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. 

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