Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wildflower Honey Cheesecake with Apple Compote


The Jewish new year is a perfect time to celebrate, do a bit of soul-searching, reflect on strategies to attain balance, establish new year resolutions (kinda like a phase one of 2014 NYE), and of course  innovate with new apple and honey dessert creations. Upon last week's visit to Intermiel honey farm, I thought very long and hard on how I will incorporate honey in my favorite desserts. At first the idea of creating a honey lemon meringue pie crossed my mind, but then I thought: "nah! Lemon Meringue Pie is sublime just the way it is." And then I thought of a honey Molten Lava cake (umm chocolate)... "nah! this cake is amazing just the way it is."  ;) And then it dawned on me, a Wildflower Cheesecake, especially when wild and radical provincial charters - I wish to make kaput into compote - are being proposed, and I screeched "Heureka!"



I don't know anyone in Montreal who would refuse a slice of this cheesecake; and my co-worker, who happens to be a bride-to-be, is starting to be ency and blame me for potentially not fitting into her wedding dress due to taste testing my desserts - please forgive me Nancy. In any case, there are two ways any mama can make this wild cake (1) Dairy: with classic Philadelphia cream cheese or (2) Pareve: with Tofutti non-dairy cream cheese - both very delicious. Plus, the wildflower taste topped with an apple and cinnamon compote, and combined with a sweet pecan graham crust accentuates symbolic Rosh Hashanah flavors. This cheesecake is truly a divine dessert intervention, representing sweet things to come for the new year. 



"Wishing all of our friends and family an amazing, positive, fruitful year filled with health, prosperity, strength, freedom and joy. 

With all our love, 

Leslie & my minime clan"







INGREDIENTS makes 10 to 12 slices

You will need a 9 inch springform pan.

CHEESECAKE:
  • 24 oz of Philadelphia cream cheese or Tofutti pareve cream cheese (3 pkg, each 8 oz/ 250 g)
  • 1/2 cup of sour cream or Tofutti pareve sour cream
  • 1/2 cup of Wildflower honey or regular honey
  • 1 tbsp of granulated sugar, optional (depending on how sweet you want the cake)
  • 3 eggs
  • PAM oil spray

CRUST:
  • 3/4 cup of graham cracker crumbs 
  • 1/2 cup of finely chopped toasted pecans
  • 1/4 cup of unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon

APPLE & CINNAMON COMPOTE:
  • 2 cups of diced Cortland or other type of apples (4 big apples)
  • Cinnamon stick
  • 1 tbsp orange juice
  • 3 tbsp of water
  • 1 1/2 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon 

DIRECTIONS
  1. Grease the bottom of 9-inch springform with PAM and set aside.
  2. CRUST: In a bowl stir together graham cracker crumbs, pecans, melted butter and brown sugar until moistened. Equaly press the mixture in the bottom of the pan and bake in the oven for 350 degrees F, until hard 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven, and let cool.
  3. CHEESECAKE: In bowl, beat cheese with honey, then beat in sugar, eggs, sour cream. Pour into crust.
  4. Set springform pan in the oven and place a bowl filled with water in the oven, right beside the cake. Bake the cake at 350 degrees F, bake for 65 to 70 minutes until the edge is set but the center still jiggles and there is no more shine on top.
  5. Remove from the oven and cool. Cover and refrigerate until the cake is set, about 5 hours.
  6. APPLE CINNAMON COMPOTE: In a small saucepan, whisk sugar with cornstarch, whisk in gradually water, orange juice, and the cinnamon stick. Add the diced apples, cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until thickened and apples are soft and breaking apart 8 to 10 minutes. Pour onto cooled cheesecake and voila you have a Rosh Hashanah apple and honey cheesecake!

Adapted from Blueberry cheesecake recipe from Canadian Living August 2008 edition

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Becoming a Friend of Hutchison


With Mindy Pollack, 24, the 1st Hassidic woman running  for City Council. She is running as part of Projet Montreal for the Claude Ryan District of Outremont. Mindy has initiated her community relations position when she
co-founded the social group Friends of Hutchison Street

Hassidish neighbors walk past the Outremont
information booth.

