Kitchen Talk: Virtual Cooking Classes Abound in COVID Times

Aug. 28, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR.

As I settle into the sixth month of social distancing, there are certain aspects of COVID pandemic that I have come to enjoy. In particular, I am taking advantage of the many virtual educational opportunities, especially online cooking classes.

Yesterday I watched three food demos: How to make blintzes, chopped liver, and sweet noodle kugel. They were presented by Liz Alpern and Jeffrey Yoskowitz, co-authors of The Gefilte Manifesto: New Recipes for Old World Jewish Food.

Their classes are part of “A Seat at the Table, a Journey into Jewish Food,” a free series offered until December by YIVO, the Institute for Jewish Research. To register go to https://yivo.org/food

Today, I’ll be going on a virtual tour of St. Petersburg (the one in Russia) from a Jewish perspective, and then at 3 p.m. I’m signed up for a cooking class with cookbook author and national columnist Bonnie Stern. She’ll be teaching participants how to use fresh herbs and phyllo dough.

Carolyn Tanner-Cohen is another Toronto-based culinary expert offering online cooking classes. She has been running the Delicious Dish Cooking School from her home since 2002. She’s been kind enough to share two terrific recipes (below), which would work very well for Rosh Hashanah: Honey Za’atar Chicken Drumsticks and Braised Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Zucchini, Tomatoes and Pine Nuts.

Tanner-Cohen said that with COVID, she’s had to reimagine her school. “I had been wanting to refigure my business and change it, but there wasn’t a real need,” she said. “People still wanted engagement in person. Now people are comfortable being at home. This is the new normal.”

Tanner-Cohen has had a following on Instagram (@deliciousdishcooking) for several years. When the pandemic started, she would let her followers know what she was cooking for dinner and list the ingredients. “I was giving out the menu a week in advance with a grocery list.”

People would tune into Instagram Live to watch or cook along with her, she explained. “Every time I made dinner I would be doing it live.”

Tanner-Cohen said she has now increased her Instagram followers from 2,500 to 5,800, and she’s developed a new platform for E-commerce on her Web site, https://deliciousdish.ca/

She began offering cooking classes on weeknights. “I’m doing Zoom classes four nights a week. At 5 p.m., we all cook dinner together.” Her main page has the class schedule for the upcoming month, along with grocery lists. She said there’s a regular group of participants to her classes who have become a community.

On Sept. 14 and 15, Tanner-Cohen will be running a longer, two-part baking class for Rosh Hashanah, and on the following two days (Sept. 16 and 17), she will be preparing the holiday dinner. “If you log in you can make your entire Rosh Hashanah meal with me. We’re going to cook it together and people can freeze it.”

HONEY ZA’ATAR CHICKEN DRUMSTICKS 

Honey Zatar Chicken Drumsticks. Photo credit: Carolyn Tanner Cohen

12 chicken drumsticks
2½ tbsp (40 ml) za’atar, divided
4 tbsp (60 ml) sesame seeds, divided
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt, plus more for seasoning the chicken 
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) honey

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C) convection. Line a sheet with parchment or foil. Season the chicken with a little salt and pepper.

Combine 1½ tbsp of the za’atar, 2 tbsp of the sesame seeds, salt and oil in a bowl. 

Rub the oil and za’atar mixture all over the chicken and place the chicken on the lined cookie sheet.

Drizzle the honey all over the chicken pieces. Sprinkle the chicken with the remainder of the za’atar and sesame seeds.

Bake for about 45 minutes. Makes 4 – 6 servings

BRAISED STUFFED PEPPERS WITH QUINOA, ZUCCHINI, TOMATOES AND PINE NUTS

Braised Stuffed Peppers
Braised Stuffed Peppers. Photo credit: Carolyn Tanner Cohen

6 –10 red and yellow bell peppers uniform in size

Filling:

2-3 tbsp (30- 45 ml) olive oil
3 onions, finely chopped
2 zucchini ends removed, grated on a large hole box grater
2 tsp (10 ml) kosher salt
1 tsp (5 ml) sweet paprika
½ tsp (3 ml) pepper
2 large tomatoes grated
1½ cup (375 ml) uncooked quinoa
⅓ cup (90 ml) pine nuts toasted
½ cup (125 ml) chopped parsley

For the Sauce

2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
4 cloves garlic minced
¼ cup (125 ml) tomato paste
1½ cups (375 ml) vegetable or chicken stock
1 tsp (5 ml) sugar
½ tsp (3 ml) kosher salt
¼ tsp (2 ml) pepper
2-3 whole onions, peeled

Cut the tops off the peppers. With your fingers remove the seeds and membranes and set the peppers aside.

Filling: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil, add the chopped onion and cook on medium heat until golden brown and caramelized, about 10 minutes. 

Add the grated zucchini, toss and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, paprika and grated tomato. Toss to combine the ingredients and let them cook for 1–2 minutes. Add the quinoa and cook another 1–2 minutes. 

Add the pine nuts and parsley and toss. Turn the heat off while preparing the sauce.

Sauce: In a large braising pot with a lid heat the oil on low heat. Choose a pot that will fit the peppers in snugly. 

Add the garlic and sauté for less than 10 seconds. Add the tomato paste, carefully to avoid splattering. Add the stock, whisk to combine the tomato paste with the stock. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Bring the sauce to a boil and let it simmer for a few minutes. Set aside about ¾ cup (220 ml) of sauce. 

In the meantime, stuff the peppers with the filling, about ⅔ cup (180 ml) per pepper. 

Place the peppers in the sauce (cut side up), squeezing the peppers in. The less space the better. If you have any space in between the peppers, fill it with the extra whole (or half) peeled onions (They will flavour the sauce). 

Pour the reserved ¾ cup (200 ml) sauce over the filled peppers. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to low and let the peppers simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Makes 6 –10 servings.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Sept. 1, 3:30 p.m. ET: “Braid Along” Challah Workshop led by Bonnie Stern and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Presented by City Shul. To register go to https://www.cityshul.com/form/challah.html

Sept. 9, 2 p.m. ET: Ashkenazi Cuisine: Identity, Memory, and Culture: Jeffrey Yoskowitz will be in conversation about Eastern European Jewish cuisine with award-winning author Michael Twitty, and acclaimed cookbook author Leah Koenig. Register for Free at https://zoom.us/webinar/register/9615983422166/WN_THYxFfgSSPmwSuDqAKMPvA


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.

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.