Make a Date with your Chicken

As mentioned in last week’s blog, my old friend, chicken baked with dried fruit and olives, in which all take delight, actually got jilted, because I ran out of olives. (Let’s not discuss the Wednesday night fridge raid that must have taken place evidenced by a tidy pile of mounded pits that were discovered when I came down to cook Thursday morning.)

So, necessity being the mother of invention, I looked around the kitchen and spied my little container of dates, and thought, Hmmmm…what can I introduce you to? Dates are naturally very sweet. Chicken goes well with sweet, but needs something to balance the flavour to create that symphony, that when hit upon, is an instantly recognizable classic.

I wandered over to the pantry to see what was in cold storage. My local supply of garlic ran out before Chanuka and I really don’t like buying the garlic from China which is all that seems to be available at the market.

In 2008, Trader Joe’s stopped selling garlic and other “single-ingredient” foods from China. When I looked into it, I learned a few unsettling facts. The bulk of the world’s garlic is produced in China and the hat trick that did me in was;

1. it can be doused in chemicals to stop sprouting,
2. it is whitened using bleach, and
3. it can be grown in untreated sewage.

I use peeled fresh garlic from California, under the brand of Christopher Ranch, which is sold in the refrigerated section. It is a little more expensive, but I am a true believer in the power of the bulb, so I don’t mind. So I was delighted when Pat the Produce Man showed me that they are now carrying fresh bulb garlic from this same California source alongside the usual Chinese stock. Garlic is going in everything these days, now that flu season is upon us. I don’t know if it’s the powers of garlic keeping everyone away, or its immune boosting properties that keep the germs at bay, but its liberal use is perfuming the kitchen the way caramelized onions do in the fall.

Now I have plenty of garlic in the larder. But last week I didn’t. What I had last week was shallots, which is a French kissing cousin to garlic and onions (they are a little more delicate), wonderful either finely minced and paired with mushrooms, or roasted halved. Providing the perfect counterpoint to the dates, rounded out by the spicy notes of a little fresh ginger and cinnamon, bathed in a little honey and lightened with a little lemon juice, it truly was a dish fit for the New Year of the tree.

Spiced Chicken with Shallots and Dates
serves 6-8

2 whole chickens, cut into eigths
2 Tablespoons olive oil
6 shallots, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 Tablespoons peeled, grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1 cup chicken stock or water
250 grams or ½ cup pitted dates
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons lemon juice

Heat the oil in a sauté pan and brown the chicken pieces lightly.

Transfer to a baking dish and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Add the shallots and brown. Add the ginger, cinnamon, salt and pepper.

Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock while scraping up the browned bits left from the chicken.

Add the shallots and cooking liquid to the baking dish. Scatter the dates and drizzle the honey over the chicken.

Cover with a tight fitting lid (ideally), or tin foil, and bake in the oven for 45 minutes.

Remove the cover and continue baking for another 30 minutes or until the chicken is browned.

Squeeze the lemon juice over the dish before serving.

Please join Rabbi Heber, COR’s director of Community Kosher, and myself at the Village Shul for a very special series entitled Mashgiach @ Home on Tuesday nights, Feb. 12, 19 and 26. These classes are designed for those who have been keeping kosher for years and, also, for those who are considering keeping kosher, by educating in very practical terms how we apply the laws of Kashruth in our own kitchens.
There will be recipe handouts, follow-up fun quizzes after each class and a completion certificate for you to proudly display.

Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada


Smoked Turkey in honour of Tu B’Shvat?

On the 15th day of the month of Shvat we celebrate Tu B’Shvat. As every child is taught, it is the birthday of the trees. One custom is to eat fruits of the seven species for which the land of Israel is praised; wheat, barley, olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Since the holiday falls on Shabbat, dishes that feature these ingredients will be offered. (Athough I must admit, I never thought of wheat and barley as fruits.)

Wheat is Challa and then there is barley in the cholent. I’ll make a baked chicken dish with shallots, olives and dates, (which is as simple as it sounds-olive oil, wine vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper for the marinade, then add shallots cut in ¼’s, pitted olives and chopped dates, bake in a 375 degree
oven for 1 ¼ hours) with fresh grapes and pomegranate seeds sprinkled on something creamy for

Which brings me to figs. I remember serving figs on fresh fruit platters, cut in half and looking so fetchingly Mediterranean, so artfully Rembrandt-esque. But does anyone ever eat the figs? No!