Have you ever stopped to smell the roses, start a conversation on bicycle-grown tomatoes while the City's 1st Hassidish female political candidate serves up the best Rugelach in town? That's a glimpse of my delightful and out-of-the-box afternoon spent at SenseLab's Three Mile Meal public culinary street fair last Friday. SenseLab is Concordia University's “laboratory for thought in motion,” composed of creatives and intellectuals working together to explore the active passage between research and creation. This event's goal was to encourage neighbors to get to know each other through artistic and social means, especially in a part town where the Hassidic community has encountered its share of discrimination and strife over the years.

The Kosher Cheskie's 3 Mile Meal Food Stand in Outremont,
located on Bernard Street between Hutchison and Durocher.



















The weekend event ran from August 23rd until the 25th, from 2:00 to 5:00 pm, and was held in three different parts of town, namely Outremont, Mile End and Park Extension. In each booth, a new kind of food was served and a mobile art piece was displayed. As a kosher foodie, my mandate was to experience the Outremont kosher booth where Mindy Pollack, Montreal's first ever Hassidish female political candidate, as well as the co-founder of the Friends of Hutchison committee was offering Cheskie Rugelach and nash (yiddish for treats) to walkers.

Three Mile Meal was initiated by Concordia University's SenseLab founder Erin Manning,  Concordia film studies and studio art professor who holds a PhD in Philosophy and who also happens to be an Outremont resident. Erin has recently been touched by misunderstandings that have occurred in front of her home between Hassidic neighbors and other residents. With this event, Erin's goal was to foster open lines of communication between neighbors via the three different booths.

It was really nice to see children and adults from different ethnic groups taking part in this uplifting and community building event. Soon after, I realized how much fun one can have simply hanging around sitting on a street bench, conversing with new friends, watching children from religious and non-religious backgrounds devour Rugelach,  and ride whimsical trikes or bicycles.

Hassidic boys having a blast riding an artistic bicycle that has growing vegetables in it.

I'll never forget the day back in 2010 when I witnessed first-hand Celine Forget, a past City Councillor of Outremont, obsessively taking countless photos of little Belz girls playing in the park behind the Belz Community school or getting onto school buses. Celine is known as Outremont's anti-semitic serial photographer and bully who has made it her mission to passively-aggressively harass Hassidic citizen's through legislative and various other tactics (I.e.: Celine Forget trying to Sabotage Purim, (Maya Johnson, CTV ReportsWorld's Collide for Outremont's Hassidic Population).

Mindy Pollack had enough of this type of aggression, resulting in her co-initiating with Leila Marshi, of Palestinian background, The Friends of Hutchison group. A believer of mutual respect, she is running for council on behalf of Projet Montreal, with a vision that fosters peaceful relations through dialogue to resolve differences between the Hassidic and fellow residents. 

Last spring, SenseLab received a $2.95-million Canadian government grant, the Insight Grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. A small portion of those funds will be allocated to beautifying Outremont religious families' yards next spring.

A lesson to be learned from all this is that when you seek conflict, you get conflict. When you seek to understand the other, you build. In life, we can either surround ourselves with builders or destroyers. Last Friday, I surrounded myself with my new friends of Hutchison, builders of a better Outremont, and a better tomorrow.






Tuesday, August 20, 2013

A Sweet Affair: Savoring Quebec's Kosher Honeys

A Tour of Intermiel, Quebec's Winning Honey Farm


T
radition, "the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation" (Wikipedia) brings meaning and beauty into our lives. At the core resides teachings- Torah, Jewish law- Halacha, family tales, love, goodness- Mitzvoth, history, secularism, memories etc.. The reasons why one embraces tradition is individual, but it often seems like customs are easily taken for granted. Sadly, witnessing the way our current Quebec government seeks to eliminate diversity and religious symbols while challenging the essence and identity of different faiths (Multiculturalism) is like a bullet shooting straight at our value system, a deplorable and regressive approach, as much as a disgrace. To further understand the current Quebec regime, read: Ban on TurbansProposed Charter of Quebec Values, PQ Government must Define Secularism, Banning Religious Symbols, CTV Coverage.

