Make Fruits And Vegetables the Foundation Of Winter Meals

Dec. 18, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Hanukkah ends this evening, three days before the Dec. 21 solstice that marks the official start of winter.

Last winter, I baked up a storm and by the spring, I could barely fit into my sweatpants. This year, I’m looking at healthier options – more vegetables and fruit. Two of this week’s recipes – Braised Cabbage and Roasted Cauliflower with Green Tahini Sauce – fit the healthy-eating bill.

I have made some changes to the cabbage recipe, which is from Bon Appétit Magazine. (https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/roasted-cabbage-apples-italian-sausage.) I’ve omitted the sausages. I added caraway seeds, as well as an optional garnish of sour cream and fresh herbs.

The Cauliflower-and-Green-Tahini recipe is adapted from Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. The Caramel Apple Galette recipe was created by Anna-Olson’ s recipe, the Food Network’ s baking maven (https://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipe/caramel-apple-galette/6754/) The galette is actually a brioche dough, a popular French breakfast bread. I added extra sugar to the galette recipe.

Community Spotlight

DANI is a Community Source For Kosher Dairy Meals And Treats

Hanukkah has been a very busy time for DANI, a charity dedicated to enhancing the skills and knowledge of individuals with physical and cognitive challenges.

DANI, an acronym for Developing and Nurturing Independence, offers its clients a variety of services – vocational, educational, life skills, recreational and social programs – in a community setting.

An important source of funding for these programs is the kosher catering business operated by DANI (905-889-3284), under COR supervision, according to Anita Miller, manager of catering and business.

During Hannukah, demand for latkes and sufganiot in the community was very high. “We sold 2,000 latkes and 2,000 sufganiot,” she noted. “The money raised from the sales is funnelled back into the organization to support our programs.”

Now in its 14th year, DANI is a social enterprise, “a business with a social twist,” Miller said. The catering and food sales offer vocational opportunities for clients and revenue for the various social and educational activities, she said. “The only reason we have catering is to fund our programming.”

DANI provides services to 30 adults. Miller stressed the importance of keeping them engaged. “We have never missed a day due to COVID,” she said. For short periods, when circumstances have necessitated, DANI has resorted to virtual programming.

DANI’ s Clark campus, adjacent to the Garnet A. Williams Community Centre (501 Clarke Ave. W.) in Thornhill, is the programming and catering hub. A satellite location at 401 Magnetic Dr. opened earlier this year.

Some clients have learned food-prep skills at the Clark campus, where daily meals that are prepared with some assistance from DANI’s clients. However, this food training program has been suspended during COVID, Miller said. “There is a now strict separation between programming and food prep.”

A number of DANI clients participate in pop-up lunches, a program – now temporarily suspended – that gives them the opportunity to interact with the community while developing, social, financial, and organizational skills.

The DANI crew would visit a corporate and/or community location where they would set up a temporary or “pop-up” kiosk to sell kosher lunch items like soups, chili, quiches, and muffins.

The organization also runs the DANI Café, a kosher dairy restaurant/ café at the Clark campus The space, which doubles as the DANI Event Centre, can accommodate up to 150 people for business meetings, parties and life-cycle celebrations, Miller said, pointing out that DANI caters off-site events as well, including business luncheons, weddings and bar mitzvahs, and provides shivah platters and corporate meals, while pastry and cookie platters are also in high demand. “We sold more than 500 gift baskets at Rosh Hashanah.” 

BRAISED CABBAGE (Bon Appétit)

½ head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium apple, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp (15 ml) red wine vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup. 
½ medium apple, sliced
1 tsp (5 ml) caraway seeds
optional: sour cream for garnish
optional: ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss cabbage, onion, apple, thyme sprigs, vinegar, 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil, and ¼ cup (60 ml) water in a 13-x 9-inch (23-x 33-cm) baking dish; season with salt and pepper and roast, covered, until cabbage is wilted and softened, 45 minutes.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH GREEN TAHINI SAUCE Yotam Ottolenghi

1 large cauliflower
2–3 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) salt (or to taste)

To Roast the Cauliflower

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash cauliflower well and cut into large florets. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt; toss to combine. 

