Tahini Adds Richness to Sweet and Savoury Dishes

Dec. 4, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

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

Last Sunday, it was warm enough to serve brunch al fresco. We wore our jackets and ate a simple meal in a sunny corner of the garden. 

Two days later, my husband was out shovelling the driveway after a substantial snowfall in Toronto.

If the weather keeps up, we will have a white Hanukkah. We light the first candle on Thursday, Dec. 10.

This week, “Kitchen Talk” has a guest contributor for the Spotlight feature. Jacqueline Louie, a Calgary-based freelance writer and editor, has written about Israel Cookalong, a weekly cooking class from Israel. The classes are run on Zoom and attract participants from all over the world.

Louie has included a recipe for Tahini Cookies from Israel Cookalong.

I have kept this week’s recipes to the tahini theme. Tahini, or sesame seed paste, is a Middle Eastern food that has become very popular worldwide and is used in a variety of sweet and savoury dishes.

I have found two savoury recipes from two wonderful cookbooks that utilize tahini. Tahini Glazed Carrots can be found in Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from my Israeli Kitchen by Adeena Sussman, and Beets with Tahina is from Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking by Philadelphia-based restaurateurs Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook.

I tried the Tahini Glazed Carrots last week. It’s a delicious dish that would work well for Hanukkah or any festive occasion. The carrots can be served warm, at room temperature or even cold.

Solomonov said Beets with Tahina is one of the most popular menu items at Zahav, the award-winning restaurant he co-owns with Cook. 

SPOTLIGHT

Israel Cookalong Has A Global Reach

By JACQUELINE LOUIE

Every Sunday at 11 a.m. (Eastern Time), Miriam Kresh logs onto Zoom and leads the Israel Cookalong from her kitchen in Petach Tikvah, Israel.

The Cookalong, which Kresh started in the spring of 2020, attracts Canadians from Calgary, Winnipeg and other cities, along with participants from the United States, South Africa and Israel. 

They cook together in real time via Zoom. At the end of each session, everyone has freshly cooked dishes inspired by Israel’s multi-ethnic cuisine.

Examples of the Cookalong recipes include Herb-and Nut-Crusted Schnitzel, Chicken Tajine with Apricots, and Majadra, a lentil and rice dish.

“We share wisdom, crack jokes, and tell stories while we cook. It’s like a party in your kitchen every Sunday,” says Kresh, a Jerusalem Post writer.

Her former food blog, Israeli Kitchen – it was acquired by Mother Nature News network– is now part of the online publication, From The Grapevine.

Amy Kenigsberg participates regularly in the Israel Cookalong from Maale Shomron in central Israel. “You’re making recipes for food you’ve never heard of, so you’re learning an enormous amount about Israeli cuisine and Israeli culture. “And the food is really good!” says Kenigsberg, who cooks for a family of five. They enjoy the Israel Cookalong meals “because it’s not the same boring stuff that I make all the time.”

Kenigsberg encourages people to try out the Israel Cookalong. “It’s a great group of people that you’re cooking with. I feel like I’ve made some really nice new friends, even though we only meet once a week on video.”

To find out what’s cooking at the Israel Cookalong this month, or for more information about registration, email Kresh at miriamkresh1@gmail.com. Type “Cookalong” in the subject line.

“I’d love to welcome you to the classes,” she says. “You can join for one session or more, as you choose.”

TAHINI COOKIES Miriam Kresh 

Yield: about 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

3/4 cup plus 2 tbsp (200 g) soft margarine or butter
1 cup (250 ml) sugar
2 tsp (10 ml) vanilla
1 cup (250 ml) tahini. If there’s a layer of oil floating on top of the jar, stir in back in.
2 cups plus 4 tbsp (560 ml) flour
1 tsp (5 ml) baking powder
Optional: 2 tbsp (30 ml) pine nuts and powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C) 

Cream the margarine and the sugar together.

Add the vanilla and the tahini and blend again.

Combine the flour and the baking powder; add to the tahini mixture.

Form balls the size of walnuts and place them on a greased baking sheet. The dough is dry and crumbly, so squeeze it together to make the balls.