The dipping of the apple in the honey symbolizes  a sweet new year.
 Pictured on the top right is a honeycomb and 2 favorite whipped \ creamy honeys,
Wild Flower and Clover, perfect for spreads.

All persons ought to endeavor to follow what is right, and not 
what is established.” – Aristotle

Some traditions call for sweetness by giving Valentine's day chocolates to a loved one, exchanging a kiss under a mistletoe, savoring traditional Mexican Suji cookies or French drajés at weddings; some Jewish traditions involve fasting for a day, tasting karoub or pomegranates, enjoying Moroccan couscous feasts and rejoicing over Matzah.  Holidays and food result into hundreds of traditions originating from both secularism or Halacha. In an ideal society, we feel secure and positive enough to understand the importance of multicultural values, we recognize them and respect them from a legislative standpoint and perhaps even appreciate them as part of mainstream culture... which is usually the case; but legal limitations on religious ways are currently being imposed, not sure how this will impact Jewish food culture for now, the pressure is on government  officials and public sector workers wearing visibly religious garments.


Ever since I was a little girl, every Rosh Hashanah I was taught to dip the apple in the honey as a Siman (Hebrew for sign) for a sweet new year. As simplistic as this sounds, there is deeper meaning as to why honey and why apples; for thousands of years, ancestors have partaken in this ritual.

As a mother, it is my turn to instill in my children the joys of Jewish living by teaching them New Year customs, even if this means 'going the extra mile'. For the first time ever, I had the privilege of taking my eldest daughter to Intermiel,  an award winning Quebec honey farm based in Saint-Benoît (Mirabel), 30 to 40 minutes from Montreal.

INTERMIEL'S HISTORY

Natives of France, teachers Viviane and Christian Macle, settled in Québec in 1969. In the 80s, they officially launched a line of honey. Today, Intermiel is a large-scale farm that manages the production of 5,000 beehives, runs a 15,000 tap sugar bush and a 600 apple tree orchard. Intermiel is recognized provincially and across North America for the quality and diversity of its products, as well as for its educational visits. Thanks to its agri-tourism orientation, it attracts more than 100,000 visitors a year, of which 15,000 are students from Québec schools. (Reference: http://www.intermiel.com/history/)


A Honey Palette ideal for a Rosh Hashanah  honey tasting party
There are over 6 raw honeys, 2 honey combs  and 3 creamy honeys to chose from at Intermiel, aside from non-kosher ganaches, ciders and other products. My favorite honeys are Clover and Creamy Wild Flower. The ideal Rosh Hashanah honey is Apple Blossom. The best honey's for honey cakes are Wild Flower, Golden Orchard and Clover.
  • Buckwheat honey (It has a very pronounced taste)
  • Wild Flower and Creamy wild Flower  (A favorite)
  • Pine honeydew (Distinctive taste - not everyone would like this one)
  • Clover honey (A classic)
  • Creamy Clover (A great spread)
  • Fruity and blossom honeys (Delightful, with a fruity twist)
    • Apple Orchard (Perfect for Rosh Hashanah)
    • Golden Orchard (Perfect for Rosh Hashanah) 
    • Creamy Golden Orchard  (Perfect for Rosh Hashanah)
    • Raspberry blossom 
    • And Blueberry blossom 

INTERMIEL'S HONEY FARM TOUR

Touring the honey farm and buying your raw honey before the holiday contributes to a more festive mood. For $8 a person, one gets:
  • A comprehensive tour of the honey farm that starts off with a presentation on the accolades and brief historic of the farm
  • To see first-hand honey extraction from a beehive
  • Understand how different flavored honeys are made
  • Learn about the different honey-based products 
  • And importantly, taste over 10 kinds of MK certified kosher honeys 

ABOUT THE BOUTIQUE

There is a wall of 1 kg jars, another wall of 8 kg bins, a section of honey based beeswax candles and beauty products, a counter of gift-packed honeys as well as non-kosher maple syrops, ganaches and artisan beverages (off limits for the kosher clan).