Roast the cauliflower uncovered, for 40–45 minutes, until golden and crispy. Half way through cooking, stir the florets. When done, some of them will be blackened around the edge, which is okay.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Pour the Green Tahini Sauce (recipe below) over the cauliflower. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Green Tahini Sauce

¼ cup (60 ml) Tahini
¾ cup (375 ml) parsley, roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove crushed
1/3 cup (90 ml) water 
3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
Flaked sea salt

Pour the tahini into the small bowl of a food processor. Add the parsley and garlic. Pulse for 1 minute, until the tahini is green. Pour in the water and lemon juice and season with ¼ tsp salt. Pulse until you have a smooth green sauce with the consistency of heavy cream. Add a touch of tahini if it’ s too thin or a splash of water if it is too thick.

CARAMEL APPLE GALETTE Anna Olson 

Crust

3 tbsp (45 ml) tepid 2% milk
1¼ tsp (6 ml) instant dry active yeast
**6 tbsp (75 ml) sugar, divided
1¾ cups (435 ml) all purpose flour
¾ tsp (4 ml) salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 2 tbsp (30 ml) water for egg wash
**original recipe only called for 3 tbsp (45 ml) sugar

Apples

56 large Granny Smith, Braeburn or Honeycrisp, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) unsalted butter
¼ cup (60 ml)sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) brandy (optional)
½ tsp (2 ml) cinnamon

Crust: Stir together milk, yeast and 3 tbsp (45 ml) sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and remaining sugar. Pour in milk mixture and add eggs. With electric beaters fitted with the dough attachments or in a stand-up mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until blended. Add the butter in pieces to dough and beat for 3 minutes until it becomes an even, silky consistency. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

For the fruit: Toss the apples in lemon juice. Heat the butter and sugar over high heat in a sauté pan and once bubbling, add the apples. Sauté the apples until nicely browned, about 10 minutes, and stir in brandy, if using, and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Place ring of 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan on baking sheet lined with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch (35 cm) circle and place in springform pan, overlapping 2 inches (5 cm) on the outside of the pan. Spoon in the apples and fold the crust edge back over the apples. 

Brush the dough with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, until the edges of the tart are richly browned. Let cool for one hour before unmoulding and slicing. Makes 10 portions. The galette can be rewarmed before serving.

Vaccine Rollout Brings Hope to Maimonides

Dec. 17, 2020

By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL—Every December, Beverly Spanier has organized a Hanukkah party for her friends. That celebration, held in a favourite restaurant or hotel, continued even after she moved into Maimonides Geriatric Centre five years ago.

Planning the party was a project the retired high school teacher worked on for weeks in advance. A paraplegic, she got to the site via the city’s adapted transit service.

That, of course, did not happen this year. Spanier, 75, has not left Maimonides since the pandemic began in March except for three hospital visits. In fact, she has been confined to her room for the past nine months, save for some time in its garden during the summer.

Beverly Spanier
Beverly Spanier

For the first months of the pandemic, all visitors, including paid caregivers on whom Spanier relied, were barred from Maimonides, and remain restricted.

For Spanier, Hanukkah has been limited to looking at the menorah in a municipal park from her fifth-floor window.

When Maimonides was selected as the first site in Montreal for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine rollout, she didn’t hesitate to consent. On the afternoon of Dec. 14, Spanier was among the first of the first in Canada – and indeed the world – to be inoculated.

Maimonides, a long-term care institution in Cote Saint-Luc, and a Quebec City nursing home, Centre d’Hébergement St. Antoine, received the first vaccine shipments to Quebec. The highly anticipated cargo landed at Mirabel Airport north of Montreal on the evening of Dec. 13.

Maimonides took delivery of two boxes of 972 doses each, and 150 residents and staff received their first shot on Dec. 14. Almost 95 percent of Maimonides’s approximately 350 residents have agreed to be inoculated, as have, at time of writing, 40 percent of its roughly 500 employees, according to CIUSSS West-Central Montreal, the regional health authority that administers Maimonides.