So I asked myself, when have I enjoyed eating figs? And I remembered sitting at a Café in Israel spooning fig jam onto a warm croissant and sipping a café au lait watching the world go by and realized I like fig jam.

Surfacing from my moments of fig mindfulness, I wondered with what else fig jam might go? I recalled sweet and tangy chutneys accompanying coldcuts and, beside a variety of mustards, I
often serve savoury red pepper jelly. It’s a British thing, and it’s very good. Can you guess where I’m headed?
Fig jam and smoked meat doesn’t sound too radical, does it?

It just so happened that this week my brother took me on a field trip to visit the new Perl’s. I was offered samples of some of their products (which should be in supermarkets soon) and tasted their smoked turkey. It was nothing short of delicious.

They explained that their product is unique because they dry smoke, infusing the flavour into the meat using slow burning wooden chips (as opposed to injecting meat with liquid smoke).

Sent home with a smoked turkey thigh loot bag, I took the meat off the bone and used it in a kosher version of a Cobb salad (pictured above). The thigh bone that you see on the cutting board will be tucked into the cholent.

Slices of smoked turkey accompanied by the following version of fresh fig jam, that was made when figs were in season, complete our Tu B’Shvat Shabbat celebration. Tuck this recipe away until next fall, when this delectable comestable can be made again.

Fresh Fig Compote

8 fresh figs, cut in ¼’s
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 Tablespoons spoons orange liquor (optional)

Dissolve the sugar in the water and simmer for 10 minutes making a syrup.

Poach the figs in the syrup for about 12 minutes until softened.

With a slotted spoon, remove the figs to a bowl. Add the lemon juice and liquor and continue to boil the syrup until reduced by half. Pour over the figs and chill.

This is delicious served either with meat or spooned over cream cheese.

Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS Join COR and The Village Shul for a 3 part evening series entitled Mashgiach @ Home Feb. 12, 19 and 26.
Visit the COR website for more details.

Kosher consumers unite!

I was doing my regular Monday morning grocery run when I bumped into a friend in the aisle. We started to schmooze and she said she was meaning to email me about something that was on her mind. I immediately thought this is something important, so I put away the grocery list and paid attention.

She shared that it really bothered her that PC chocolate chips now have a dairy designation. I agreed. (Personally, since our resident chocolate chip cookie baker has moved out, it hasn’t bothered me that much, but that’s another story.) She said that she got in touch with someone ‘in the know’ and was told they are the very same chocolate chips, but the production process has changed. They are now being made very close to a similar dairy product and there is concern (rightly so) over confusion.

She told me that amongst her friends, this product is really missed. Most of the baking done is for Shabbos, and most families make meat on Shabbos. The chips are of a very high quality, affordable and accessible and were a staple in everyone’s pantry and now there is only a bare spot on the shelf where the chips used to be.

Does the company know what’s up? Can they see the cloud hanging over the baking aisle? Now, if I was the President in President’s Choice, I would be looking at sales, often. I wonder if sales have been affected since PC chips have come under a dairy designation? Remembering the many supermarket conversations I heard last spring cited the cleverness of those who thought to stockpile. In the parking lot, people shared, “they’re still on the shelves at such and such a location. Hurry.” In fact, I gave my last supersize bag to a dear young Rebbetzin who, herself, lives for chocolate. I ranked that amongst my greatest acts of chesed last year.

I spoke to a colleague at COR and he said he had a meeting with the higher ups of the company that make the chips and tried to convey the level of frustration that kosher consumers are experiencing. He told them that families are ‘occupying the streets, emptying out their pantries and setting garbage cans on fire’. Ok, maybe what he was referring to wasn’t a sign of civil unrest, but only preparing for Pesach and burning the chometz, but he was trying to make a point.

The point is, we miss our pareve decadent chocolate chips.

Why not let’s see what we can do about this?

Companies respond to consumer pressure, so let’s make our voices heard.

Send an email to and say something like;

“I am a frustrated Loblaw’s kosher customer. Ever since President Choice’s decadent chocolate chips were no longer designated pareve, my baking is not the same. Please do what has to be done to restore the pareve status of this product.
Ms. Kosher Consumer

Why not? What can we loose? And maybe we’re taking the first step to get our pareve chocolate chips back. Because, as any kosher consumer knows, the only place meat and milk mix is in the Chocolate Chip Moose spotted above.

