Friday, November 13, 2015

Salmon Quinoa Spinach Burgers


Clean eating. Amid the baking, one has to embrace a bit of wholesomeness; and in the coming weeks -Hanukkah aside of course- I plan on exploring delicious clean meal ideas starting with Quinoa, my favourite superfood. 

I found this recipe online and adapted it by using Spinach. What I love about these Salmon Quinoa Spinach Burgers is that they consist of protein and lots of GREENS. Not to mention they are super filling and easy to pop together. They are so easy to make, the kids can make them and even the dads!  Hope you like them!

INGREDIENTS 

Makes 5 patties approximately (190 calories each) 
  • 15 oz skinless salmon fillet
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/3 cup diced shallots
  • 1-2 cups chopped spinach
  • 3/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay ( I bought mine at At Water Market's Les Douceurs du Marché)
  • 1 large beaten egg
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. In a small bowl, whisk the olive oil,  shallots, dijon, salt and pepper.
  2. Cut about a 5 oz piece off or the salmon and place in a food processor or chopper to finely chop (as a means to hold the burgers together).  
  3. Chop the remaining salmon, transfer to a large work bowl.
  4. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat, saute spinach and add shallots. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium heat until tender, about 5 minutes.
  5. Transfer to the bowl with salmon along with quinoa, Dijon, Old Bay and egg. Mix to combine, then form into 5 patties, about 1/2 cup each.
  6. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat, spray with oil and add the salmon patties. Cook them for 5 minutes, then gently turn and cook an additional 5 minutes, until cooked through.
Voila! Enjoy this meal of wholesomeness!  



 Adapted from skinnytaste.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Best Apple Crumble


It's official, I baked or cooked with close to 100 apples this fall and guess what? I
'm still not appled-out yet. My passion for apples definetely doesn't come from my Moroccan heritage. In fact, if it was up to my North African genes, I'd be chowing-down on dry sesame Moroccan galettes, the ones my mom or dad eat on a typical Saturday afternoon while sipping mint Moroccan tea and debating on La Presse headlines. As tangent-y as this is going, I cherish those sesame galette moments.

Now, back to apples... Nothing like an apple crumble to remind me of how delicious fall food comfort can actually be. Gosh I'm feeling metaphoric tonight. Enjoy this sweet crumble!



INGRDIENTS
  • 4-6 Cortland apples depending on size
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup of diced unsalted butter
For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned quick oats
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

INSTRUCTIONS



















  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Peel, core, and cut the apples into bite-size chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the zest, lemon juice, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg.
  3. Pour into a 8 by 10 rectangular or oval baking dish.
  4. Toss in a few cubes of butter inside.

For the topping:

  1. Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oats, and butter in the bowl with a wooden spoon mix for about 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. 
  2. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely. 
  3. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm. 
  4. It's even more delicious topped with vanilla ice cream. Enjoy!




Thursday, November 5, 2015

Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

I usually don't bake the same desserts twice... unless they are these cookies. This is one of my favorite chewy chocolate chip cookie recipes. I've been turning to this recipe time and time again for the past 10 years. Enjoy!

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (for dairy free substitute with Earth Balance)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups (about 9 ounces) semisweet or white chocolate chips
Equipment
  • Baking sheet
  • Parchment paper
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside. 
  2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the butter with both sugars; beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. Reduce speed to low; add the vanilla, and eggs. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture; mix until just combined. 
  3. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  4. Drop overflowing tablespoon-size balls of dough about 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
  5. Bake until cookies are golden around the edges, but still soft in the center, 10 to 12 minutes. If you make your cookies smaller bake them for 8 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool on baking sheet 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely. 

Ricotta Spinach Lasagna


As a foodie mama, I have this love hate relationship with ketchup. I think many moms feel me on this one. On one hand I'm grateful for ketchup because hey, it gets kids eating. On the other hand.... we shvitz and toil in the kitch, cook-up all kinds of creative meals to feed our kids, and when we get all excited about introducing a new delicious meal or veggies.... they stare back at us with those cute little eyes asking for ketchup  (sigh).

Luckily, I broke ground with my little one who now loooooves this classic ricotta spinach lasagna. Fall is the time of year to feast on one-dish dinners where you can pile up veggies, protein and carbs in one (minus the ketchup). So until I figure out how to terminate my older daughter's ketchup obsession, this is one meal I'm making.