Surplus doses from this initial batch will be made available to workers at other health care facilities in the local network.

The day after the first of her two shots, Spanier said she felt fine, with only a little redness at the injection site on her arm. Although she has much faith in medicine – her late brother was a doctor – Spanier was nervous about any adverse reaction and wondered if Maimonides had sufficient medical support on standby should a problem arise.

(CIUSSS officials reassured the public that it does have a trained team in place and precautions, such as a “crash cart,” to treat anaphylactic shock.)

“It is miraculous how the scientists and pharmaceutical industry have been able to produce an effective vaccine in such a short time, but you do worry,” Spanier said. “We are still, in a sense, in the midst of an experiment.”

On balance, she realizes that her risk of catching COVID is far greater than any associated with the vaccine. The consequences for Spanier, who has respiratory issues, could be fatal.

She also has a sense of responsibility toward society. “I think that we all have to do what we can to overcome this terrible disease and allow the world to return to normal.”

The psychological toll of the pandemic has been brutal, she said.

Maimonides has been hard hit by the coronavirus, twice. In the first wave, a third of residents were infected and 39 died, according to government information. It took the assistance of the Canadian Armed Forces and, after that, the Canadian Red Cross to help overwhelmed staff get the outbreak under control.

In early October, Maimonides was proud to announce there were no more active cases. But within weeks, the numbers went from zero to over 50 and, after trying to care for the sick in an isolated ward, transferred many to hospital.

On Dec. 16, Maimonides site coordinator Jennifer Clarke made public that, in the second wave, a total of 88 residents have had COVID and 19 have died. There are currently nine active cases, she reported.

Spanier compares her life to being on a “battleground,” with its fear, disruption and grief.

“We are a community here. I knew some of the people who died, or know someone who knew them,” she said. Her hope today is tinged with solemnity because she can’t forget the havoc the virus wreaked.

Much hoopla surrounded the rollout at Maimonides, with Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé and federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu on hand for a ceremony held outside the building just before the first shot was administered to resident Gloria Lallouz, 78.

The politicians hailed it as a historic occasion. Hajdu, who did not hide her tears, said, “I see this as the first step toward the light.”

Spanier is more cautious. The first battle to be won is ending the pandemic, but the definition of victory in the long term, she believes, is changing society’s disregard for the institutionalized frail elderly.

“If any good has come out of this, it is that light has been shed on what is happening in chronic care places. We can’t just dump people, and the resources have to back that up. One orderly for 35 patients at night is not feasible anymore.”

Breaking News: Community Mobilizes Following Tragic Fire

Dec. 11, 2020

A serious fire broke out last night at a Toronto Community Housing building at 6250 Bathurst. Seniors and firefighters were injured, with at least one senior in life-threatening condition.

The building’s residents include a large number of clients of UJA-funded partner agencies, said a statement from UJA Federation of Greater Toronto.

Global News reported that a woman believed to be in her 70s is in life-threatening condition and three others were injured in the five-alarm fire.

Emergency crews were called to the 14-storey, 389-unit apartment building on Bathurst Street, south of Steeles Avenue West, just before 8:25 p.m., Global reported.

A Toronto Fire Services captain was treated for smoke inhalation and a firefighter was taken to hospital. 

“This is a significant fire,” Acting Fire Chief Jim Jessop told reporters Thursday night.

Photo credit: CTV news

“Throughout the night, the Bernard Betel Centre and Circle of Care were working hard to assess and support the needs of the building’s residents, many of whom are isolated Jewish seniors living on very modest incomes,” the UJA statement said.

Other UJA-funded agencies, including Jewish Immigrant Aid Services Toronto and Jewish Family and Child Service, have also been mobilized, it added.

“We’re heartbroken by this terrible tragedy,” said Adam Minsky, President and CEO of UJA Federation. “We pray for a rapid and full recovery for the injured, and we are deeply grateful for the bravery of Toronto Fire Services.”

