Traditional Israeli Dishes Bring a Taste of Jerusalem to Toronto

Nov. 20, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

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

When life hands you lemons you make lemonade or, in the case of Galya Sarner, you make a tangy labaneh with lemon.

Galya Loves Food, labaneh with lemon

After COVID struck, Sarner was laid off from her job working with Toronto’s large Israeli community. She pivoted and was able to turn her passion for food into a business. She teamed up with her daughter, Shani Sarner-Lati, and founded Galya Loves Food.

“You could say our creations are a by-product of the pandemic,” Sarner said in a joint telephone interview with her daughter.

The company produces authentic Israeli specialties like labaneh, a yogurt-like spread, Jerusalem hummus, and smoky roasted eggplant – dishes Sarner grew up eating. She is an Israeli of Iraqi descent on her mother’s side.

The foods she loves and is now marketing are from her mother and late grandmother. The recipes were brought to Jerusalem from Iraq by her grandmother, Sarner recounted.

“When I make my smoky eggplant, I use the smoking plate that I received from my late grandmother. I do the same ancient way of smoking.”

The flavour infuses the food. “The smoky aroma is very specific and brings me back to the days in Jerusalem when my grandmother used the plate.”

I discovered Galya Loves Food by happenstance. I bought the labaneh at a local store and later I checked out the company’s Web site. I wondered if the “Galya” on the label was the woman I had taken a cooking class with years ago. She turned out to be the same person.

Over the years Sarner has led many culinary workshops and today shares two of her favourite recipes – Roasted Cauliflower and Jerusalem Lentil Soup.

There are other tempting recipes on her Web site: Galyalovesfood.com.

The third recipe, Maple-Glazed Delicata, comes from Bonnie Stern. Delicata is a squash with an edible skin. I bought a few at a farmer’s market but they’re also available in independent fruit and vegetable stores.

I noticed Stern’s delicata recipe in one of her newsletters. It’s simple to make and really delicious.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

Galya Loves Food is definitely a family venture. Sarner is chief culinary creator, while Sarner-Lati, an interior designer, understands the esthetics and presentation of the products.

“She has the magic touch in creating the products,” Sarner said. “We have this really good chemistry.”

Sarner-Lati, the second of three children, said she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with her mother over the years. “Mom has passed on her skills. I have my own skills and a good ability to know what spice is missing. We each contribute our own creativity. It’s super enjoyable for both of us.”

Sarner pointed out that her husband, Robert (Sarner), a communication specialist, created the company’s website. “It reflects the passion that we have for Israeli food.”

Galya Loves Food products are now sold directly online and at several retail locations, including What a Bagel on St. Clair Avenue. W. and Aba’s Bagel Company on Eglinton Avenue W.

It was Aba’s that gave Sarner her start. Owner Ari Gershon offered to sell Sarner’s appetizers if she made them. She now uses the commercial kitchen at the bakery for production. “We’re very grateful to Aba’s,” she said.

In the meantime, many Israelis across the GTA are purchasing Galya’s hummus and eggplant spreads because they offer an authentic taste of home, Sarner said.

Sarner-Lati who grew up in Israel, said she misses the country, but with COVID, the family has not been able to visit for more than a year. “For ourselves and our clients, we’re trying to bring the Israeli flavour that we are craving and missing to Toronto,” she said.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER Galya Sarner

Water for boiling
1 tbsp (15 ml) salt
1 large head of cauliflower
5 tbsp (75 ml) pine nuts
1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp (45 ml) za’atar
1½ tbsp (25 ml) sumac, divided
1/3 cup (100 ml) homemade tahini (see below)
1 tbsp (15 ml) silan (date syrup)
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves

Homemade Tahini

½ cup (125 ml) raw tahini
¼ cup (60 ml) water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp (30 ml) fresh lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Fill a large pot with water and bring to boil. Add 1 tbsp (15 ml) salt. Add the cauliflower and cook for 8–9 minutes. Make sure the head of the cauliflower faces the bottom of pot so it can fully absorb the salty water.

Meantime, place the pine nuts in dry frying pan (without oil) on medium to low heat and stir-fry until colour of pine nuts is golden (be careful as they can burn easily). Set aside and let cool.

Remove the cauliflower very carefully so it doesn’t break apart and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Apply olive oil evenly over the entire surface of the cauliflower and sprinkle on the za’atar and 1 tbsp (15 ml) of sumac. Bake for 18–20 minutes until cauliflower is golden. (Make sure the top doesn’t burn).

Prepare the Tahini: In a large bowl, mix the tahini, water, garlic and lemon juice. Keep mixing until the mixture is very smooth. Taste and adjust as you may need more water or lemon. Set aside.

Transfer the roasted cauliflower to a cake plate. Drizzle with the tahini. Sprinkle on the remaining sumac, along with the chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves and then apply the silan carefully.

Spread the roasted pine nuts around the cauliflower. Makes 4 servings and can be served at room temperature.

JERUSALEM LENTIL SOUP Galya Sarner.

6–8 cups (1½– 2 L) water or broth, depending on thickness preference
4 cups (1 L) dry red lentils
1 tsp (5 ml) salt, more to taste.
1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, minced
4–5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp (30 ml) cumin
½ cup (125 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 bay leaf
1/3 cup (100 ml) minced chives for garnish
3 tbsp (45 ml) roasted pine nuts for garnish
Pepper and additional salt to taste

In a large soup pot, add water or broth, salt, lentils and bring to boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for at least 1 hour.

Meanwhile, add the oil to a saucepan and stir-fry the minced onion. Add the garlic and cook until golden.

Add the cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Add the onions and garlic mixture to the soup along with the bay leaf and simmer another half hour. Remove from the heat and add the lemon juice. Garnish with the chives and pine nuts. Makes 4–6 servings.

MAPLE-GLAZED DELICATA (Bonnie Stern)

1½ lbs (½ K) delicata or butternut squash
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup (dark if possible)
½ tsp (3 ml) kosher salt

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

For the delicata squash, slice 1/4–1/3-inch thick-inch (1–3 cm) and scoop out seeds in the centre or, cut in half across and hollow them out and then slice. For the butternut squash slice the long top portion without seeds in rounds or hollow out centre portion and slice in half moons. Arrange in a single layer on parchment paper.

Drizzle the squash with olive oil, then maple syrup and sprinkle with salt. Turn the slices all over in the mixture and arrange back in a single layer.

Roast 20 minutes until they start to brown. Flip the slices over and roast 15–20 minutes or longer until the slice are browned and getting a bit sticky. Makes 2–6 servings.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Nov. 25, 11:00 a.m.: Learn to make appetizers and pickled Salmon with Lilah Rosenthal at a virtual cooking workshop presented by Bernard Betel Centre. To register:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_

Dec. 3, 5:00 p.m.: Cook Global Cuisine with Carolyn Tanner-Cohen, sponsored by Grandmothers Partnering with Africa, Stephen Lewis Foundation. Email:GPWafrica@gmail.com

https://mailchi.mp/e0fe14de93a7/save-the-date-yoga-for-africa-2642778?e=b145ad6660

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. 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

Let’s Do Brunch! Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s tastiest fall fundraiser, now in its 21st year. This initiative brings awareness to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. https://crohnsandcolitiscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/Letsdobrunch20

Colder Weather Calls for Warming Soups

Oct. 17, 2020 

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. The High Holidays are over, the weather is changing, and COVID case numbers in Toronto are on the rise, so I’m bracing for a long and not very social winter.

We had what was probably our last family dinner for a while on Thanksgiving. We ate lunch in the backyard, wearing our jackets to stay warm.

With the colder weather starting, I’ve also been in the mood for warming foods like hardy soups and starchy side-dishes. Comfort food may be good for the soul, but maybe not so good for the hips.

The recipes I’ve chosen this week are hardy and healthy. The three soup recipes can be easily paired with salad or some fresh bread for a complete meal.

Cookbook author and national food columnist Bonnie Stern shared some lovely fall recipes in her latest newsletter at: http://foodnews.bonniestern.com.

I tried the Lentil Squash Soup, which was delicious. As a garnish, I used parsley from my garden instead of cilantro.

The Thai Coconut Soup comes from The Living Kitchen: Healing Recipes to Support Your Body During Cancer Treatments and Recovery by Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman.

I found the Mushroom Cauliflower Soup recipe in The Silver Platter Simple Elegance: Effortless Recipes with Sophisticated Results. This cookbook was written by Daniella Silver, with tips and techniques by the late food maven Norene Gilletz.

LENTIL SQUASH SOUP Bonnie Stern

2 tbsp (30 ml) extra virgin olive oil
1 onion or leek (trimmed and well-cleaned), chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 inch (3 cm) piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp (5 ml) curry paste
1½ lbs (650 g) winter squash (e.g. butternut, buttercup, acorn, kabocha), peeled and cut into about 1-inch (2½ cm) chunks, approximately 4–5 cups (1¼ L)
¼ cup (60 ml) red lentils
4 cups (1 L) water (or vegetable broth) + more if necessary
1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt plus more to taste
1 tbsp (15 ml) lime or lemon juice
½ cup (125 ml) coconut milk or whipping cream, divided (optional)

Gently cook the onions or leeks and garlic in olive oil until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and curry paste and cook for 1–2 minutes.

Add the squash and lentils and combine well. Add the water or broth and bring to a boil. Add salt. Cook 25–30 minutes until the squash is very tender and the soup has thickened.

Puree the soup with an immersion blender or food processor or blender. Return the soup to the heat and stir in the lime juice and half the coconut milk or cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

To serve, top the soup with pumpkin seeds, cilantro and a drizzle of the remaining coconut milk or cream. Makes 6 servings.

THAI COCONUT SOUP Tamara Green and Sarah Grossman

1 tbsp (15 ml) virgin coconut oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1½ inches (4 cm) ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ cups (375 ml) de-stemmed, cleaned and chopped brown cremini mushrooms
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
14 oz (398 ml) can full-fat coconut milk
3 cups (750 ml) chicken, bone or vegetable broth
1 cup (250 ml) snow peas, sliced in half lengthwise
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 lime, juiced
2 tsp (10 ml) tamari

Optional proteins: 2 small chicken breasts, or 1 cup (250 ml) cubed organic tofu, or 2 5-oz (140 g) portions of cod.

Place a large pot over medium heat and add the coconut oil and the onions. Sauté the onions for 5 minutes, or until translucent and soft. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, carrots and red peppers and sauté for 3 minutes.

Pour in the coconut milk and broth. Add the optional proteins. Cover the pot, bring to a boil and simmer for 25 minutes, or until the vegetables and protein are cooked. Add the snow peas and simmer for 2 more minutes.

If chicken or cod is included, remove from the broth, shred or flake into small pieces and put back into the soup. Garnish with fresh cilantro, lime juice and tamari. Serve hot. Makes 4–5 servings.

MUSHROOM CAULIFLOWER SOUP Daniella Silver

1–2 tbsp (15–30) oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced, about 2 tsp (10 ml)
6 cups (1½ L) button mushrooms, sliced
1 large head cauliflower, cored, cut into small florets
6 cups (1½ L) water or vegetable broth
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp (5 ml) minced fresh thyme leaves, plus additional whole thyme leaves, for garnish.

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic; sauté for 6–8 minutes, or until softened. Add the mushrooms; sauté for 5 minutes longer, until softened. Stir in the cauliflower, water, salt, pepper, and thyme and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, stirring occasionally and simmer partially covered for 30–40 minutes, or until the cauliflower has softened.

Cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add a little water or broth.

Adjust the seasonings to taste. Garnish with additional thyme leaves. Makes 8 servings.

Bonnie Stern’s Recipes Work Well for Holiday Meals

Sept. 4, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

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.

RECIPES

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.

SALAD NICOISE Bonnie Stern

Dressing

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

Salad 

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.

PHYLLO TART WITH FETA AND HERBS Bonnie Stern 

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.

STERN’S INGREDIENT NOTES

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

CULINARY CALENDAR

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 https://zoom.us/webinar/register/9615983422166/WN_THYxFfgSSPmwSuDqAKMPvA

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: https://www.yidlifecrisis.com/chewdaism

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 https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_

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. https://shoresh.ca/

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