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 bag of spinach - 3 cups ( you can use more, it makes it healthier)
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 300 g of ricotta cheese - 1 container
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bag of grated or fresh mozzarella
  •  Marinara sauce of choice or plain tomato sauce if you do not have marinara
  • Store-bought dried noodles, cooked
  • Salt to taste ( I use Kosher salt- it is coarser than table salt)
  • optional - basil leaves in the sauce
  • optional - grated Parmesan cheese, (about 1/2 cups)
Equipment
  • 9-by-13 inch baking dish

INSTRUCTIONS




  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and ensure rack in the middle is in place.
  2. Set a large stockpot of boiling salted water and cook the lasagna sheets.
  3. Combine ricotta, egg, nutmeg, ground pepper and salt in a medium bowl. Season with pepper. Coarsely grate 1/2 of the mozzarella, and stir into ricotta mixture. Using your fingers, shred remaining mozzarella into 2-inch strips, and reserve.
  4. For the Spinach: Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When oil shimmers, add onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3 minutes. Add spinach, a few handfuls at a time, and cook, stirring frequently, until all spinach is wilted, 3-5 minutes. Transfer to a strainer and press against spinach to remove as much liquid.
  5. Combine the Spinach into the ricotta mixture.
  6. Heat your marinara sauce, you can add some basil leaves at this point and a bit of olive oil. No need to cook the sauce, simply warm it up.
  7. For assembly: Spread 1/2 cup sauce in a 9-by-13 inch baking dish. Place a layer of noodles over marinara. Spread 1/3 of the ricotta spinach mixture over noodles. Place a layer of noodles over the cheese layer. Spread 1 cup sauce over noodles. Repeat layering (noodles, marinara, noodles, ricotta mixture). Spread remaining marinara over cheese layer, then sprinkle with shredded mozzarella and Parmesan.
  8. Place baking dish on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake until cheese is golden brown and sauce is bubbling, 45 to 50 minutes. I usually know its ready when it smells delicious in the kitchen. 
  9. Let it stand for 15 minutes before slicing and serving.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Apples for The Holidays

I recently visited my local farmer’s market.  I bought and taste tested different types of apples and learned how each variety gives different results when baked, snacked-on or cooked with. Here is a grid with some of the apples I found to help you out.
























Back home growing-up, both my parents worked long hours in the retail business, which meant that I often found myself with extra time in my mother’s kitchen. I was eleven years old when I attempted to bake my first apple pie; I poured the flour onto the butter, added loads of sugar, molded it onto a round cake pan and… my first pie crust was a total disaster, but I did salvage the oven baked apples. 

We all have our baking mishaps, stories we can reminisce over or laugh about years later. TODAY, I am creating new kinds of memories. Today, my baking memories include my children. For us baking-time has become an integral part of our bonding and new-found memories.

As a single mom, I don’t always have my daughters at my Rosh Hashanah table. There is a definite void when your children are not there and I know I am not alone in these feelings.  I encourage all to welcome any single mother you might know to your holiday table, this can actually make a positive difference.

To enhance this holiday season, I’ve established a new family ritual that reinforces my little family: apple picking before the chaggim (holidays). Picking our apples and then pre-holiday baking with the apples is an activity we will always be able to have and cherish.

Apple pie remains a seasonal classic, but this year I wanted to explore out-of-the-box apple cakes or sweets, the ones with a slight twist compared to the standard apple cake. Most of these recipes would be perfect for your breakfast table during the chaggim  (holidays) and that is why I preferred to use butter and other dairy in most of them.

From my family to yours, wishing you a wonderful holiday season with lots of new-found baking memories, Shana Tovah to a sweet new year! (Featured on Joy of Kosher)




Growing up in Montreal, Quebec, I can assure maple syrup is synonymous with Canadian culture. A staple in many homes, I see this Maple-Apple Upside-Down cake as a wonderful addition to your holiday breakfast table. Moist and delicious, the baked apples on top of the cake give it that beautiful rustic feel.





















I love apple crisps, but now I love them even more with a blend of pears and a touch of orange zest. You can adapt this one easily into a pareve recipe by substituting the butter with the margarine sticks.





















I love apple crisps, but now I love them even more with a blend of pears and a touch of orange zest. You can adapt this one easily into a pareve recipe by substituting the butter with the margarine sticks.














For a light or gluten free dessert after a full-course meal or to cleanse one’s palette after a fishy appetizer, a green apple sorbet might be a perfect option.






Maple Apple Upside-Down Cake







































I LOVE THIS APPLE RECIPE! Growing up in Montreal, Quebec, I can assure maple syrup is synonymous with Canadian culture. A staple in many homes, I see this Maple-Apple Upside-Down cake as a wonderful addition to your holiday breakfast table. Moist and delicious, the baked apples on top of the cake give it that beautiful rustic feel.

DURATION: 110 MIN | COOK TIME: 90 MIN | PREP TIME: 20 MIN | SERVING SIZE: 8

INGREDIENTS
  • 1 cup pure maple syrup
  • 3 Granny Smith apples (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Butter a 10-inch round cake pan. In a large saucepan, bring the maple syrup to a boil over high heat, then simmer over low heat until it thickens and is reduced to 3/4 cup, this should take about 20 minutes. Pour the syrup into the cake pan. Arrange the apples in the pan slightly overlapping them.

3. In a bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a glass measuring cup, whisk the eggs with the buttermilk and vanilla. In the bowl of a standing electric mixer fitted with the paddle, beat the butter and sugar at medium speed until fluffy, for about 3-4 minutes.

4. Pour the dry ingredients into the wet ones in alternating batches. Scrape the batter over the apples and spread evenly. Bake the cake for 1 1/2 hours, until golden on top and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

5. Allow the cake to cool down on a rack for 30 minutes. Place a plate on top of the cake and invert the cake onto the plate; you might need to tap the top lightly to release the cake. Let the cake cool slightly, and its ready to be served.

Quince Hand Pies



Growing-up in a traditional Moroccan home, every Rosh Hashanah dinner my mom served-up delicious caramelized quinces cooked with cinnamon and sugar. I adapted her recipe into hand pies. You can always replace quinces with apples; and for a nice touch, you can insert a cake-pop stick onto to turn them into pie pops. 

DURATION: 120 MIN | COOK TIME: 20 MIN | PREP TIME: 35 MIN
SERVING SIZE: 20 HAND PIES

INGREDIENTS
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest (1 lemon)
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 large whole egg
  • 3 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
For the filling

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 quinces, peeled, cored and cut into slices
2 tablespoons of cinnamon

For the egg wash

1 large egg white, lightly beaten

INSTRUCTIONS

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together your dry ingredients from the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest; set aside. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter and 1 cup sugar; beat until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add egg, and beat until just combined. Add cream cheese, buttermilk, and vanilla extract; beat until well combined. Add the reserved flour mixture, and beat until smooth. Form the dough into a ball, and cover with plastic wrap; flatten into a disk, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

3. In the meantime, peel, rinse and slice your quinces.

4. Bring mixture of water, lemon juice, half the sugar and quinces to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer until most of the water has been absorbed, and quinces have softened. Quinces need more cook time than apples, about 25-30 minutes. Set aside to cool.

5. Remove dough from refrigerator. Sprinkle a clean work surface with flour; roll dough 1/8 inch thick. Using a 4 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter, cut out 20 rounds, and transfer to prepared baking sheet. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes.

6. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Have ready a small bowl of ice water. Remove chilled dough from the refrigerator, and let stand until pliable, 2 to 3 minutes. Place 2-3 apple wedges onto the center of a round, and brush ice water around the edges. Fold round in half; using a fork, press down on edges to seal. Repeat with the remaining rounds. Chill 30 minutes.

7. Remove pies from refrigerator, and brush tops with egg white. Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup sugar over tops. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve.

Dough recipe credit: Martha Stewart





Apple & Pear Crisp



























I love apple crisps, but now I love them even more with a blend of pears and a touch of orange zest. You can adapt this one easily into a pareve recipe by substituting the butter with the Earth Balance margarine sticks.

DURATION: 70 MIN | COOK TIME: 60 MIN | PREP TIME: 10 MIN | SERVING SIZE:6-8

INGREDIENTS
  • 2 pounds ripe Bosch pears (4 pears)
  • 2 pounds firm Cortland apples (6 apples)
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
For the Topping

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
  • 1 ½ stick of cold butter

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

2. Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into nice chunks. Toss the fruit in a bowl with orange zest, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch oval baking dish.

For the topping:

3. Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.

4. Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.

This recipe was adapted from one made by Ina Garten.

Green Apple Sorbet




For a light or gluten free dessert after a full-course meal or to cleanse one’s palette after a fishy appetizer, a green apple sorbet might be a perfect option. No ice cream machine necessary!


DURATION: 30 MIN (plus 2 hours for freezing) | PREP TIME: 15 MIN |  6 SERVINGS

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 granny smith apples
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
  • 4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 1⁄3 cups apple juice
  • Green food coloring
INSTRUCTIONS

1.Peel, cut, core and coarsely slice the apples.

2. In a saucepan place the apples along with lemon juice, sugar, and apple juice.

3. Boil for approximately 3 to 5 minutes or until soft.

4. Remove the green apple mixture from heat and cool.

5. Place in a blender or food processor and puree the green apple mixture until smooth.

6. Strain and transfer to a container. Stir in droplets of green food coloring, mix well and place the green apple sorbet mixture in the freezer.

7. When the green apple sorbet is completely frozen, remove from the freezer and place in a food processor or blender and puree again. Return to the freezer until ready to use.

8. Ice cream maker option: churn your apple mixture into your ice cream make for 30 minutes or until the consistency is thick and smooth. Place in a container and freeze for a couple of hours. Remove from the freezer 15 minutes before serving. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Orange Blossom Peach Pavlova with Chestnut Cream & Praline



Shalom foodies :)

I feel like talking to you about Jerusalem today. Not exactly the Yotam Ottolenghi JERUSALEM cookbook, but rather the Jerusalem that resonates in my fondest childhood memories.

In the 1970's, along with thousands of Sephardi families, my grandparents left Casablanca to establish themselves in Israel. They settled in Bayit VeGan Jerusalem, a mountain top neighborhood east of Mount Herzl, ten minutes from Israel's official Holocaust memorial, the Yad Vashem. 

My grandparents had two kitchens...  a  dairy one and a meat one, talk about kosher foodies ;) I was 9 years old the first time I traveled to Jerusalem, and these are some of the best childhood memories I have. The view from my grandparent's dira/apartment was breathtaking, overseeing a sea of Jerusalem stone buildings, and an oval-shaped Knesset beaming out. Every Friday night, the sirens sang to bring in the Sabbath, certain streets, including mine on Harav Uziel were blocked so no cars can drive by for the next 25 hours. There was this little makolet/shop in my grandparent's building where I discovered lebens/milk product for the first-time, and met the owner's daughter, who soon became my vacation buddy with whom I communicated in a Hebglish  (hebrew-english) of some kind lol.

So whats the perk of being a kosher kid in Israel for the first time? You hit culinary jackpot, experiencing food everywhere you go. I felt like singing "FREEDOM!" and taste EVERYTHING! I had my first piece of coca-cola flavored Bazooka gum or artik /ice pops, real-deal street food falafel, shawarmas, sesame baguettes, matzah pizza... and yes Cafe Rimon spaghetti, my favorite restaurant in the entire world, literally.

This one's for Joan Nathan. Mini-me
with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek.
Famous Jewish food cookbook author Joan Nathan, earned a master's in public administration from Harvard University, and for three years she lived in Israel where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. In her book "The Foods of Israel Today," she expresses how food is a way to mend bridges and foster peace. And I totally agree, I hope this post can resonate peacefully with all those who come across it.

Eating aside, Mahane Yehuda shouk/market not only had the best quality fruits or veggies one can taste, it was the perfect place for any 9 year old foodie to hone down on her grocery bargaining skills.. though not really applicable in North America for some reason. :) Aside from my fascination with suspended unplucked chickens, I discovered my all-time favorite Israeli delicacy, sweet roasted pecans

A glimpse of Mahane Yehuda Photo credit:
http://www.inisrael.com/news/?p=708
And hear you have it, my inspiration for today's recipe. Yotam shares a nice rose water pistachio meringue recipe in his Ottolenghi cookbook, I thought, orange blossom meringue right away. Then I thought, I need a topping... and my imagination went BERSERK (can't help it)... creme de marron/ chestnut cream, caramelized peaches, whip cream, and of course sweet pecan crunch, UM... UMMMMM! So here you have it, a labor of sweetness, a new age sephardi delicacy. Enjoy a taste of my childhood, inspired by Jerusalem.

Look at these beauties


INGREDIENTS

Serves 8-10

For the meringue, Martha Stewart's recipe
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons of orange blossom essence (optional if you are not a fan)
For the peaches
  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 2 tbsp of sugar to taste
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup of chestnut creamI buy this one at Cité Casher
  • 1/2 cup of whip cream (optional), store bought or homemade
For the Praline Clusters
  • 1/3 cup of pecans
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • dash of kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Draw 8 -10 circle shapes  onto a piece of parchment. Turn parchment over, and use it to line a baking sheet. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in superfine sugar, then cornstarch and salt, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in vinegar and orange blossom
  2. Using drawing as a guide, gently mound meringue on parchment; smooth sides. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Gage it. Turn heat off, and let meringue cool in oven.
  3. Make the peaches: in a sauteing pan, on medium, melt the butter in a saucepan, sauté the peaches then melt in the sugar, reduce to medium low-heat, you don't want to over cook them. 
  4. Make the praline crunch: melt your better in a sauté pan, melt the sugar so that it caramelizes, once done, toss your pralines and mix well so that they are caramelized. Remove them from place and let cool. Once cool, hammer them! kidding :) Just chop them into bits. not too thin not too small, you want crunch. 
  5. Now the assembly: Take your  meringues, smear chestnut cream, then smear whipping cream, place your peaches and then top them with your pralines, and voila! There you have it, my version of a delicious Sephardi, and Moroccan, yummy dessert!