HONEY JAR PRICES


QUANTITY
PRICE RANGE
125 g
$2.5 to $4.00
500 g
1 kg
$5.50
$8.00 to $9.50
8 kg
$20.00 to $24.00


The agriculturist is doing a demo extraction of honey. A little boy is fascinated.

A Chassidish family is seeing how honey is extracted from the beehive.


From honey soaps, lip balms, beeswax candles to a wall filled with different formats and honey flavors, it is truly amazing to see what can originate from one of the worlds purest ingredients.  8 kg honey buckets cost between $20 to $24 dollars. You can also do refills when you bring in your bucket.

Honey tasting is a popular activity.
Honey jars can be bought in 1 kg jars or in gift packages.

Intermiel also has a beautiful ranch, playground and farm for kids to enjoy. At the end of the tour,
the kids can play and have fun.


On my way back home, I stopped off at Verger du Ruisseau to buy my holiday apples.
My daughter posing and me in the corner wearing a sodial bee hat veil.

Amid the current provincial anti-religious uproar, I am hoping that this little blog of mine can somehow enlighten Parti Quebecois leaders. A Charter of Values that acknowledges the diversity of all its citizen, is to be fostered, otherwise a divide will further be accentuated. In the meantime, the joys of Quebec Jewish living are beautiful  and makes me feel grateful to live  in such a province. My honey farm visit is a new-found Rosh Hashanah ritual that adds depth and creativity to my holiday entertaining. Thank you InterMiel!

Shanah Tovah U'metukah to all!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Blueberry Muffins



Continuing from my previous blog post, the day after my Quinn Farm adventure, I had the pleasure of baking these delicious crumble topped muffins with our handpicked blueberries. Like many baking mamas, I also doubled up as a DJ accepting my daughters music requests. They love anything from The Maccabeats,  Gad ElbazEnrico Macias, Mike Tomkins... Surprisingly, they knew about École Maimonide's Keep it Maimo Style - a Gangnam style french rendition from the high school I graduated from. As a communications consultant geared to non-profits with a strong focus on the education sector, humorous YouTube video's are indeed a great way to promote school spirit, creatively give a glimpse of the school facilities and just be comical. Furthermore, my children got a taste of  my high school's francophone Sephardi mentality and culture, which is kinda cool and nostalgic... different from I like to Move It  Move It '95 from back in the days. ;)

INGREDIENTS

Author: Allrecipes.com 
PREP TIME 15 min | TOTAL TIME 45 min | Makes 16 muffins
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat spelt flour  
  • 3/4 cup white sugar  
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt  
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 2/3 cup vegetable oil 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla
  • 2/3 cup milk, soya milk or pareve creamer  
  • 1 2/3 cup fresh blueberries  
  • 1 cup white sugar 
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 cup butter, cubed 
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line your muffin tray with 16 muffin liners... pour 1 tbsp. of water in each empty cup.
  2. In a bowl,  mix your 1 1/2 cups flour, 3/4 cup sugar, salt and baking powder. Place vegetable oil into a 1 cup measuring cup; add the egg and enough milk to fill the cup. Mix this with flour mixture. Fold in blueberries. Fill muffin cups right to the top, and sprinkle with crumb topping mixture.
For the Crumble Topping
  1. Mix together 1/2 cup sugar, 1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup butter, and 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon. Mix with fork, and sprinkle over muffins before baking.
  2. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, or until done.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

From Quebec to the World: Feel the Love


Bob Sinclair video
If you love Bob Sinclar than you'll love this post. I got to warn you though, what I am about to ask you to do may come off super cheesy, please keep in mind that I am simply trying to be cutely interactive, so bare with me because reader cooperation is crucial. ;) 

First, click here (wait for the commercials and bell to pass) “hear the song?…” come on, you have to play it :(. Now we’re talking! Next up, close your eyes and imagine you’re riding on highway 20 in a convertible white Jeep Wrangler on your way to Île Perrot. I can’t tell you where we’re going just yet, it’s a surprise for now. 