If adding the optional pine nuts, form one cookie ball. Take 2 or 3 pine nuts into your left palm, and with your right hand, press the ball onto them. 

Reverse it when placing onto the baking sheet. If the ball crumbles slightly, just squeeze it back into shape with your fingertips.

Bake 13–15 minutes. Do not bake longer because the cookies need a little moisture to retain their shape and not crumble. Cool the baking tray on a rack, and don’t touch the cookies for at least 5 minutes. (If they’re handled while hot, they will fall apart.) Dust with powdered sugar when they’re cool.

Follow Jacqueline Louie at https://jacquelinelouie.ca/

TAHINI GLAZED CARROTS Adeena Sussman

14–16 (1½ lbs total) *thin carrots, peeled and trimmed
2 tbsp (30 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
½ tsp (2 ml) kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin

Tahini Glaze: Makes 1 cup (250 ml) 

1/3 cup (100 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) pure tahini paste
¼ cup (60 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp (45 ml) silan**
2 tbsp (30 ml) water or more as needed
½ tsp (2 ml) fine sea salt
¼ tsp (1 ml) cayenne pepper

* Thick carrots cut thin can be substituted
** honey or maple syrup can be substituted

Roast the Carrots 

Preheat oven to 425°F (220°C). Arrange the carrots on a large rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with the salt and cumin. Shake the pan to coat the carrots, and roast them in the preheated oven turning midway through, until they have softened and their edges are golden, 25–27 minutes.

Tahini Glaze: While the carrots are roasting, whisk the olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, silan (or substitute), water, salt and cayenne in a medium bowl until smooth and pourable, adding an additional tablespoon (15 ml) of water if necessary.

Remove the carrots from the oven. Transfer them to a serving platter, and drizzle then with the tahini glaze. Use tongs to gently toss and coat. Makes 4 servings.

BEETS WITH TAHINA (Michael Solomonov) 

5 cups plus ½ tsp (1250 ml plus 2 ml) kosher salt
8 medium beets
½ cup (125 ml) of Basic Tahini Sauce
½ cup (125 ml) olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
2 tbsp (30 ml) chopped fresh mint and more for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F (190 °C). Spread 1 cup (250 ml) of the salt in an oven-proof skillet or baking dish. Put the beets on the salt and cover them with the remaining cups of salt. Bake until the beets are tender, about 90 minutes.

When the beets are cool enough to handle, remove them from the salt and peel. Set them aside to cool completely.

Grate the beets into a mixing bowl, using the coarse holes of a box grater. Add the tahina sauce, oil lemon juice, dill, mint and season with ½ tsp (2 ml) salt. Mix well to blend. 

Top with dill and chopped mint. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

BASIC TAHINA SAUCE (Michael Solomonov)

1 head of garlic
3/4 cup (190 ml) fresh lemon juice
1½ tsp (7 ml) kosher salt
2 generous cups (500 ml) of tehina
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cumin
1½ cups (375 ml) ice-water, as needed

Break the garlic head up and put the unpeeled cloves in the blender. Add the lemon juice and ½ tsp of salt. Blend on high until the mixture becomes a course puree. Let the mixture stand for 10 minutes.

Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer over a large mixing bowl. Discard the solids. Add the tahina to the strained lemon juice along with the cumin and 1 tsp salt.

Whisk the mixture until smooth or use a food processor, adding ice water a few tablespoons at a time to thin the mixture out. The sauce will lighten in colour with the whisking or processing. When the tahina seizes up or tightens keep adding water, bit by bit, about 1½ cups (375 ml) in total, whisking or processing until the mixture is creamy and smooth.

Taste and add up to 1½ tsp (7 ml) of salt or additional cumin. If the sauce is not being used immediately add a few tablespoons of ice water to loosen the tahini before refrigerating it.

