, and Majadra, a lentil and rice dish.

“We share wisdom, crack jokes, and tell stories while we cook. It’s like a party in your kitchen every Sunday,” says Kresh, a Jerusalem Post writer.

Her former food blog, Israeli Kitchen – it was acquired by Mother Nature News network– is now part of the online publication, From The Grapevine.

Amy Kenigsberg participates regularly in the Israel Cookalong from Maale Shomron in central Israel. “You’re making recipes for food you’ve never heard of, so you’re learning an enormous amount about Israeli cuisine and Israeli culture. “And the food is really good!” says Kenigsberg, who cooks for a family of five. They enjoy the Israel Cookalong meals “because it’s not the same boring stuff that I make all the time.”

Kenigsberg encourages people to try out the Israel Cookalong. “It’s a great group of people that you’re cooking with. I feel like I’ve made some really nice new friends, even though we only meet once a week on video.”

To find out what’s cooking at the Israel Cookalong this month, or for more information about registration, email Kresh at miriamkresh1@gmail.com. Type “Cookalong” in the subject line.

“I’d love to welcome you to the classes,” she says. “You can join for one session or more, as you choose.”

TAHINI COOKIES Miriam Kresh 

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (200 g) soft margarine or butter
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla
1 cup (250 ml) tahini. If there’s a layer of oil floating on top of the jar, stir in back in.
2 cups plus 4 tbsp (560 ml) flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
Optional: 2 tbsp (30 ml) pine nuts and powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) 

Cream the margarine and the sugar together.

Add the vanilla and the tahini and blend again.

Combine the flour and the baking powder; add to the tahini mixture.

Form balls the size of walnuts and place them on a greased baking sheet. The dough is dry and crumbly, so squeeze it together to make the balls.

If adding the optional pine nuts, form one cookie ball. Take 2 or 3 pine nuts into your left palm, and with your right hand, press the ball onto them. 

Reverse it when placing onto the baking sheet. If the ball crumbles slightly, just squeeze it back into shape with your fingertips.

Bake 13–15 minutes. Do not bake longer because the cookies need a little moisture to retain their shape and not crumble. Cool the baking tray on a rack, and don’t touch the cookies for at least 5 minutes. (If they’re handled while hot, they will fall apart.) Dust with powdered sugar when they’re cool.

Follow Jacqueline Louie at https://jacquelinelouie.ca/

TAHINI GLAZED CARROTS Adeena Sussman

14–16 (1½ lbs total) *thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp (2 ml) kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin

Tahini Glaze: Makes 1 cup (250 ml) 

1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) pure tahini paste
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 ml) silan**
2 tbsp (30 ml) water or more as needed
½ tsp (2 ml) fine sea salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper

* Thick carrots cut thin can be substituted
** honey or maple syrup can be substituted

Roast the Carrots 

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Arrange the carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and cumin. Shake the pan to coat the carrots, and roast them in the preheated oven turning midway through, until they have softened and their edges are golden, 25–27 minutes.

Tahini Glaze: While the carrots are roasting, whisk the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, silan (or substitute), water, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl until smooth and pourable, adding an additional tablespoon (15 ml) of water if necessary.

Remove the carrots from the oven. Transfer them to a serving platter, and drizzle then with the tahini glaze. Use tongs to gently toss and coat. Makes 4 servings.

BEETS WITH TAHINA (Michael Solomonov) 

5 cups plus ½ tsp (1250 ml plus 2 ml) kosher salt
8 medium beets
½ cup (125 ml) of Basic Tahini Sauce
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh mint and more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C). Spread 1 cup (250 ml) of the salt in an oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Put the beets on the salt and cover them with the remaining cups of salt. Bake until the beets are tender, about 90 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove them from the salt and peel. Set them aside to cool completely.

Grate the beets into a mixing bowl, using the coarse holes of a box grater. Add the tahina sauce, oil lemon juice, dill, mint and season with ½ tsp (2 ml) salt. Mix well to blend. 

Top with dill and chopped mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

BASIC TAHINA SAUCE (Michael Solomonov)

1 head of garlic
3/4 cup (190 ml) fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp (7 ml) kosher salt
2 generous cups (500 ml) of tehina
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin
1½ cups (375 ml) ice-water, as needed

Break the garlic head up and put the unpeeled cloves in the blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ tsp of salt. Blend on high until the mixture becomes a course puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Discard the solids. Add the tahina to the strained lemon juice along with the cumin and 1 tsp salt.