Practice shaking your hips.
Feel the sweet August breeze blow onto your face, oh oh, your green beret flew away but don’t let that stop you, keep driving. Feel the sun shining, clap your hands and shake your hips à la Marocaine, yes even seated. If you’re Moroccan your technique will come naturally, if you’re not, you might need some practice here (click to find out) or drink some Evian water, apparently it does wonders. Ensure, Bob Sinclar’s song is back on… and let loose, start screaming like never before “woohoo!!!” There you get it! Sing-a-long if you feel it, or yoddle (I personally don’t do that, but hey, it is your fantasy), do the Gangnam dance, drop it low, dance or fly, whatever stimulates your senses. Do you feel it now, do you feel the Love Generation? I hope you enjoyed the ride, take a right between the corn fields, another right between the wooden fence and we've finally arrived to destination, our favorite family ranch, Quebec’s Quinn farm.

Back to reality, Love Generation has got to be a favorite road trip song for my daughters and I. We can listen to it over and over, and over again… and that’s exactly what we did last week on our visit to Quinn farm. Because the apple orchard was off-limits until the weekend, what initially was to be our annual pre-Rosh Hashanah apple picking trip became our first ever blueberry picking experience.

A few times throughout the year I take my kids to this farm for apple, squash, pumpkin or strawberry picking. Picking your own produce makes unforgettable moments, there is a certain peace and awe in being surrounded by nature’s farms.



We went blueberry picking for the first time ever at Quinn farm in Île Perrot

We've just arrived to Quinn Farm a little later than expected.
 Siri's GPS got confused due to unexpected road work detours. 


Hand picked batch of corn at the front entrance.
Inside the barn bakery. Although these foods are non-kosher, we truly appreciate the atmosphere and aroma of baked apple or pumpkin pies.

Quinn Farm's field of berries.

One of the blueberry bushes we picked from.
Hand picked zucchinis at the Quinn Market
More fresh produce to choose from.
The selection of flavored honeys, inspirational for Rosh Hashanah!
What a beautiful baby!
The farmer's youngest son sitting under the hay slide. 


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Celine Dion, Can Schwartz's be Kosher Please? :)

A Random Visit to Montreal's Non-Kosher Landmark Hebrew Delicatessen

After a tour of Montreal's Chinatown, my kids were whining and begging to eat something (snacks are a must for kosher people touring certain parts of this city :?"#$% - lesson learned!). I instinctively headed towards The Plateau's Belz and Satmar chassidish end of town. Desperately looking for a kosher place on Saint Laurent Boulevard, the challenge was harder than I thought. My daughter randomly screamed out YEAH!!!! "What's happening???" I asked.... "Yeah mommy, yeah mommy, yeah mommy..." I'm thinking what is this girl on? Little did I realize she meant Yeh, the frozen yogurt & café food chain I had just driven by. The nice single mom that I am ;), I quickly started looking for parking to treat the kids. Ironically, I found a spot beside Montreal's landmark Hebrew delicatessen, the world's famous Schwartz's.

Schwartz's non-kosher Hebrew deli.

Knowing that place is NOT kosher :(, I couldn't help but get a certain sense of comfort and fondness seeing a familiar Jewish name and 'HEBRAIQUE' (the word meaning Hebrew in French) blasted on a building and especially in that area. But even more, I was delighted to see how the 80 year old, Celine Dion part owned, top-of-the-line authentic Jewish style smoked meat restaurant (now coined Montreal-style, thank G-d not Gangnam style :) was jam packed, with a party of 13 waiting at the door.

