The Last Piece

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I was cleaning up from last night’s class, Lessons from a Shavuos Kitchen, Elevating the Everyday, and realized I forgot to take pictures. We had a great time and made some delicious dishes. Everyone had a chance to practice their knife skills by slicing mushrooms and their coordination by flipping crepes.

One of the recipes taught was a Savoury Cheesecake, an idea I encountered decades ago in England. Using either cream cheese or pressed cottage cheese, these creations became the base for flavours such as chili-cheddar, Roquefort avocado, and my personal favourite, spinach mushroom, otherwise known as the Florentine.

When I finally got the camera out, all that was left was this one last, lonely piece, but you can be sure I’ll be making more for Shavuos.

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

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

Cheesecake Florentine
Serves 10 – 12
½ cup breadcrumbs
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tablespoons butter
1 onion, finely chopped
½ pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 pound spinach, cleaned and checked
1 ½ pounds cream cheese
3 eggs
½ cup 10% cream
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
3 Tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 350.
In a bowl, combine the crumbs, butter and parmesan and press into an 8” springform pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Turn the oven down to 300.

In a pan, sauté the onion in the 2 Tablespoons of butter, add the mushrooms and cook until the mushrooms give up their liquid and are dry and lightly browned. Add the spinach and continue cooking for a few minutes or until the spinach is wilted.
Mix the cheeses, eggs, cream and seasonings until smooth. Fold in the mushroom onion mixture. Pour onto the prepared crust and bake for 1 ½ hours in the 300 oven.

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My Mother’s Russian Cake

Well, as my dear mother used to say, ‘the best laid plans of mice and men aft gang aglay’. (No, that isn’t Yiddish. I think it may be Welsh which is unusual because my Mom was Canadian born of Polish parents. But she was well read and I recall many of her sayings and quotes and find them coming out of my mouth even before I am aware of it.) I had hoped to get this recipe out to you last week, but found myself unable. Just as well, you’ve probably got more than enough on your plate and need another recipe like you need a ‘loch in kopf’ (that is Yiddish for a hole in the head).

Although you may not have enough time to work this special dessert into your pre Pesach cooking plans-which I’m sure are pretty much underway, try and practice this delicious gateaux a few times through the upcoming year. When next Pesach roles around, you will be able to make it with confidence.

Wishing you a kosher, joyful and healthy Pesach,

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

PS Although this recipe is adapted from one by Kitty Morse and Danielle Mamane, my own Mother used to make one very similar.

My Mother’s Russian Cake

Meringue
6 egg whites
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups superfine sugar (grind the sugar in a food processor)

Ganache
1 ¼ cups ground hazelnuts, toasted
3 Tablespoons superfine sugar
7 ounces semisweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 teaspoon instant coffee dissolved in ¼ cup water
3 cups pareve whipping cream
Preheat oven to 300. Grease 3 x 8” molds. Cut 3 rounds of parchment paper to line the bottom of each.
To prepare the meringue, in a large bowl beat the egg whites with the salt. Slowly add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. Divide the egg whites among the three molds and smooth the tops with a spatula. Place in the oven and decrease the heat to 275. Bake until the meringues are dry, about 1 hour, and let them dry further in the turned-off oven overnight.
Blend the hazelnuts and 1 Tablespoon of the remaining sugar.
Melt the chocolate, coffee and remaining 2 Tablespoons sugar in a heatproof bowl over a pot of simmering water. Let it cool slightly. Whip the cream. Gently fold in the melted chocolate and half of the ground nuts.
To assemble the cake, peel the paper from the bottom of the meringue. Set one round on a serving platter. With a spatula, spread 1/3 of the ganache over the top. Cover with a second round and repeat. Top with the third round and spread with the remaining ganache, spreading it over and around the sides of the cake. Pat the remaining nuts around the side of the cake and refrigerate.

From Chilli to Chocolate

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As home cooks, one of the things we want to do for our family is to offer a variety of tastes. Restaurants and take out, no matter how much of a welcome break we think they may provide, cannot meet this goal. Store bought food has to be standardized. This is the only way that a business can be successful. It can’t experiment or respond to each customer’s unique preference. This lesson really hits home during the holiday of Pesach when these establishments are usually closed.

Aside from the obvious advantages that making food from home offers, to me, the greatest one is the ability to develop an appreciation for different tastes. It is interesting that the same word, pallet, refers to our array of tastebuds, and also, on what an artist arranges and mixes paint colours.

It is at the times of our holidays, our celebrations, that we can really let loose and take our cooking to new heights. Sometimes we relish in the comfort of familiarity, and we don’t want to ‘fix what ain’t broke’, but in adding a new flavour note, we can liven up a well loved tune. This Pesach, consider adding a surprising element of heat to your repertoire. The sweet-hot flavour that fresh chillis deliver can enhance side dishes and even the humble shnitzel.

I really enjoyed making this unique spread over the last few weeks and trying it in different ways. Keeping it as a thick paste, it can be tossed with simple steamed vegetables, such as carrots, zucchini or cauliflower. Thin it down with a little more oil and hot water and toss it with roasted root vegetables, bake for an extra 30 minutes and you’ve got delicious chilli-nut coated morsels. Thin it down a little more and dredge your schnitzel (turkey, chicken or veal) in it before coating with crumbs and baking.

Here is the basic recipe,

1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 shallots or small onions, peeled and finely chopped
½ cup whole almonds, toasted
3 garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 fresh bird’s eye or Thai chillis
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Heat the 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and saute the shallots or onions for a few minutes.
Place the almonds, garlic, chillis and sauteed shallots/onions in the food processor and pulse until the mixture is smooth adding the oil, honey and seasonings until it reaches a pastelike consistency.
This chilli paste can be stored in the refrigerator for several days. Use it to add a little sweet spiciness to your Pesach menues.

Next week I look forward to sharing my favourite Pesach dessert, a meringue layered with chocolate and hazelnut ganache-not at all difficult.

Shabbat Shalom,

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

Mashgiach@Home 1st class
PS Here is a picture of the first graduating class of Mashgiach@Home taught by Rabbi Tsvi Heber, our 3 part series, teaching everything you need to know about expertly managing your kosher kitchen.

Not quite ready to say goodbye to Purim and hello to Pesach

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Now that the house is finally cleaned up from all the Purim festivities, we know what’s coming next. But Purim was fun and I don’t want to say goodbye so fast. It was unexpected, surprising and, as one visitor stated, more low key than in previous years. I am getting big on low key. When things are low key, there is room to improvise. Who knows, (“U-me yodea?” as it says in Megillas Esther), what might happen?

I don’t know about you, but for me, in order to ease into a new experience, rather than run smack dab into it, I look for a ‘hinge’, something that two separate events share in common. So let’s say I was looking for a hinge that I could get excited about, that links Purim to Pesach. Hmmm…both holidays share time with family and friends…wine…cleaning (lots of it) and of course, the ever popular Jewish holiday theme of; ‘We were oppressed, we fought and won, now let’s eat.’

But let’s go back to the “U-me yodea?” Mordechai asks. These simple words are posed to Esther when she is reticent to act on the opportunity that ultimately leads to her greatness. But, hold on, this question sounds familiar. Isn’t “Ehad me yodea?” (“Who knows one?”) one of our most beloved Seder songs? We have sung this song at very high speed, complete with hand actions, each year, evidently soused from four cups of wine.

If we stick with this line of reasoning a little longer, both Purim and Pesach are pointing to the same idea, but in a remarkable way. These holidays are all about the question. As the saying goes, a good question shmekts (is tasty). Does the converse hold true? Does a good taste make a question? Do people want to know what makes something taste good? Maybe inspiring curiousity is the inspiring hinge? And, if the question is the thing, how do we spark one? We all know rewards and praise are motivating, but how about the spark of a real question? How do we ignite that?

At this point, I have to say that this year I made a new hamentashen. I was experimenting with a twist on my classic green beans, based on a recipe by Mark Bittman, which called for a dressing of almonds, chilli, garlic and oil. It was thoroughly delicious. Emboldened by working with chilli, and ready to make hamentashen, I thought why not add some to the chocolate hazelnut filling? Cautiously, a small batch was made. Realizing that we had sampled a more-than-needed-to-test portion of the filling, we put down our spoons and declared a victory!

Here is the recipe for the hamentashen filling, which I urge you to make note of for next year.

3 cups hazelnuts, toasted, with the skins rubbed off
a 9 ounce bag of semisweet chocolate chips
zest from the rinds of 2 oranges
2 fresh chillis, seeded
3-4 Tablespoons simple syrup (1 cup water simmered with 1/2 cup sugar for 10-15 minutes)

Mix all ingredients except the syrup in a food processor and pulse until the ingredients form a paste.
Add enough syrup to bind the chopped mixture together.
This is enough filling to stuff 2 dozen large hamentashen

Flavours were found that created something unexpected for Purim and that will add a deliciously different spark to Pesach and although I cannot use the chilli almond paste (recipe provided next week) with green beans on Pesach, you can be sure it will show up in a major way. And when it’s prepared, may our loved ones ask “Mmmmmm…What’s in this?”

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

PS Please join us for COR’s Pre Pesach Community Lecture at Clanton Park Synagogue on Tuesday March 5th at 8:00 pm. Please click on the link to view the poster for details
pesach.poster.2013

The Truth about Dinner

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Even during the mounting activity that goes together with the week before Purim like your favourite shoes goes together with your favourite handbag, I still have to make dinner.

The reality is that the ones I love go off full each morning and come back hungry at the end of the day. Unless I, myself, am hungry, I am still almost always taken by surprise.

In the midst of this icy-rainy-slushy-freezy weather buffet we are experiencing daily, it’s hard to know whether we should put on rain boots, mukluks, or skates to go do our marketing. Some days it seems to make more sense to minimize running around, stay in, and make dinner from the (ever dwindling, Pre-Pesach) pantry.

But how can I possibly do that? How can I happily stay home when, in my mind’s eye, I see the colour coordinated, bow tied Shaloch Manos waiting to be created? How can I cozy up, comfy clothed in the kitchen, when I imagine the delectable homemade dishes to be made for the Seuda and the ingredients that need to be procured? What about the cards that beg to be written and posted to dear ones who are far away? And me? I can barely get my engine started (not just the automotive one) and put into the first gear of making dinner!

When I was younger, and had way too much energy, I used to cram all my imaginings into the precious few spaces that remained at the end of the day. The arts and crafts and baking tins used to come out in the wee hours. I knew even then that something was out of whack, but I just had to finish that one last detail.

Now that I’m older (and I can’t claim wiser, but certainly slower) I understand that I was doing it all backwards. I should have been chugging along at my own merry speed, sharing what I was already doing along the way. Not putting the whole kit and caboodle of life on hold to focus on the whipped cream-with-the-cherry on top. Perhaps you are more clever than I. Perhaps you have discovered the truth of self knowledge and prioritizing long ago.

A friend of mine sent me an email that claims you can tell where a product comes from by the first three numbers of its barcode. Apparently, the alleged ‘jig’ is up because now we’ve figured out when ingredients come from China, even when they don’t admit it. A savvy team of sleuths looked into this and discovered it was a hoax. There may still be information covertly hidden about the origins of nationality of a food product, but the bar codes don’t tell the secret.

I found this incident very telling because, as in life, there is no sneaky little formula that figures stuff out for you. Delusions abound, and the insight that Purim offers, if I am paying attention and not running around tying up bows, gives me the chance to realize what I really need to focus on. Making dinner.

Here is a recipe that can be offered anytime, (yes, its even perfect for your Purim seuda) that is based on a recipe by a favourite English cookbook author of mine, Rose Elliot. Her style of cooking is frugal, no-nonsense, and not particularly pretty, but it sure does the job when they come home hungry. This recipe lends itself to experimenting with other varieties of beans paired with different seasonings. Simple and satisfying.

Chickpea Pancakes
makes 12 medium sized pancakes

2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 19 ounce tin or chick peas, drained
3 Tablespoons tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 egg
1 teaspoon cumin (optional)
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
2 pinches of cayenne pepper
A little water
¼ cup wholewheat flour
2 Tablespoons olive oil

In a food processor, mince the garlic. Add the chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, egg and seasonings. If the mixture is too thick, let it down with a little water.

Transfer the mixture to a bowl and fold in the flour.

Heat a skillet with the oil and form pancakes with a large spoon. Fry until lightly browned on one side, about 5 minutes, and gently turn over and continue cooking for another 5 minutes.

Serve warm on their own or with a garlicky dipping sauce.

Shabbat Shalom and a Happy Purim,
Nancy Weisbrod, Director of Culinary Education, Kashruth Council of Canada

Knowledge is Power

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This week marked the first class of the 3 part series called Mashgiach @ Home. While we are all busy in the next week or so getting ready to celebrate the holiday of Purim, this series offers a unique opportunity to learn how to apply the laws of kashruth with COR’s Director of Community Kosher, Rabbi Tsvi Heber.

We were enthralled as Rabbi Heber walked us through the first class of Mashgiach @ Home. From young students to Bubbies, there was a wide range of backgrounds among the participants that spanned from ‘new to the world of kosher’, to women who have been keeping kosher for decades. What united us all was the desire to gain more knowledge and understanding of how to be cleverer, more informed and joyful in managing our kosher kitchens.

Mashgiach ‘secrets’ and back door insights were shared that definitely reframe the way many of us think about keeping a kosher home.

Rabbi Heber introduced the idea of applying a 3 layered model, entitled the Kosher Pyramid, in formulating our thoughts and decisions. The foundation layer is Ingredients, the second layer is Equipment, and the top layer is Process.

In the first class, we discussed Ingredients. One of the most surprising pieces of information taught was that there is a category of ingredients (approximately 20,000!) that are innately kosher and do not require certification. These are called Group 1 ingredients. Now lest we became giddy, we were cautioned that this list is constantly changing. Therefore it is also important to consistently ask questions if we want to use these ingredients, because although the ingredients, themselves, may be kosher, the equipment or process may not.

It is a wonderful feeling to be able to settle all the small inconsistencies and stories we hear that cloud our clarity when it comes to keeping the mitzvah of Kashruth. It is also empowering to know we can exercise our judgement and
1. save money by purchasing certain ingredients at a lower cost, and
2. buy some items (such as extra virgin olive oil) that have unique properties.

I would like to leave you with a recipe for a vegetable kugel, using either zucchini or broccoli that would be lovely served at a Shabbos meal, Purim seuda or even baked in small loaves or muffin tins and given as Mishloach Manos.

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

Zucchini or Broccoli Kugel
Serves 8

3 Tablespoons margarine
3 Tablespoons flour
2 cups unsweetened almond or soya milk
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Either:
8 medium zucchini, grated or 2 lb bag of frozen broccoli
2 onions, finely chopped 2 onions, finely chopped

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
½ tsp pepper
4 eggs, separated with the whites stiffly beaten

Prepare a 9” square pan by lining it with parchment paper.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the white sauce, heat the milk to just below scalding.

In a saucepan, melt the margarine over medium heat. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring continuously until the flour is cooked but not browned. Add the hot milk and cook until the sauce thickens. Lower the heat and cook for a few minutes more. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a deep sided skillet. Sauté the onion for a few minutes or until translucent and then add either the zucchini or broccoli.

If making the zucchini kugel, it has to be cooked for about 20 minutes because it gives up a lot of moisture.

If making the broccoli kugel, sauté for about 5-10 minutes, season with salt and pepper and coarsely puree in a food processor.

Blend in the white sauce and egg yolks, one at a time.

Fold in the egg whites.

Pour the pudding in the pan and bake for about 50-60 minutes.

Meet My New Friend, Kohlrabi

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One thing that I value about writing this blog is that it gives me courage to try new things.

With that being said, I’ve been walking through the produce aisle these last few months, and believe I saw a new vegetable winking at me. I couldn’t help but notice it. It seemed to say; I can’t make up my mind if I’m a greens, a root, or someone’s idea of a science experiment, but go ahead and try me, I’m (kind of) local, affordable, and I don’t need to be checked for bugs.

You wouldn’t think that at this stage of the culinary game, I would be so tentative, but I guess there is always reticence when it comes to experimenting.

Deciding to take a chance, into the basket it went.

When I got home and looked through some books to see how to prepare it, I read that some put it in soup, and some cook it (steamed or roasted), but the idea that was most appealing to me was using it in a salad, raw.

Although it was difficult to cut away the green leaves and not use them (someone out there, if you do cook kohlrabi greens, please let me know), all that remained was to peel and we were off to the races.

Into the food processor using the large shredding disc, along with a carrot, tossing it with a creamy dressing, and voila, kohlrabi cole slaw.

This vegetable, a member of the Brassica family, (which also includes cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage) is rich in vitamin C and minerals, and makes a welcome addition to our, occasionally monotonous, winter vegetable repertoire.

Do give it a try, and, if you see me in the supermarket aisles having conversations with the produce, feel free to interrupt.

Kohlrabi Slaw
serves 8
1 bunch kohlrabi, (about 2 pounds) leaves and stems removed and peeled
2 carrots, peeled
½ cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons white vinegar
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
a little water

Shred the kohlrabi and carrots using the large shredding disc of your food processor.
Mix all the dressing ingredients together and toss with the shredded vegetables.

Remember to register for Mashgiach @ Home, a 3 part series, Tuesdays Feb. 12, 19 and 26 at 8 pm taught by Rabbi Heber, COR’s Director of Community. Use the following link to see the details.

http://cor.ca/assets/static/node/201301/files/427/moshgiach%20at%20home%20poster.pdf

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

Make a Date with your Chicken

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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.

http://cor.ca/assets/static/node/201301/files/427/moshgiach%20at%20home%20poster.pdf

Shabbat shalom,

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

Smoked Turkey in honour of Tu B’Shvat?

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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
dessert.

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. http://cor.ca/assets/static/node/201301/files/427/moshgiach%20at%20home%20poster.pdf

Kosher consumers unite!

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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 customerservice@loblaws.ca 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.
Sincerely,
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