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.

Apple Cake and Pumpkin Challah Are Festive Fall Holiday Dishes

Oct. 9, 2020 

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN 

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Samayach, and Happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. This weekend we celebrate Sukkot, Simchat Torah as well as Thanksgiving.

I always associate apples with Simchat Torah. The holiday evokes childhood memories of me marching in the synagogue social hall waving an Israeli flag topped with an apple.

In memory of those Simchat Torah celebrations, I have chosen a recipe for a healthy apple dessert. Apple-Licious Cake, from the late Norene Gilletz’s last book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.

Thanksgiving conjures images of sweet potatoes and pumpkins. I found a delicious sweet potato recipe in Simple, a popular cookbook by Israeli celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi. His Sweet Potato Mash with Lime Salsa is very festive, as is Pumpkin Challah. Both dishes would be good choices for Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Thanksgiving.

The pumpkin challah is adapted from a Maple Kabo-Challah recipe I acquired from Building the Jewish& Cookbook, a monthly virtual cooking program offered through the Miles Nadal JCC.

Lauren’s Pumpkin Kabo Challah

APPLE-LICIOUS CAKE Norene Gilletz

6 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (Cortland, Spartan, or Honeycrisp
Sweetener equivalent to ¼ cup (60 ml) brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cinnamon.

Batter:

½ cup (125 ml) whole blanched almonds, or 1½ cup (125 ml) almond meal.
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160 ml) sugar
1tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract 
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
½ cup (125 ml) unsweetened applesauce
1¼ cups (310 ml) whole wheat flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder 
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cinnamon 
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a 7 × 11-inch (18 × 28-cm) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Filling: In a large bowl, combine the apples with sweetener and cinnamon; mix well and set aside.

Batter: In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process almonds until finely ground, about 25–30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, oil, and applesauce to the food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Don’t insert the pusher into the feed tube while processing. 

Add the ground almonds along with flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; process just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, spread about half the batter in the prepared pan. Spread the apple filling evenly over the batter. Top with the remaining batter and spread evenly. Some of the apples will peek through. 

Bake for 50–60 minutes, until golden brown.

Norene’s Notes:

Berry good variation: Replace half the apples with your favourite berries, for a total of 4–5 cups (1–1.25 L) fruit.

Nut allergies? Replace the almonds with either ½ cup (125 ml) wheat germ or whole wheat pastry flour.

SWEET POTATO MASH WITH LIME SALSA Yotam Ottolenghi

2 lb 2 oz. (1 K) sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup/ (60 ml) olive oil, divided
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C)

Rub the potatoes with 1 tbsp of oil and season with ¼ tsp (2 ml) salt. Place the potatoes on a parchment-lined, baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 30–35 minutes, until very soft.

Prepare the salsa: While the potatoes are roasting make the salsa. Put the remaining oil in a bowl. Add the basil, cilantro, garlic, lime zest, lime juice and a good pinch of salt. Stir to combine. 

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins or scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Mash the flesh together with 1/8 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper until smooth.

Transfer the mashed potato to a platter. Create divots in the surface and spoon the salsa evenly over it. Serve hot as a side dish.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

The Miles Nadal JCC is offering virtual cooking classes. Lauren Schreiber-Sasaki, a Jewish life programmer at MNJCC, runs Jewish&, programs geared to multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic members of the Jewish community. “Jewish& celebrates Jewish diversity,” she said.

COVID restricted in-person programming, so Schreiber-Sasaki said she came up with “Building The Jewish& Cookbook,” a monthly online cooking program that brings the Jewish& group together along with other interested participants.

“Building The Jewish& Cookbook” focuses on recipes that blend various traditions and cultures. I signed up for the Maple Kabo-Challah class led by Carmel Tanaka, a community engagement professional based in Vancouver.

This unusual Japanese-style challah incorporates kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin (canned pumpkin purée can be substituted). Her recipe reflects her Jewish and Japanese heritage. Her mother is Israeli and her father is Canadian of Japanese heritage.