Whisk the mixture until smooth or use a food processor, adding ice water a few tablespoons at a time to thin the mixture out. The sauce will lighten in colour with the whisking or processing. When the tahina seizes up or tightens keep adding water, bit by bit, about 1½ cups (375 ml) in total, whisking or processing until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

Taste and add up to 1½ tsp (7 ml) of salt or additional cumin. If the sauce is not being used immediately add a few tablespoons of ice water to loosen the tahini before refrigerating it.

The recipe makes 4 cups (1 L) and it will keep refrigerated for one week.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Dec. 6, 3 p.m.: Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. Lea Zeltserman will be leading a virtual cooking workshop for Russian Pickle Soup, through Building the Jewish& Cookbook, presented by the Miles Nadal JCC. https://www.facebook.com/events/192408629142347

Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.: Latkes and Vodka Workshop with National food columnist and author, Bonnie Stern, and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Virtual cooking demo for latkes, cocktails and dessert. To register: https://www.cityshul.com/form/latkes-vodkas.html

Dec. 8 & 9 Shoresh Chanukah Markets: Place advance orders for beeswax Hanukkah candles, Chanukah Miracle Bundle, Bela’s Bees Raw Honey, and other sustainable natural products. Pick up locations south of St. Clair on Dec. 8.; locations north of St. Clair on Dec. 9. https://shop.shoresh.ca/

Dec. 22 1:00 p.m.: Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese Food Lecture presented by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. Andrew Coe, author of Chop Suey: A Cultural History of Chinese Food in the United States traces the history of Ashkenazi Jews’ affinity for Chinese food from the turn of the century to today. To register: https://secure2.convio.net/yivo/site/Ticketing?view=Tickets&id=102421

The Fall Harvest Offers Plenty of Delicious Options For Sukkot

Oct. 2, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and chag samayach. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Tonight is Erev Sukkot; the week-long holiday, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, commemorates the years the Jewish people spent in the desert after the exodus from Egypt and celebrates God’s protection during that time.

Usually, eating outdoors is a novelty, but Sukkot this year will be a continuation of what many of us have been doing for most of the summer due to the pandemic. Dining al fresco with family and friends has been a safe way to observe the holidays and special occasions during COVID.

Amy Stopnicki, the award winning cookbook author and food blogger (@amyskoshertaste; she has 17,000 followers) said that many of the dishes she serves on Sukkot utilize seasonal produce.

“Sukkot is the beginning of the fall harvest and ‘thanks giving,’” she said. “Traditionally I serve a ‘thanks giving’ dinner. I’m very much into the seasonal foods.”

While her sukkah can accommodate 15-20 people, she’ll be hosting fewer people this year. “The guests will be limited, but I’ll be maintaining the tradition.”

With COVID, Stopnicki, said she does not serve food on big platters, family style, when she invites people outside her immediate family.

“I’m plating the food and bringing it out on individual plates. I want everyone to be comfortable. I also think individually plated meals are more festive.”

She said she usually includes a side of green vegetables, like green beans or Brussels sprouts, to balance the fall colours on the plate (green, she pointed out, is a complementary colour.) Stopnicki created a calendar with 13 recipes and 14 photographs for Savours Fresh Market.

She is generously sharing three of her favourite Sukkot recipes here: Maple Glazed Turkey Breast and Pumpkin Loaf can be found in her award-winning cookbook Kosher Taste: Plan Prepare Plate. The Pomegranate Salad recipe is on her Web site, amystopnicki.com.

MAPLE GLAZED TURKEY BREAST Amy Stopnicki

Maple glazed Turkey Breast
Photo Michelle Manzoni

½ cup (125 ml) maple syrup
½ cup (125 ml) plum sauce
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
1 red onion, thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 lbs (500–1000 g) turkey breast, bone-in, skin-on

Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C).

In a mixing bowl, combine the maple syrup, plum sauce, oil, onion, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture over the turkey breast and let it marinate at room temperature for 30–40 minutes.

Transfer the turkey to a baking pan and cover. Bake in the preheated oven for 2½ hours. Remove the cover and continue cooking for another 30–40 minutes, basting every 10 minutes or until the top of the turkey is golden brown. Let cool before slicing. Makes 6 servings. 