While we’re waiting on the world to change, I give you my mother’s Toll House Chocolate Chip recipe. Her granddaughter’s innovation of balling the dough with a small spring-loaded ice cream scoop and then freezing them before baking results in a dream of a moist, chewy cookie.

Toll House Cookies
1/3 cup margarine
1/3 cup shortening (Crisco)
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup oatmeal flakes
½ cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream margarine, shortening and brown sugar until smooth and creamy. Add egg.
Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and beat in to the creamed mixture.
Fold in oatmeal, nuts and chocolate chips.
Form into cookies as described above and bake on parchment lined baking sheets for 9 minutes.

Shabbat shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

The Last Word on Becoming a Good Cook: Cooking Role Models

If you want to become a good cook, look to others you admire and ask them “What is one thing that you can teach me?” Listen carefully to the answer. It might come in the form of a recipe or it might be a piece of valuable kitchen wisdom. But making the people you look up to into your mentors can yield rich rewards untold.

In my opinion, cooking is not about the ‘showstopper’ or the razz-a-ma-tazz, but rather, the quiet consistency and dependability upon which a person can be relied.

I look to the women who have made a commitment to building their families and communities, in part, through their kitchens. These are the Rebbetzins, teachers, and neighbours down the block who have turned their kitchens into holy spaces that warmly draw me in.

This week’s recipe:
When I’ve sent out previous blogs, several readers have asked where are the recipes? They are cleverly, or so I thought, imbedded in the articles. Perhaps this is not the case. Therefore, I am including a dynamite recipe for Smoked Turkey quiche that we prepared in this week’s class, Savoury Baking. I hope you can try this one because it is a winner!

Smoked Turkey Quiche
Serves 8

6 ounces margarine/shortening
2 cups flour
½ teaspoon salt
6 Tablespoons ice water

Add ½ the flour and salt together in a mixer. Cut the shortening in and blend for a minute or two. Add the rest of the flour and mix until it is crumbly. Sprinkle on the water and mix until the dough comes together.

Let the dough rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

Roll out the dough and line a 10” springform pan with it pressing the dough into the corner. Line the dough with parchment paper and weigh with pie weights (dried beans work well).

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn oven done to 350 degrees. Remove pie weights and parchment paper and bake for a further 15 minutes.

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 pounds zucchini, coarsely chopped
1 cup shredded skinless smoked turkey
8 eggs
1 cup almond milk
2 cups coconut milk
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Heat oil in a skillet and sauté onions on a medium high heat. Add the zucchini and sauté for another 10 minutes.

Scatter the onion -zucchini mixture, as well as the smoked turkey over the baked shell.

Mix the eggs, almond and coconut milks, and seasonings together.

Pour the custard into the shell and bake for 1 ¼ hours or until set.

Shabbat Shalom,

Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

More on What Makes A Good Cook?


In continuing the discussion of what makes a good cook, some connect it to their emotions and creative natures. Their cooking is an expression of the love that they feel.

Certainly this is a wonderful motivation, and, no doubt, part of the picture, but can a cook sustain herself solely on giving? Operating from this mindset can sometimes lead to burnout.

Some mentally assign cooking for their families as their job. Although this mindset can get you through some rough patches, ultimately we do a job because of what we get in return. Can you imagine hanging a sign on the fridge saying “Kitchen is Closed. Employee on strike.” (Hmmm, maybe we’re on to something here.) Although it is a job to cook for our families, cooking is not our job.

Let’s be real. We’re in it for the long haul. My friend Bev says it best; “a good cook never gives up trying”, and then adds “now a smart cook…that’s a different story. A smart cook sticks with what they know best and keeps repeating it!” And although we may think this approach leads to boredom and dissatisfaction, the truth is that this is the key to mastery.

Skill development is an essential ingredient to acquiring mastery and that means practice, practice, practice.

Robert Greene in his book, Mastery, writes in order to master a skill, we must learn to focus our concentration and that multitasking leads to the death of the process.

No wonder I often feel conflicted when I cook! On one hand I feel there is so much to do that I can’t possibly ever get it all done and on the other hand, that cooking gives me the opportunity to go inside myself and work on something I find fascinating.

I vote for more of the latter.

I enjoy making this week’s recipe, Braised Sweet and Sour Cabbage with Apples and Onions at this time of year. Shredding cabbage on my wooden board with the snow falling outside is meditative. The ingredients are simple, colourful and come together in a homey way.

Shabbat shalom,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada