What Does a Chef and a Cook Have In Common?

Kitchen Class May 2013
Last night I attended a fundraising event for the Toronto Teachers’ Center of Torah Umesorah, ‘Taste for Success’, the ‘Kosher Chef Challenge’. The Teachers’ Center provides all teachers in the Jewish Day Schools with resources, equipment and professional development. It was an excellent evening with lots of fun, surprises and culinary instruction. A raffle was held and the winner got to join the judges on the dais and sample the chefs’ creations. Imagine my surprise when out of this packed hall of women, my name was announced! It was a sincere honour and thrill to be on a stage and join celebrated individuals who have devoted their careers to culinary excellence.

While I was sitting up there in front of everyone, (and hoping that I didn’t spill anything on myself while tasting) I got to thinking. I wondered what united these chefs and judges, who possess a very high level of knowledge and expertise, with the hundreds of devoted home cooks in the audience? I heard the answer from one of the competing chefs, Ayelet Or. When questioned by the culinary moderator, Executive Chef of the Park Hyatt, Joan Monfaredi, what Ayelet was using in her dish, she replied; “Love”. I thought a truer word was never spoken.

Every last person in that vast, packed room shared the desire to educate ourselves in the pursuit of feeding those we love.

Every food professional, from which we hope to be inspired, all learned to cook from someone. I bet if you sat down over a glass of wine with each one of them, they would admit that their desire to cook came from home.

I don’t think the quality of the dining experience is provided by the excitement of the ingredients, or the latest piece of equipment, but rather with what dedication and commitment the cook infused the food.

This week’s recipe is for Squash Galette. A galette is a roughly formed tart. No need for a tart pan or pie plate. Simply follow the directions and prepare on baking sheet.

Let’s change the world one recipe at a time,

Nancy Weisbrod, Culinary Education Director, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS Please join us for two new exciting classes. See the above poster for details.

Onion and Squash Galette
Serves 8

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

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup chopped walnuts (optional)

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 the it resembles a crumbly mixture. Sprinkle on the water and mix until the dough comes together.

Let the dough rest for 1 hour in the fridge.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place squash chunks on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes or until softened.

Sauté onions in a skillet and season with salt and pepper and then set aside until cool.

Roll out the pastry into a rough circle, approximately ¼” thick. Mound the squash filling in the centre leaving a border of 2-3” all around. Scatter the onions over and sprinkle with the walnuts, if using. Gather up the dough around the filling leaving the centre open.

Bake the galette in a 375 oven for 45 minutes or until lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Make Each Meal Count

DSC03923DSC03924

During this period on the Jewish calendar, we are counting the days between Pesach and Shavuos, the holiday when we celebrate receiving the Torah.

Although I don’t regularly think about carrying over the dishes I make at Pesach into the year, my thoughts are shifting. That’s because, I have to admit, I really do love the food I make on Pesach. Why then do I habitually brace myself right around Purim as if preparing for something unpleasant? I accept that Pesach is hard work, and I’ve learned to free myself from other commitments in the lead-up, but why do I have such a hard time thinking about my Passover kitchen as a year round resource and refuse to capitalize on its benefits?

When I plan my Passover cooking, I usually begin thinking about what I can’t use-chometz. I’ve noticed that this is not such a positive approach. If I was going to make a meal and my family asked me; “What’s for dinner?” I definitely would not respond; “Well, we’re having such and such, but that’s only because I couldn’t make so and so.” I’m sure you would agree that it’s not the best sales tool, for either the cook or the consumer. So this year, I’m trying to make a conscious effort to focus on what is special at Pesach. If you refer to the COR Pesach guide, http://www.cor.ca/view/434/cor_passover_guide_20135773.html, you will see some of my favourites, but there are a few other dishes that are really excellent and I had to taste them to remember how good they are. Not to mention that I received an ice cream maker from my kids for a pre Pesach birthday gift (talk about the gift that keeps on giving), and we really enjoyed that.

In reviewing my Pesach meals, (so that I’m not starting from square one next year), there is something I make that has no history, symbolism, or particular eye appeal, but is downright delicious and that is a Sweet Potato Tart. I would like to call it a Sweet Potato Pie, because the name rolls off the tongue in such a sweet Southern way, but then you might risk serving this only for dessert. Although the flavour is a little on the sweet side, and can fall into the ‘afters’ category, it definitely is a savoury dish and belongs during the meal, especially if it’s served with a mess of caramelized onions on the side.

In trying to bring Pesach into the year, and making each day (meal?) count, I’ve decided that the focus of my next few blogs will be on savoury tarts, of which the Sweet Potato is an example. They are so lovely and light and equally delicious either pareve or dairy, especially if you like to serve cheesy-milky meals during the holiday of Shavuos. They can also be prepared in advance and served hot for Friday night or room temperature for Shabbos lunch.

Although, this tart looks rustic, it’s taste will convince you to include it in your recipe repertoire (and there is no oil or margarine in the filling, only the creaminess of the sweet potato).

Let’s change the world, one recipe at a time,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

PS In the pictures above, one tart was make with walnuts and the other with pecans. Please click on the following Recipe Title to take you to the recipe:
Sweet Potato Tart

Say It With Chocolate

dark-chocolate-bark-roasted-almonds-seeds-recipe-fw0311-lg

The Pesach dishes are now put away and when the holiday ended, it all seemed to happen so fast, I almost wonder if I dreampt the whole thing?

Weeks and weeks of preparing went by in a blur. The seders were over in a blink and the remaining days were a timeless mix of the wonderful roller coaster of family being together and friends dropping by, with just the right amount of delicious foods, singing and stories holding it all together. I am always astounded by the delicate balance between how much food I prepare (lots) and what’s left at the end (none). Nobody went hungry, I assure you, but the cupboard was officially bare.

One of the primary kitchen values I was taught, especially at Pesach, is that nothing is thrown out. “Everything I have I need and everything I need I have.” Even cardboard and plastic containers are reused to store little delectable treasures.

I think it is the simplicity of this approach that makes such an impact. The family has long since discovered that the matza farfel cardboard drums become cookie jars and those unassuming boxes that held the shmura matzas have been rededicated in the service of delicious.

Everyone learns not to take anything for granted and to experience the rewards of investigation.

One of the simplest and most enjoyed treats of Pesach were the chocolate ‘Chariot Wheels’ (aka chocolate bark) that have become our simcha signature.

I took a 10.5 ounce bar of Shmerling’s Menage bittersweet chocolate and melted it very slowly. The bar was broken into chunks and put in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water and left, undisturbed, for 20 minutes or so. Once melted, I poured it into a round aluminum foil pan (no greasing or paper liner, nothing) over which coarsely chopped, toasted almonds and craisins were scattered. I let it sit on the counter to firm and then put it in the fridge for an hour to move its hardening along, but once solid, popped it out of the container and put it in a napkin lined box for storage.

This was a simple way to celebrate joy and its always nice to share a little something sweet from our kitchens to mark a happy occasion. Especially on Pesach. It’s not like we can run out to the store for anything fancy and this is where the resourcefulness of the Pesach mindset benefits. I hope it lasts.

To My Kosher Kitchen’s dear readership: Thank you for your comments on the What’s Cooking article from My Kosher Kitchen that appeared in this years COR Passover Guide. There were many creative suggestions and good questions generated. One in particular was Heather’s idea to save the orange syrup from her own Pesach Candied Orange Peels and use it in her hot drinks (like the Sweetened Tea Essence) or as a syrup for Sponge Cake. Great idea, Heather!

Please continue to send in your helpful tips and suggestions so that we all may learn.

We’re changing the world, one recipe at a time,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada