Nine Days of Vegetarian Fare Precede Tisha B’Av

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Tisha b’Av, the ninth day of the month of Av, is an annual fast day that falls in July or August. This year, the fast begins on the evening of July 29.

Tisha b’Av is one of the most solemn days on the Jewish calendar. It commemorates a number of disasters in Jewish history, primarily the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE. The fast has also become associated with remembrance of the Holocaust.

In the nine days leading to Tisha b’Av, many people refrain from eating meat or poultry. Those nine days of vegetarian eating fall within shloshim or “30 days,” the month-long period of mourning preceding Tisha b’Av.

For those who observe the dietary restrictions during the first days of Av, one can find many books and websites that offer vegetarian recipes. One of my favourite sources is The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, a cookbook/nutrition guide that was written by the late Jewish food maven, Norene Gilletz and Edward Wein.

Published at the end of 2019, just months before Gilletz’s death last February, The Brain Boosting Diet emphasizes recipes with fresh produce and whole grains.

Not all the recipes are vegetarian but the selection for vegetarian dishes is extensive. I am particularly fond of the Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. I’ve made it many times with different toppings. It’s a real winner for pizza lovers who want to cut back on their white flour consumption.

I am also a fan of salads with Asian dressings. The Brain Boosting Diet has a variety of options in this category. I have received great feedback for the Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing. The recipe also includes a substitution for the peanut butter, an ingredient that many people avoid due to the prevalence of peanut allergies.

CAULIFLOWER-CRUSTED PIZZA

Cauliflower Crust

1 medium cauliflower, florets only about 4 cups (1 L) finely riced cauliflower
½ cup (125 ml) spelt flour (or any flour you like)
½ cup (125 ml) almond meal/flour
½ tsp (2 ml) kosher salt
½ tsp (2 ml) garlic powder
1 egg
½ cup (125 ml) finely grated reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, for brushing

Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza. Photo Barbara Silverstein

Toppings

1 cup (250 ml) shredded smoked or reduced-fat mozzarella cheese (approx.)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered (approx.)
Big handful of spinach (approx. 3/4 cup/185 ml)
10 fresh basil leaves, roughly torn

To Prepare the Cauliflower Crust

Place an oven rack in the second lowest position and preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and brush with olive oil. 

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the cauliflower florets for 25–30 seconds, until they resemble rice. Measure 4 cups (1 L) riced cauliflower into a microwave-safe bowl. Cover with a damp paper towel and microwave on high power for 4 minutes.

Transfer the cauliflower to a clean kitchen towel and let cool. Wrap up the cauliflower in the towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.

Transfer the cauliflower to a large bowl. Add the spelt flour, almond flour, salt, and garlic powder and stir well. Add the egg and cheese and work the dough with your hands so that everything is evenly distributed.

Spoon the cauliflower mixture onto the parchment-lined baking sheet and carefully spread it out. (Tip: If you place another piece of parchment paper on top and press down it will help keep your hands clean.) Flatten the crust into an oval or round shape, creating a nice, raised edge.

Bake the crust for 12–15 minutes, until golden and set.

Toppings 

Remove the pan from the oven and add the toppings, starting with the cheese. Bake 10–12 minutes longer, or until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Remove the pizza from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. Cut into wedges and enjoy.

Norene’s Notes

Never use parchment paper at temperatures over 425°F (220°C) as it will burn.

Gluten-free option: Replace the spelt flour with gluten-free flour (e.g., chickpea flour, gluten-free oat flour, or all-purpose gluten-free flour).

Nut-free crust: Omit the almond meal and increase the grated mozzarella to 1 cup (250 ml).

Top it up: In Step 7, add a handful of broccoli florets, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, zucchini, and/or diced red onion. Crumbled feta or goat cheese and/or grated Parmesan cheese also make tasty toppings.

KALE SLAW WITH PEANUT DRESSING

Kale Slaw

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

Peanut Dressing/Marinade

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

Prepare the Peanut Dressing/Marinade as directed and refrigerate until needed.

Dressing

Mince the garlic in a mini prep or food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, honey, sesame oil, orange juice, and red pepper flakes.

Process until blended, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. If it’s too thick, drizzle in a little more orange juice.

Store the dressing in a jar in the refrigerator until it’s ready to use. Shake well before using.

Kale Slaw

Wash the kale and dry it thoroughly. Remove and discard the tough stalks and centre veins. Chop the kale into bite-sized pieces and place it in a large bowl. Using your fingertips, massage the kale with oil for 2–3 minutes to break down the tough fibres.

Add the cabbage, carrots, red pepper, onion, and parsley. Drizzle the slaw with the prepared dressing and toss to combine. Refrigerate the slaw covered, to blend flavours.

At serving time, place the slaw into 8 individual salad bowls and top with almonds. Serve chilled.

Norene’s Notes

Peanut butter: Store natural peanut butter in the refrigerator. When needed, stir well, measure the desired quantity, and bring it to room temperature for easier blending. Alternatively, microwave the butter on medium for 30 seconds, then stir well.

Variation: Use almond butter (homemade or store-bought) instead of peanut butter. If you are allergic to peanuts or any nuts, use a peanut butter substitute.


Barbara Silverstein
Barbara Silverstein

Barbara Silverstein is a Toronto-area journalist and an award-winning food writer. She was a long-time contributor to The Canadian Jewish News. Her articles have also appeared in Homemaker’s Magazine, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, and Tablet Magazine.

Agencies Unite to Provide ‘Kosher on Wheels’

By STEVE ARNOLD

Getting kosher food in Hamilton has always been a challenge for some people, but now, three local agencies are hoping to ease that problem.

With a $60,000 federal grant funneled through the local United Way, Hamilton Jewish Family Services (HJFS), the Hamilton Jewish Federation, and Adas Israel Synagogue have launched Kosher on Wheels to deliver up to 30 free meals a week to needy residents.

The project was conceived by local chef Max Bida as a way of returning some of the kindness shown to him when he arrived in Canada from Israel in 2015.

“When I came here, people helped me, so now I help others,” Bida told the CJR. “It’s not about money, it’s not about making a name for myself but to give back,” he said.

Bida said he brings “whatever tools I’ve got to the table. I have a lot of experience in the kitchen and in managing projects like this. I volunteered in Israel…so I figured I could do the same here.”

With his culinary consulting business sidelined by the COVID crisis, Bida took his idea of kosher food on wheels to the Hamilton Jewish Federation and Adas Israel Rabbi Daniel Green.

The Federation provided money and Adas Israel provided the kosher kitchen. Hamilton Jewish Family Services also provided money, as well as the link to clients, arranged the distribution system and was the lead agency on the United Way grant application.

Menu options include soups, chicken, a side of root vegetables, Italian meatballs and rice or pasta, whole fish, with salad, a pickle or coleslaw, among others.

Bida prepares all the food himself in the Adas Israel kitchen and packages it for delivery. As much as 70 per cent of the food has been donated.

Rabbi Green said Bida has been a volunteer on several Adas Israel projects. Based on that experience, the rabbi said he was happy to support the meals-on-wheels idea.

“There is a real spirit of giving and volunteering with Max,” Rabbi Green said. “He runs the whole food side of the operation.

“I think we’re just scratching the tip of the iceberg in terms of the need,” he added. “The more outreach we can do, the more need we are going to see.”

Coming together as Food4U, the organizations have already been able to provide 210 free kosher meals to families in need and more than 210 meals at-cost to others by delivery or curbside pick-up.

HJFS executive director Alexis Wenzowski said getting kosher food to local residents in need “has been on our radar for a while.”

COVID, however, brought a new urgency by making it unsafe for the elderly and vulnerable people to leave their homes.

“We are targeting a population that is marginalized in the community or feeling hidden in this community,” she said. “Now they are feeling supported and that means a lot.”

The United Way grant, she said, will give the program financial stability until March, allowing Bida to be paid a small wage and help with the cost of kosher products, which can be up to 50 per cent higher than non-kosher items.

Federation executive director Gustavo Rymberg said the program will get support from the Jewish appeal next year because it fills a real need in the community.

“We have always seen a need in the community for more kosher options for those who need it. With this program, we are not only responding to a crisis, we are transforming a crisis into an opportunity,” he said.

Federal support for the project was provided through the Emergency Community Relief Fund, a $350 million initiative to help charities and non-profit organizations serving vulnerable populations affected by COVID.