Said Linda Frum, Chair of UJA Federation: “A few years ago, I delivered Kosher Meals on Wheels to residents of this building. I saw firsthand just how vulnerable they are – and they are in even greater need in the wake of this devastating incident.

“Today, we say unequivocally: UJA Federation will do whatever it takes to help them get through this crisis safely. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our incredible network of Jewish social service agencies working hard to address this challenge. As they assess the new needs of these at-risk community members, we are ready to provide any resources necessary – be it emergency funds, volunteers, or other support.”

While the cause of the fire continues to be investigated by authorities, UJA urged community members to be vigilant about fire safety when it comes to candle-lighting during Hanukkah.

Most residents of the building were encouraged to shelter in place except for approximately 30 people on the fifth floor who had to be evacuated, Global’s report stated.

Hannukah: The Many Blessings of its Blessings

Dec. 11, 2020

By ILANA KRYGIER LAPIDES

Hanukkah is here, and not a moment too soon: Bringing light into the darkness right now is most welcome. While we look up how to play dreidel, exchange low-fat latke recipes (just kidding, it’s a pandemic – fry the damn things) and schedule online get-togethers, we tend to gloss over a significant aspect of the holiday: the Hanukkah blessings. We recite the blessings every night for eight nights, but are rarely mindful of what we are saying.

The first blessing is so familiar, we don’t really hear it anymore: “Blessed are You, Adoshem our G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Your Commandments spark holiness in us as You command us to light Hanukkah candles.”

This blessing is interesting both because it recognizes our innate glimmers of holiness and because it references an old controversy. Historically, Hanukkah celebrates a military victory followed by the rededication of the Second Temple. But less than 200 years later, the Temple was destroyed by the Romans, and Jews were exiled and scattered into the Diaspora. When the dust settled, Jews were faced with the obligation to celebrate a defunct victory – a bitter reminder of permanent loss. A heated debate ensued about whether to scrap Hanukkah completely.

Ultimately, our sages came to a compromise. Yes, Hanukkah would continue, but the miracle story would transform from a military victory into a gentle legend about a single day’s carafe of kosher oil lasting eight days. Our blessing mentions no military triumph; peaceful lighting of the darkness becomes the true legacy of this festival.

Next comes our second blessing: “G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who is blessed and Who blesses us, in this season in ancient days, You performed miracles for our ancestors.”

We chant this blessing to celebrate the miracle of the oil. But wait: The miracle of the oil lasting eight days didn’t really start until the second day. The Maccabees knew the oil would burn for at least one day, so why do we bless the miracle of the first day?

It is true the Maccabees didn’t know the oil would last longer than a day, but they lit it anyway. They chose to take a chance, to have faith. The miracle of the first day isn’t the oil lasting, but the miracle of faith itself.

And lastly, on the first night only, we chant the Shehechyanu. This is the blessing we say when we arrive at a new occasion: “Blessed are You, G-d, Ruler of the Universe, Who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment in time.”

These days, being sustained to this moment is no small feat; the pandemic has made us all too aware of our mortality.

Rabbi Shefa Gold speaks of Shehechyanu moments – moments when something new and wonderful happens. Shehechyanu moments occur when our hearts are full and we feel the need to mark the occasion somehow; to acknowledge it and make it memorable.

Festive holidays are Shehechyanu moments, but so can be reuniting with a loved one, or a child’s first day of school, or noticing that we are genuinely laughing for the first time after grieving a heartbreaking loss. Our Shehechyanu moments may feel rare lately, but they do happen if we can be still enough to notice.

As Rabbi Gold wrote, the Shehechyanu blessing is said whenever we realize the miracle of the present moment.

May this Hanukkah bring us the miracle of the present moment. May the warmth of the kindling lights usher in a season of good health, abundance, and joy. And may the Hanukkah blessings bring a spark to our hearts and light to the darkness.

Chag Hanukkah Sameach.


Ilana Krygier Lapides
Ilana Krygier Lapides

Ilana Krygier Lapides is a Jewish educator and storyteller in Calgary. She is currently attending the online Rabbinic School, the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) in New York, and will be ordained at the end of December 2020.

Celebrate Hanukkah With New And Traditional Recipes

Dec. 11, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Yesterday evening, we lit the first Hanukkah candle, but at our house, we won’t be eating latkes until this weekend.

My husband, the family’s latke-maker-in-chief, swears by Norene Gilletz’s recipe for Easy Potato Latkes from the Food Processor Bible

For people buying prepared latkes, there are several great places in the GTA to order from. One is Free Times Café, the College-Street eatery known in the community for “Bella! Did Ya Eat?,” its sumptuous Jewish-themed Sunday brunch.

In “Community Spotlight,” Free Times owner Judy Perly talks openly about the impact of COVID on her business. She’s definitely a survivor: her restaurant marks its 40th anniversary this month.

On Dec. 8, I attended the virtual Latkes and Vodka Workshop led by national food columnist and cookbook author Bonnie Stern and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, spiritual leader of City Shul.

Stern prepared guacamole, sweet-potato latkes, and jelly-filled, donut-holes, her version of home-made sufganiot.

Rabbi Goldstein explained that the Hanukkah tradition of eating sufganiot originated in Israel during the 1920s. To help bakers increase business, the government encouraged them to make large, filled donuts for Hanukkah, a greasy treat that has grown in popularity over the years.

It turns out Rabbi Goldstein was a bartender in her college days. She invented and demonstrated some vodka martinis specifically geared to Hanukkah: “Menoratini,” “Chocolate Geltini,” and “Sufganitini” (a jelly donut martini!).

This week’s recipes include Gilletz’s Easy Potato Latkes as well as her Smashed Potato “Latkes,” a “no-grate alternative to potato latkes,” as she put it. It’s from The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory. This may be heresy, but I actually prefer these “latkes” to traditional ones.

As well, there are two recipes from the Latkes and Vodka Workshop: Stern’s Jelly Filled Donut Holes and Rabbi Goldstein’s Menoratini.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT:

Restaurateur Judy Perly is undaunted by COVID 

This month Free Times Café, a restaurant/bar at 320 College St., will mark its 40th anniversary. Owner Judy Perly said she will be celebrating the milestone despite the impact of the pandemic on her business.

Over the years, she has faced significant challenges that have made her resilient and able to deal with problems brought on by COVID, she said in a recent telephone interview.

“I’ve had my business destroyed four times and I had to reinvent myself each time.”

Judy Perley with Latkahs

With the pandemic, she has had to pivot from serving to catering restaurant fare. There is a big demand for the traditional Jewish foods she’s been serving at the restaurant. They’ll be delivering latkes to homes across Toronto.

Free Times’ Jewish themed Sunday brunch, “Bella! Did Ya Eat?” has become an institution in the Jewish community. For 25 years, people across the GTA have been enjoying the buffet laden with traditional foods like blintzes, bagels, lox, gefilte fish, salmon patties and other Ashkenazi delicacies.

The meal has always been accompanied by live Jewish or klezmer music.

Perly lamented that due to COVID, she could not celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Bella! Did Ya Eat?”

After a fire at Free Times in 1990, Perly decided to create the Jewish buffet – one of the times she had to reinvent herself.

“I wanted to get back to my roots and I wanted to reconnect to the Jewish community,” she recalled. “It was a success from day one.”

The first COVID lockdown last spring coincided with Passover. Perly let people on her mailing list know that she would be catering for the holiday. She had a huge response. The catering expanded to Sunday brunches, Friday night dinners, Shavuot and other holiday meals.

During the summer Perly was able to open her patio and have some live entertainment. Last month’s lockdown has created additional financial challenges.

On the eve of Hanukkah, the pace at Free Times was hectic. Perly and her staff were preparing orders for 400 latkes and other traditional dishes. “I am very grateful for the support I am getting from the Jewish community,” she mused. “They have kept the restaurant afloat for the last 25 years.”

EASY POTATO LATKES Norene Gilletz

4 medium potatoes, peeled or scrubbed
1 medium onion, cut in half 
2 eggs
1/3 cup (100 ml) of flour or matzah meal
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
3/4 tsp (4 ml) salt 
Freshly ground black pepper to taste 
2 tbsp (30 ml) oil plus extra as needed

Cut the potatoes in chunks and place them in the food processor bowl fitted with the steel blade. Add the onion and eggs. Process until pureed, about 20–30 seconds. Add the remaining ingredients except the oil. Process a few minutes longer for a smooth consistency.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop the potato mixture into the hot oil by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown them well on both sides. Drain them well on paper towels and add 

more oil as needed. 

Stir the batter before cooking each new batch of latkes. They can be placed on a baking sheet and kept warm in a 250°F (130°C) oven. Makes 24 latkes

SMASHED POTATO “LATKES” Norene Gilletz

12 baby red-skinned potatoes (2 inches/5 cm in diameter)
Lightly salted water
1–2 tbsp (15–30 ml) olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Additional seasonings (to taste): dried basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

Boil the potatoes in enough lightly salted water to cover them for 15–20 minutes, until potatoes are fork-tender. Drain them 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 (8 cm) 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, to make a flat disc. Round off any ragged edges by pushing them together with your fingers.

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

Bake, uncovered, for 20–25 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crispy. If desired, turn the potatoes over halfway through baking. (Optional add more oil for brushing). Makes 2–3 servings

Norene’s Notes:

Easy hack: In Step 1, instead of boiling potatoes, roast them on a rimmed baking sheet for about 1 hour at 350°F (175°C), until they are fork tender. Continue as directed in Steps 2–5.

• In Step 3, use the flat side of a meat tenderizer to smash the potatoes. 

BONNIE’S BAKED JELLY DONUT HOLES

1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour 
½ cup (125 ml) sugar
½ tsp (2 ml) baking powder
¼ tsp (1 ml) baking soda
¼ tsp (1 ml) kosher salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) nutmeg
1 egg
¼ cup (60 ml) vegetable oil
½ cup (125 ml) buttermilk*
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
¼ cup (60 ml) strawberry jam (remove any large pieces) topping
½ cup (125 ml) butter, melted
3/4 cup (375 ml) sugar
3/4 tsp (4 ml) cinnamon 
* yogurt can be substituted for buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 375°F (180°C). Butter or spray with non-stick cooking spray a 24-cup mini muffin pan.

In a small mixing bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. In a medium sized bowl whisk the egg with oil, buttermilk and vanilla. Stir the wet ingredients together with the dry ingredients just until blended. 

Individual ½ tsp (2–3 ml) portions of jam can be frozen a head of time or fill a zip-lock bag with jam, close and cut a small opening in one corner. 

Place about 1 tsp (5 ml) of the batter in the bottom of each prepared muffin cup. Place a frozen jam portion or squeeze a small amount of the jam in the zip-lock bag in the centre of the batter that is in the pans and top the jam with another tsp (5 ml) of batter. 

Bake 12–14 minutes until the cakes are puffed and lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Meanwhile, melt the butter and place in a shallow dish. Combine the sugar and cinnamon in another shallow dish. When the cakes are still warm roll them all over in the butter and then all over in cinnamon sugar. Makes 24 baked donut holes.

MENORATINI Rabbi Elise Goldstein

3 oz (90 ml) vodka
½ oz (15 ml) sweet vermouth.
Splash of blue curacao

Fill a cocktail shaker (or a 500 ml preserving jar with lid) with ice. Pour in the vodka and sweet vermouth and shake. Strain into 2 martini glasses, then splash in some blue Curacao and add a few fresh blueberries. Or put a “surprise” small drop of blueberry jam on the bottom of the martini glass! 

You can also “rim” the martini glass. Before pouring the cocktail into the glass, dip it into 1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice mixed with ½ tsp (2 ml) vanilla. Dip the wet rim into blue or white coarse sugar, available at some bulk food stores. 

Reflections of Hanukkah

Dec. 10, 2020

By ERIC VERNON

Like most holidays on the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah is never on time. This year, for instance, it is “early,” but even coming in the second week of December, we can still use the light. This may be especially true in the dark year of 2020, when, ironically, our vision was supposed to be perfect.

Light and flame are prominent images in Jewish scripture and texts, and the symbol of the menorah resonates throughout our collective history. Candles, of course, feature prominently in Jewish festive celebrations. We welcome Shabbat with candles every Friday night, and bid it goodbye with the braided candle of Havdalah. We bid goodbye to our loved ones with candles at shiva and yahrzeit.

The Chassidic masters taught: “You cannot dispel darkness with a stick, you must light a candle.” It’s also been aptly noted that the benefit of the candle is twofold: It brings light to the person who lit it, while helping someone nearby, without diminishing its light. A candle loses nothing even by lighting another candle.

Lighting candles at Hanukkah has a special appeal, likely vying with conducting a Passover Seder as the most popular holiday activity of the Jewish annual cycle.

The Talmud tells of competing schools of thought regarding the lighting of candles at Hanukkah. One school, seeking to mirror the diminishing light of the legendary oil cruse after a week and a day, suggested starting with eight candles and removing one each day. The other school countered that the true miracle of Hanukkah lay in adding light to the world and advocated beginning with one candle and ending with eight.

We know how this debate concluded. We are imbued with the wonderful symbolism of the lighting of successive candles on this joyous festival, and our thoughts often turn at this time to how we, in our own lives, can add light to the world.

You often hear people speak of “light at the end of the tunnel” as the optimistic metaphoric end of a long process or a difficult time they are experiencing. Sadly, we need not strain ourselves to come up with a perfect example these past few months. At these times of uncertainty or frustration, especially when we’re not sure that the light in the tunnel isn’t an oncoming train, we can be buoyed by the hopeful message of the following passage:

“Darkness cannot put out darkness. Only light can do that. Difficult and painful as it is, we must walk on in the days ahead with an audacious faith in the future. When our days become dreary with low-hovering clouds of despair, and when our nights become darker than a thousand midnights, let us remember that there is a Creative force in this universe, working to pull down the gigantic mountains of evil, a power that is able to make a way out of no way and transform dark yesterdays into bright tomorrows. Let us realize the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

The concept of the arc of the moral universe being long but bending toward justice actually derives from a sermon titled, “Of Justice and the Conscience,” published in 1857 by a transcendentalist and Unitarian minister in the United States named Theodore Parker. But you will likely not be surprised to learn that the quote above is from a speech delivered by Martin Luther King Jr., in August 1967.

King loved the image of the bending arc of morality seeking justice. In fact, he used it in several speeches from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s as the civil rights movement in the U.S. moved through its tumultuous and, despite King’s signature approach, often violent, bloody and lethal early period. In August 1967, the movement that had witnessed the marches in Selma and Montgomery; the murders of Freedom Riders James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner; and the assassination of civil rights activist Medgar Evers had just come through the “long, hot summer” of widespread rioting in cities across America.

And not knowing that in just a matter of mere months, his own name would be added to the list of those cut down for the cause, King could have rightly looked around and considered the slow, sometimes infinitesimal gains made for racial equality and wondered if there would ever come a time when American society would judge people, as he famously said, not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.

And yet, in spite of the glacial pace of the civil rights movement, King remained optimistic, sustained in his firm belief that morality and justice would one day intersect and American society would finally experience the necessary transformative social change for true racial equality. Sadly, the events of this past summer demonstrated just how much that noble goal remains aspirational and not fully realized.

And yet, as Jews, we understand King’s optimism intuitively. That we have survived and flourished over millennia is all the more remarkable given the litany of hate, persecution and attempted annihilation we have faced throughout time, all because of who we are.

We think about this especially at Hanukkah. As discouraging as the manifestations of both historical and contemporary antisemitism may be, the candles’ light in this season braces and inspires us to resist oppression, fight for human rights for all and proudly assert our identity.

So as you load up your hanukkiyah and set flame to wick, you will of course be celebrating the stunning victory of the Maccabees for religious freedom and our right to live as Jews.

You will of course be commemorating the redemption of the Temple and the astounding miracle of the burning oil.

But more than that, as you light the bright festive candles of Hanukkah, you will be illuminating the arc of the moral universe and guiding it as it bends its way toward justice.


Eric Vernon
Eric Vernon

Eric Vernon is the former Director of Government Relations and International Affairs of Canadian Jewish Congress.

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

Jewish Community Critical of Quebec’s Rejection of Hanukkah Gatherings

Nov. 24, 2020

By JANICE ARNOLD

MONTREAL – Community leaders say it is unfair that the Quebec government is denying Jews the right to celebrate Hanukkah in the same manner as has been granted to those who observe Christmas under new pandemic rules.

Many in the community find it galling that a government that places such a high value on secularism appears to be privileging Christian tradition in its relaxation of the ban on private gatherings.

When asked by the media about the decision, Premier Francois Legault replied that the lifting of the prohibition on gatherings during four days around Christmas will not be similarly applied to the holidays of other faiths. The eight-day festival of Hankukah begins December 10th.

Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs-Quebec, said Jews should be allowed to get together for the first four days of Hanukkah, observing the same rules that have been set for Christmas.

Rabbi Poupko montreal
Rabbi Poupko

“It is bewildering that the government would prioritize the holiday of one faith community over the others,” Rabbi Poupko said. “I think equality and common sense would demand that every religious community in Quebec be treated fairly and a similar indulgence be extended to each of them.”

Rabbi Poupko, spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel Beth Aaron, noted the government did not show any flexibility during the High Holidays. The Jewish community did not ask for any, and it abided by the rules, he said.

Legault, along with Health Minister Christian Dubé and the province’s public health director, Dr. Horacio Arruda, announced on Nov. 19 that Quebecers will be allowed to gather at home in groups of up to 10 people from Dec. 24-27.

But the premier asked that they enter a “moral contract” under which they minimize their physical contact with anyone outside their household for one week before and one week after that period. Although 14 days is the standard quarantine length, public health officials said symptoms of COVID typically appear five to seven days after infection.

Schools are to close two days before they were scheduled to do so, and the government is asking employers to allow personnel to work at home where possible to enable them to comply with the two weeklong isolation periods.

Elementary schools will reopen on Jan. 4 as planned, but high school students will not return to class until Jan. 11 because coronavirus transmission in this age group is higher, authorities say.

This suspension of the ban on private gatherings is contingent on no spike in cases occurring beforehand. The province is seeing an average of close to 1,200 new COVID cases daily, higher than in the first wave.

B’nai Brith Canada said the government should have consulted the Jewish community and other minority religious groups when establishing pandemic rules that impact their practices.

“The Quebec government must take the needs of minority communities, including the Jewish community, into consideration and work pro-actively with these communities prior to the lifting or imposition of unilateral COVID restrictions. There must be no favouritism. The premier must be the premier of all Quebecers,” stated Toronto-based B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn.

Since the beginning of October when the Montreal region entered a partial lockdown, later expanded to much of the province, the rule has been that no one can enter a household who does not live there, with a few exceptions like elder care or tradespeople.

Gatherings outside, such as in a backyard, are also prohibited. That ban has been extended to Jan. 11, at least.

Rulebreakers may face a fine of $1,500 per person.

Previously, the limit had been six people after Montreal went orange under the province’s colour-coded alert system on Sept. 20. 

Houses of worship are permitted to have 25 people inside at a time.

Legault said a “concentration” of time was necessary to make an easing feasible, and the days chosen represent what most Quebecers want. Public health officials added that the days from Dec. 24 to 27 also are in the middle of the school break and most workplace shutdowns.

“We are in a critical situation,” Legault said at the Nov. 19 press conference. “We can permit gatherings during four days only and we say that the majority of Quebecers would be happy that those four days be at Christmas.”