A Little Bit of History
Schwartz's was established in 1928 by Reuben Schwartz, a Romania Jewish immigrant and one of the hundreds who migrated to Montreal, Quebec, during a heavy wave of Eastern European Jewish immigration of the early to mid-1900s. Jewish settlement occurred first on the lower main, currently Montreal's Chinatown. (Source: Wikipedia)  You can learn more on the world renowned restaurant in the book Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story written in 2006 by The Montreal Gazette columnist, Bill Brownstein.

The history of the Jewish quarter is deep-rooted, nostalgic and beautiful. "By 1871, a Jewish enclave numbering just over 400 people had formed by the corner of Saint Laurent Boulevard and Dorchester Street, with the first Jewish educational institution, the Talmud Torah, located at the corner of Saint Urbain Street and De la Gauchetière Street. Saint Laurent Boulevard was one of the Jewish quarter's main axes. By the 1920s and 30s, dozens of synagogues were in the area." (Source: Wikipedia)

The staff of Schwartz's credits the unique flavor of their non-kosher smoked meat to their mandatory 10 day meat curing time, the high turnover of their meat, and their brick smoke-house covered with over 80 years worth of buildup. (Source: Wikipedia)


Schwartz's is indeed a classic 1920's Montreal-style diner.
It looks kosher, it smells kosher.. (they even serve coleslaw on the side), but it's NOT kosher. But shelves did stack kosher jarred pickles, marinated peppers and French's mustard.

Schwartz's famous Wall of Fame.
Schwartz's famous Wall of fame exposing it's 'memory lane' advertorials,
autographed celebrity client photos and retro wall art

Now considered a historic Jewish and culinary landmark, Schwartz's is undoubtedly the city's most successful smoked meat place attracting masses of tourists and celebrities.

After my kids and I enjoyed our dose of Yeh frozen yogurt, we walked into Schwartz's. That penetrating meat aroma, the classic diner burgundy swivel stools and the hilarious celebrity wall of fame makes this Jewish style diner a definite teaser for someone who keeps kosher. Schwartz's is a perfect example of how Jewish cuisine is no longer synonymous with being kosher. In a good way, one things for sure, my spontaneous visit of the landmark and once-upon-a-time kosher restaurant was enlightening, warm at heart and worth it, thank heavens for Yeh... and little girls!  ;)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Summer Corn Salsa Salad

Photography by Leslie Perez. All rights reserved.

Last week,  as part of my kids camp field trip, the group went corn picking at the Quinn farm (a great family activity to do & one of the kid friendliest farms in town - Montreal, Quebec). Needless to say I have my share of corn stocked up in the pantry (would anyone like to pick some up from me? ;)  I can write a recipe book just on corn-based ingredients. From tacos, corn chowder, rustic corn side dishes, corn bread, corn scones, caramel popcorn, corn-dogs, corn-cats.... ?&*^% (just kidding, just trying to be cute). In all cases, corn recipes are fast and easy, sweet and crisp (or creamy- depending on the can). There are so many kosher canned corn brands, i.e. IGA's Nos Compliment or Loblaws President Choice brands are kosher. Along with Martha Stewart's corn recipes, Nos Compliments shares a range of corn recipes on their website. Again, corn makes for non-fail recipes and this corn salsa (not so really salsa salad)  was made in no time. I won't specify the quantities on this one because you can tweak to your taste by adding vegetables you love. Flexibility is sometimes a good thing :)


INGREDIENTS serves 2-4
  • 1 can of sweet corn
  • Flat Parsley
  • 1 avocado
  • diced red pepper
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • lemon juice
  • Olive oil based mayonnaise
  • crushed garlic clove and\ or granulated garlic powder
DIRECTIONS

1 & 2. Just chop & mix... ;)