The recipe makes 4 cups (1 L) and it will keep refrigerated for one week.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Dec. 6, 3 p.m.: Dec. 6 at 3 p.m. Lea Zeltserman will be leading a virtual cooking workshop for Russian Pickle Soup, through Building the Jewish& Cookbook, presented by the Miles Nadal JCC. https://www.facebook.com/events/192408629142347

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. 8 & 9 Shoresh Chanukah Markets: Place advance orders for beeswax Hanukkah candles, Chanukah Miracle Bundle, Bela’s Bees Raw Honey, and other sustainable natural products. Pick up locations south of St. Clair on Dec. 8.; locations north of St. Clair on Dec. 9. https://shop.shoresh.ca/

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

Have a Happy, Healthy and Delicious New Year

Sept. 18, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Samayach. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Rosh Hashanah begins this evening and I would imagine that many readers have already prepared most of the special dishes they’ll be serving this weekend.

With COVID looming large throughout the country, preparing and serving holiday meals will entail safety logistics. I’ll still be celebrating the holiday with my siblings and their children, as we do every year, but we’ll be eating outdoors.

There will be no chicken soup this year but we’ll still be eating brisket, as is customary. In this issue, I’ll be sharing American celebrity chef Michael Solomonov’s recipe for Coffee Braised Brisket, which people may want to try on Sukkot.

Chef Solomonov, author of the award-winning cookbook Zahav: A World of Israeli Cooking, did a Rosh Hashanah food demo for Israel Bonds’ Chef’s Table last week.

I attended three virtual Jewish communal events with Solomonov this summer. Despite winning seven prestigious James Beard Foundation Awards, the culinary equivalent of the Academy Awards, Solomonov is very gracious and humble about his success.

Mangoes have been very plentiful this summer so I am including, cookbook author Daniella Silver’s recipe for Fresh Mango Salad. It’s a quick and simple recipe and a perfect side dish for a holiday supper or lunch. The recipe comes from Silver’s first book, The Silver Platter: Simple to Spectacular Wholesome Family Recipes, co-written with the late, great food maven, Norene Gilletz.

It’s not too early to think about Break Fast dishes for Yom Kippur. Award-winning food author Amy Stopnicki of Kosher-Taste fame has generously shared her recipe for Spinach Feta Quiche. Follow Stopnicki @amyskoshertaste on Instagram.

MY MOM’S COFFEE BRAISED BRISKET Michael Solomonov

2 tbsp (30 ml) finely ground coffee
1½ tbsp (20 ml) ground cardamom
1½ tbsp (20 ml) ground black cardamom
1 tbsp (15 ml) plus 1 tsp (5 ml) kosher salt
1 brisket (first cut, about 4 pounds (2 K)
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
2 large onions, sliced
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
10 garlic cloves, sliced
1/3 cup (90 ml) tomato paste 
1½ cups (375 ml) dried apricots
2 cups (500 ml) brewed coffee
8 large eggs in their shells
Grated fresh horseradish

Two days before serving: Mix the ground coffee, cardamom, black cardamom, and salt in a small bowl and rub into the brisket. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

One day before serving: Preheat the oven to 475°F (245°C). Set a rack inside a roasting pan. Put the brisket on the rack and roast until the exterior has browned, about 20 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 300°F (150°C).

Warm the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook until it reduces slightly, about 2 more minutes. Transfer the vegetables to the roasting pan with the rack removed. Add the brisket, dried apricots, brewed coffee, and eggs in their shells. 

Add enough water to bring the liquid halfway up the side of the brisket. Cover the pan tightly with two layers of foil, return to the oven, and braise for 1 hour.

Remove the eggs, gently tap them all over to make a network of small cracks, and return them to the braise. Continue cooking until the brisket shreds easily with a fork, about 3 more hours.

Let the brisket cool in its braising liquid, then refrigerate overnight.

To serve: Preheat the oven to 350°F (189°C). Slice the cold brisket, return to the braising liquid, and bake until warmed through, about 30 minutes. Spoon the broth over the meat. 

Serve with the peeled eggs and grated fresh horseradish. Makes 8 servings

FRESH MANGO SALAD Daniella Silver

5 ripe mangoes, peeled and cut into long narrow strips
½ cup (125 ml) thinly sliced red onion
½ cup (125 ml) chopped fresh parsley
2 tbsp (30 g) chopped fresh basil

Dressing

¼ cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup (60 ml) lemon juice (preferably fresh)
1 tbsp (15 ml) brown sugar or honey
½ tsp (3 ml) kosher salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, combine mangoes with the red onion, parsley, and basil. 

Dressing: combine dressing ingredients in a glass jar; seal tightly and shake well.

Add the dressing to the sliced mangoes and onions and mix well. Cover and refrigerate until serving time. Makes 6–8 servings

SPINACH FETA QUICHE Amy Stopnicki

6 eggs
½ cup (125 ml) milk
1 cup (250 ml) grated mozzarella cheese
3 cups (750 ml) baby spinach, cleaned and checked, chopped 
1/3 cup (90 ml) feta cheese
1/3 cup (90 ml) pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
1 ready-to-bake frozen deep dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350°F (150°C).

In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, milk, cheese, spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, salt and pepper. Pour the mixture into the frozen pie shell.

Bake for 35– 45 minutes or until set. Makes 6–8 servings

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT 

An occasional series on how Jewish-owned restaurant and food operations in Canada are faring during the pandemic. 

Community Spotlight is an occasional “Kitchen Talk” feature on how Canadian Jewish food entrepreneurs and chefs are faring during COVID. The pandemic has hit many restaurants and other food businesses very hard.

This week, we shine a light on Lev Levine, 30, owner of the popular restaurant, Lox + Schmear at 1030 St. Clair Ave. W. in Toronto, which is offering its in-house smoked fish despite COVID.

You could call the St. Clair West-Oakwood Ave. area in Toronto “Bagel Central,” as there are three bagel businesses located near each other: Lox + Schmear (1030 St. Clair Ave. W.); What a Bagel! (827 St. Clair Ave. W.) and the Primrose Bagel Company (317a Oakwood Ave.)

Lev Levine, 30, owner of Lox + Schmear, set up the first of the three bagel shops in this mid-town Toronto neighbourhood, now home to a large number of young Jewish families.

Lev Levine

It was three years in June that they opened their shop, Levine said in a recent telephone interview.

Asked about the close proximity of their competitors, Levine replied with a laugh, “As long as people are eating bagels lox and cream cheese, I’m happy. Of course, I’m happiest when they choose my product.”

Lox + Schmear specializes in small batch fish smoking, they said.

“All the fish is smoked in house. It’s the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever have. It’s really our specialty. We do the whole process. It’s all hand-sliced. There are no additives or preservatives, no artificial flavouring or colourings.”

Before the pandemic, Lox + Schmear was a popular neighbourhood hub known for its loaded cream cheese and lox sandwiches, served on Montreal-style bagels. Levine also offered soups and salad, but the smoked salmon was “king,” they said.

However, in March, Levine closed the restaurant and pivoted to online sales: https://loxandschmear.square.site

While Levine is no longer preparing their famous bagel sandwiches, they’re selling all the ingredients so their customers can make their own.

Along with bagels and cream cheeses, there’s an impressive selection of hot smoked salmon and trout options, as well as Levine’s ever popular house-smoked lox and pastrami-cured smoked lox.

Levine takes orders during the week and the clientele pick up their food on Sunday mornings.

“It’s been going quite well,” they said. “It gave people a sense of comfort when the pandemic started that we were doing all the [food] prep in a safe and thoughtful way.”

Levine grew up eating bagels, lox and cream cheese and this was their preferred dish for breaking the Yom Kippur fast.

CULINARY CALENDAR:

Sept. 22, 2 p.m.: On Lox and Life: The Forward is sponsoring a conversation about all-things-appetizing with Len Berk, the last Jewish lox slicer at Zabar’s, and Melissa Clark, the New York Times food writer and cookbook author. This talk will be moderated by Jodi Rudoren, editor-in-chief of the Forward https://forward.com/culture/452758/september-22-on-lox-and-life/

Sept. 23, 11 a.m. Bernard Betel Cooking Club: Prepare healthy make-ahead breakfasts and snacks with Maria Lindgren https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_