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.

Kitchen Talk: Cooking in the Age of COVID

Aug. 14, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the CJR’s weekly food blog. “Kitchen Talk” is a mix of food news and kosher recipes from local and international chefs, cookbook authors, and restaurateurs.

We’ve been living with COVID for more than six months and I’ve grown accustomed to preparing more meals at home. I have not been to a restaurant since the onset of the pandemic. I have not even had a Starbucks latte.

One of my favourite activities – shopping at the weekly farmers market in my neighbourhood – was put on hold until this week. I went there ready to splurge on heirloom tomatoes and other delicacies. Sadly, my local market was smaller and quieter. Very few of the regular famers and food vendors were on hand. I did buy some lovely cherry tomatoes and fresh pea sprouts, but it was nowhere near the amount I usually buy this time of year.

Heirloom Tomatoes

On a Sad Note: Dr. Ed Wein has died. Wein co-authored The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory with the late food maven, Norene Gilletz. The book was published in December, just two months before Gilletz’s death. 

Online Cooking Classes: One of the positive developments in response to COVID is the abundance of online cooking classes and/ or cooking demos. Some are free or available at very nominal prices.

A Seat at the Table, a Journey into Jewish Food is a new online cooking course from the YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research. The seven-week program – it’s free until December – explores the history of Ashkenazi food traditions through lectures and cooking demos.

“A Seat at the Table” features renowned chefs and cookbook authors like Joan Nathan, Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, Lior Lev Sercarz, Adeena Sussman, and Leah Koenig. Scholars and authors giving lectures include Michael Twitty, Alice Feiring, Darra Goldstein, Ilan Stavans, and Toronto’s own Michael Wex.

To access the program go to https://yivo.org/food and hit the register button. You do have to go through several steps to sign up with YIVO, but that also provides access to its Yiddish and other cultural courses.

Cooking Webinars with Bonnie Stern. Bestselling cookbook author, culinary cultural tour guide and national food columnist, Stern will be teaching two online courses, one on working with fresh herbs and the other on challah baking. The organizations running these courses are charging very low fees.

The Fresh Herbs Webinar, featuring a recipe for Cheese and Herb Phyllo Tarts, will be held Aug. 26 at 3 p.m. and is offered through Thornhill Life-Long Learning. For more information, go to: http://thornhilllifelonglearning.com/2020-special-event.

The Challah Baking Course, a “braid along workshop,” which will be co-presented with Rabbi Elyse Goldstein, will be run by City Shul on Sept. 1 at 3:30. To register go to https://www.cityshul.com/form/challah.html

RECIPES:

This week’s recipes include Mushroom Mock Chopped Liver from The Brain Boosting Diet to honour the late Dr. Wein. The Hemp Heart Cucumber Salad comes from Daniella Silver’s latest book, Variations: Simple and Delicious Dishes Two Ways, and Apricot Almond Ruggelach from Desserts by Bonnie Stern.

MUSHROOM MOCK CHOPPED LIVER – Norene Gilletz 

2 cloves garlic
3 medium onions, quartered 
1–2 tbsp (15–30 ml) olive oil
1 pkg (8 oz /227 g) sliced cremini mushrooms (about 2½ cups/625 ml)
¼ cup (60 ml) walnut pieces 
3 hard-boiled eggs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Drop the garlic through the feed tube of a food processor fitted with the steel blade while the machine is running. Process until minced, about 10 seconds. Add onions and process with several quick on/off pulses, until coarsely chopped.

Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet on medium. Add onions and garlic (don’t bother washing the food processor bowl). Sauté until golden, about 6–8 minutes. If the mixture begins to stick, add a little water.

Add mushrooms and sauté for 6–8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until browned. Remove pan from heat and cool slightly.

Process walnuts until coarsely ground, about 8–10 seconds. Add onion/mushroom mixture, eggs, salt, and pepper. Process with several quick on/off pulses, just until combined.

Transfer to a container, cover, and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve chilled.

Norene’s Notes:

Legume lover’s liver: Replace the mushrooms with 1½ cups (375 ml) canned chickpeas or lentils, rinsed and drained (preferably low-sodium or no-salt-added). Sauté the onions and garlic for 8–10 minutes until well browned. 

HEMP HEART CUCUMBER SALAD – Daniella Silver 

Hemp Heart Cucumber Salad. Photo Barbara Silverstein

2 firm ripe tomatoes, diced **
6 baby cucumbers, trimmed and cut into rounds
¼ cup (60 ml) diced red onion
1/3 cup (90 ml) finely chopped fresh parsley
1/3 cup (90 ml) chopped fresh mint
¼ cup (60 ml) hemp hearts
** sliced cherry or grape tomatoes can be substituted

Dressing:

¼ cup (60 ml) extra light olive oil
3 tbsp (45 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced (about ½ tsp or 3 ml)
3/4 tsp (3 ml) kosher salt
black pepper

In a large bowl toss together the tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, parsley and mint. Cover and refrigerate.

Dressing: Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt, and black pepper in a glass jar, seal tightly. Shake well and refrigerate.

Before serving, toss the salad with the dressing and hemp hearts.

APRICOT ALMOND RUGGELACH – Bonnie Stern

Pastry: 

1 cup (250 ml) all-purpose flour
½ cup (125 ml) butter, cold
4 oz (125 g) cream cheese, cold

Filling:

½ cup (125 ml) apricot jam
¼ cup (60 ml) granulated sugar
½ cup (125 ml) chopped toasted almonds
1 tsp (5 ml) lemon zest

Topping 

1 egg
1/3 cup (75 ml) course granulated sugar or chopped nuts
Sifted icing sugar

Pastry: Place the flour in a large bowl. Cut the butter into small pieces and rub it into the flour with your fingers or pastry blender. Cut cream cheese into small pieces and rub it into the flour mixture with your fingers or pastry blender. Knead until a ball forms.

Cut the dough in half. Wrap each half with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Filling: Stir jam until it is spreadable. In a separate bowl combine sugar, nuts, apricots, and zest.

On lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of chilled dough. The larger and thinner the piece, the crispier the cookies will be. Each circle should be at least 9-inch (23 cm) round in diameter. Spread each circle with jam and sprinkle with the almond mixture.

Cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge from the outside edge. Turn the edges slightly to form a crescent. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart. Repeat until all the cookies are shaped.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C)

Beat the egg and brush the cookies with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the course sugar chopped nuts.

Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden. Cool on racks and dust with icing sugar.

Makes 24 cookies. Store tightly in a covered container.


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.

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.