Tanaka calls herself Jewpanese and has even started a monthly virtual event with others of similar heritage. She is also the founder of JQT Vancouver, a Jewish-queer-trans nonprofit.

Tanaka said she learned to make challah when she worked at Hillel. She was taught the basic recipe by the late Robbie McConnell of the Montreal Gazette. His recipe is the foundation for her maple kabo-challah.

The next episode of “Building The Jewish& Cookbook” will be held on Nov. 8 and will feature Montrealer Kat Romanow. She is known for her Wandering-Chew food tours of Montreal’s old Jewish neighbourhoods. 

To register: https://www.amilia.com/store/en/miles-nadal-jcc/shop/activities/2864377

MAPLE KABO-CHALLAH Carmel Tanaka

Braided Kabo Challah

1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water, divided
1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar 
1 tbsp (15 ml) instant yeast (2 packages) 
¼ cup (60 ml) honey or maple syrup
¼ cup (60 ml) neutral-flavoured oil (i.e. corn, grape seed, etc.)
1 cup (250 ml) kabocha* (prepared in advance)
4 eggs, divided
1 tbsp (15 ml) kosher salt
4–4.5 cups (1 L) unbleached all-purpose flour
Additional flour if necessary.
1 egg yolk mixed with water for egg wash.
Poppy seeds, black or white sesame seeds, preferably toasted
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)
*NB substitute pumpkin purée for kabocha 

Prepare the kabocha:

Oil for brushing 

Cut the kabocha in half. Scoop out the seeds. Brush the kabocha with oil.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) until the kabocha is soft so you can poke your fork through easily and the edges begin to caramelize. Mash and let cool. This step can be done ahead.

Prepare the Pumpkin Purée:

Place a cheesecloth over a container (an elastic band can secure the cheesecloth). Place a scoop of canned pumpkin purée on the cheese cloth and let the liquid drain into the container. Continue until you have 1 cup of drained pumpkin purée. Discard the liquid. This step can be done ahead

To Make the Challah:

In a small bowl combine the kabocha or the pumpkin purée with 1 lightly beaten egg and set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer dissolve the sugar in ½ cup (125 ml) warm water. Sprinkle the yeast in the water and let stand 8–10 minutes until foamy. 

Once the yeast is activated add the remaining water, oil, honey or maple syrup, salt and mix well.

Roughly beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the mixing bowl. Incorporate all the ingredients well. Add the kabocha or pumpkin purée and mix well.

Add the flour by cupfuls to the egg and pumpkin mixture and incorporate. Mix until the dough is shaggy and still a little moist, adding small amounts of flour or water if necessary. A dough hook can be used.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. It should not be sticky. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turn to make sure all the surfaces are greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean damp towel and let rise in a warm place. After 1 hour, punch down the dough to remove the air pockets. Let the dough rise for another hour. 

Punch the dough in the bowl to remove any additional air pockets. Turn the dough out onto to a floured surface or a sheet of parchment paper. Knead for 2 minutes before shaping.

To shape: 

Traditional braided challah: Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 3 long strands. Braid them loosely tucking the ends under. Repeat with the remaining dough to form a second loaf. 

Pumpkin-shaped challah: Divide the dough in 4 equal balls. Using a long thread or butcher twine tie each ball in a way that the ball is divided into 6–8 parts.

Do not tie the balls too tightly as they will continue to rise during the second proofing and baking.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (160°C) Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and leave them to rise for 30 minutes.

Transfer the bread to two parchment-lined baking sheets. When the bread has risen, mix a few drops of water to the reserved egg yolk and brush the wash onto the entire surface of the loaves or balls.

Sprinkle on the poppy or sesame seeds and the Maldon sea salt flakes if using. Then slide the bread into the preheated oven. Bake for 25–40 minutes. Halfway through the baking, rotate the trays to get even baking on all sides.