MULTIGRAIN POMEGRANATE SALAD Amy Stopnicki

2/3 cup (200 ml) cooked quinoa
2/3 cup (200 ml) cooked brown rice
2/3 cup (200 ml) cooked lentils
1/3 cup (100 ml) pomegranate seeds
1 cup (250 ml) roasted sweet potatoes, cut into ½ inch (1½ cm) cubes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a large bowl combine the quinoa, brown rice, lentils, pomegranate seeds and garlic. Add the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Makes 4–6 servings.

PUMPKIN LOAF Amy Stopnicki

1½ cups (325 ml) flour
2/3 cup (200 ml) sugar
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
1 tsp (5 ml) baking soda
1 tsp (5 ml) cinnamon
½ tsp (2½ ml) ground ginger
1/3 cup (100 ml) canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup (250 ml) pumpkin purée
1/3 cup (100 ml) water
2 tbsp (30 ml) roasted sunflower seeds 
2 tbsp (30 ml)roasted pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and ground ginger in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

Add the oil, eggs, vanilla, pumpkin purée, and water and mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a greased loaf pan and top with the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.

Bake for 40–50 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Makes 8–10 servings.

Break Fast Will Be A Tasty But Small Gathering This Year

Sept. 25, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. The pandemic has certainly changed the way we observe the High Holy Days. While many synagogues were nearly empty, several congregations attempted to bring the service to the people by blowing shofars in parks and parking lots across the GTA.

I ended up hosting an impromptu Rosh Hashanah dinner, al fresco, because at the last minute, my sister and I decided our numbers were too high for the whole family to celebrate safely together.

She gave me her extra brisket and I brought her challahs from the iconic Harbord Bakery, which has been supplying challahs, rye bread and other traditional fare since 1928.

Harbord Bakery is the focus of this week’s Community Spotlight, an occasional “Kitchen Talk” feature on how Canadian Jewish food entrepreneurs and chefs are faring during COVID.

My sister will not be hosting her annual big, break fast gathering this year, so I’ll be preparing a dairy meal for my immediate family. I’m planning to make Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils and Yogurt, a delicious vegan recipe from Smitten Kitchen: https://smittenkitchen.com/2014/02/stuck-pot-rice-with-lentils-and-yogurt/

I’ll also serve my sister’s signature break-fast dish – blintz soufflé. The recipe I use is from the 1993 edition of Kinnereth Cookbook published by Toronto Hadassah-WIZO. 

I found a recipe for Apple Charlotte, in Second Helpings, Please!, the storied community cookbook edited by the late Norene Gilletz and published by B’nai Brith Canada.

Apple Charlotte is comprised of a buttered baked bread shell filled with spiced sautéed apples. The recipe was probably devised in an era when every scrap of food, including stale bread, was utilized. The Second Helpings recipe calls for sliced white bread, but I made mine with leftover challah. I also increased the amount of sugar and added cinnamon and lemon juice.

Yom Kippur observance may be different from years past, but adaptability has always been the strength of the Jewish people. G’mar Tov and may you have an easy fast.

STUCK-POT RICE WITH LENTILS AND YOGURT

Stuck-Pot Rice with Lentils. Photo Barbara Silverstein

Salt
1 cup (250 ml) lentils washed and picked over
1½ cups (375 ml) basmati rice, rinsed well
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil, divided
1 large onion, thinly sliced
¼ cup (60 ml) yogurt or kefir
2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice, plus additional wedges for serving
1/3 (90 ml) cup water
2 tsp (10 ml) cumin
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper or pepper flakes
Chopped flat leaf parsley, cilantro or mint for garnish

Using one pot for the full process, boil the lentils in salted water for five minutes. Then add the rice and boil the mixture for another five minutes without stirring. Drain the mixture and place it in a large bowl.

Reheat the same pot with 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil. Once it is hot, add the onions and salt, stirring until they are caramelized, about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the onions to the bowl with rice and lentils. Stir in the kefir or yogurt, lemon juice, water, cumin, pepper, bay leaf, plus additional salt to taste.

Heat the pot over medium heat. Once fully hot, add the remaining 2 tbsp (30 ml) oil and pour in the rice-lentil mixture. Wrap a clean kitchen towel over the inside of the pot lid, so it is closed firmly. (Gather the corners of the cloth, so it doesn’t reach the fire!) Place the lid on the pot, sealing it tightly.

Reduce the heat to very low. Cook the rice mixture undisturbed for 30 minutes. Check it maybe once, to ensure the rice is not burning. 

Remove the pot from the heat, and let it rest for 5 minutes, before eating. Makes 4 – 6 servings

BLINTZ SOUFFLE

18 assorted frozen blintzes – cherry, blueberry, cheese
5 tbsp (75 ml) butter
6 eggs
2¼ cups (550 ml) sour cream
1½ tsp (7 ml) vanilla
1½ tbsp (25 ml) orange juice
1/3 cup (90 ml) granulated sugar
½ tsp (2 ml) salt
½ tsp (2 ml) cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180 °C)

Melt the butter in a 9 x 13-inch ( 3.5 L) baking dish. Lay the frozen blintzes in the pan.

In a large bowl combine the eggs, sour cream, vanilla, juice, sugar, and salt using a stand mixer, hand beater or immersion blender. Pour the egg and cream mixture over the blintzes. Sprinkle with cinnamon. 

Bake 1 hour in the preheated oven. Serve hot. Makes 9 – 10 servings

APPLE CHARLOTTE

6 slices of white bread or challah
½ lb (225 g) butter, divided
6 tart apples, peeled, pared & quartered
1 tbsp (15 ml) vanilla
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
½ tsp (3 ml) cinnamon
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon

Whipped Cream Garnish (Optional) 

1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar 
1 tsp (5 ml) vanilla
Fry the bread in ¼ lb (110 g) butter until it becomes toasted. Set aside

In a large saucepan on medium heat cook the apples in the remaining butter until tender. Add the vanilla, sugar, cinnamon and lemon. Cover the pot,

Line a 1½ quart (1½ litre) casserole dish with the toast on the bottom and sides. Fill the casserole with the apples and cover the apples with the remaining toast. Bake at 325°F (165°C) for ½ an hour.

Whipped Cream: In a large bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks are just about to form. Beat in the vanilla and sugar until peaks form. Make sure not to over-beat, otherwise cream may become lumpy and butter-like.

To serve: Place a large serving plate on top of the baking dish and invert the charlotte onto the plate so that the bottom of the charlotte is now the top. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature. Optional: add a generous dollop of whipped cream. Makes 8 –12 servings.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

An occasional “Kitchen Talk” series on how Jewish-owned restaurants and food operations in Canada are faring during the pandemic

The Kosower family has run Harbord Bakery (115 Harbord St.) for 75 years. On the morning of Erev Rosh Hashanah I was in line for the yearly ritual of buying crown challahs. The line stretched around the corner as it does on every new year, when people, mainly in and around the downtown core, wait patiently to purchase the bakery’s famed crown or round sweet holiday challahs.

I have often run into people I know, but with everyone in line wearing masks this year, I didn’t recognize anybody. I did, however, schmooze with some people in line with me. I met Karen Goos, a transplanted New Yorker, and Mel Korn, a landsman from Montreal. Of course, we played Jewish geography.

It took about 45 minutes before I left the bakery with nine very heavy sweet challahs – six plain and three raisin – in tow.

Susan Wisniewski, co-owner of the bakery, invited me for tour of the place on a quiet midday afternoon following Rosh Hashanah. For the holidays, the bakery produces more than 2,000 crown challahs.

Albert Kosower, her father, had apprenticed at a bakery in Poland before immigrating to Canada around 1915, Wisniewski recounted. He worked for several Toronto bakeries before landing a job at Harbord.

Kosower purchased the bakery from his boss in 1945 and in the mid ‘50s, expanded and renovated the premises. He and his wife, Goldie, ran the business and lived upstairs with their three children.

Wisniewski said her father always hired unionized bakers. “He wanted his workers to have rights. He had also been a member of a union.” Today all 10 Harbord bakers are unionized, she added.

Wisniewski and her siblings, Roz Katz and the late Rafi Kosower, joined the family business, and now her son, Ben, is the third generation to run the bakery.

In addition to a wide selection breads and buns, the bakery produces gourmet cakes, pies, pastries and cookies, and it offers quiches, salads, soups and other savoury options.

Traditional Jewish dishes like gefilte fish, kugel and tzimmes are prepared every Friday. This kosher-style fare usually very much in demand at holiday time.

However, with the persistence of COVID, there were fewer orders this year, Wisniewski said. People had smaller gatherings.

“I have a big staff to support,” she noted, “but when I look at the restaurants and how they’re suffering [due to COVID], I can’t complain.”