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Sugar Box Baker

Le Journal de Montreal is giving Kosher a bad name by publishing headlines that downgrade local Kosher eateries and bakeries. Not cool!  I see a bigger picture here. When it comes to Kosher bashing, I got its back... they're messing with the wrong mama. I won't let them put our Kosher spirits down!

NO WAY!  More so, I will continue to SHARE the Joys of Kosher in Montreal! I will OVERCOME their kosher harassment! I will continue to CELEBRATE local kosher cuisine! I will climb-up Mount-Royal and shout "SHOW ME THE KOSHER $^&%*$@!"...um on second thought, that's weird - won't do that. 

But I will continue to feature the amazing people who not only elevate kosher or bring Kosher sweetness into the world, but do so while raising a "gang" of beautiful children. Today's post will feature one of my favorite bakers (and high school classmate), Sabrina, AKA The Sugar Box Baker.

S.B. Beautiful home garden filled with herbs, peppers, tomatoes..





I thought I was living a busy life until I entered Sabrina's kitchen. This mother of six children, is not only a household manager, chauffeur, housewife, but more so, she's a self-taught professional home-baker who sells stunning kosher cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other pastries for all of us to enjoy. Power to her!


A glimpse of  some of The Sugar Box's creations. On the bottom second to left, is Sabrina's most challenging cake,
The Seinfeld Topsy Turvy cake.

Though she prides herself as a cook rather than a baker, Sabrina's baking journey began a few years back after she baked her first cake, an M&M one for her cousin's birthday. The family raved and then
voilà, her cake gave light to a new baking business, The Sugar Box.

Sabrina proceeds with hafrashat challah custom. 

UP-CLOSE WITH THE SUGAR BOX BAKER

To see more of her creations visit her Facebook page. I had a chance to ask Sabrina's impressions on Montreal Kosher food, and life, here is what she had to say:

L.P. What food would you like to see made Kosher in Montreal?
S.B.: So many things! More meat choices, as in better cuts, hormone-free and artisanal sausages. Also, more accessible chalav yisroel quality products such as better ice cream and cheeses all year long (not just Passover lol). I could go on and on...

L.P.: If you can bake a cake for anybody, who would it be and why?
S.B.: My grandfather. He was a truly gifted artist of his own right. He was a jeweler who made everything by hand and I would be proud to show him that I too found my artistic side.

L.P. What is your favorite part about raising a family of 6?
S.B.: The noise and the laughter.

L.P.: What is your favorite Shabbat dish?
S.B.: My grand mother's stuffed red snapper with potatoes topped with caramelized tomatoes and crispy lemons. Yum! Yum! Yum!

L.P.: Your favorite quote is...
S.B.: Gam zo le'tova meaning "this too is for the good." ~ Talmud 

L.P.: What's your most unique cake you decorated
S.B.: I have a whole bunch of favorite cakes... Each time I push myself to do something new and challenging, and I succeed... that cake becomes a new favorite. My most challenging cake, by far, is my Seinfeld topsy turvy. 

Sabrina braids her Challah.... look at these beauties!
Every Thursday or Friday, Sabrina bakes her Challah for Shabbat, "No matter how busy I am, I make sure I bake my Challah for the blessing and mitzvah, its more important than the meal because I find that the following week flows much better after I bake." Here is Sabrina's favorite challah recipe, it's based on Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s recipe published in the Bais Ya'akov school cookbook. 

Lets all remember, no matter the negative portrayal of Kosher in the media,  we take pride in our values, the joy and spirit of keeping Kosher homes, baking our weekly challah, cooking for our families, this is at our core, something we can most definitely all be proud of. 


INGREDIENTS Yield: 6-10 challot
  • 6 cups very warm water
  • 4 tbsp. of quick rise dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups of sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ tbsp. salt
  • 5 pounds flour (a 2.5 kg bag)
  • egg wash for glazing
  • Topping
6 strand challah breading & her family's favorite Challah topping
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Mix water, yeast and sugar till bubbly.
  2. Add oil, egg and salt stir
  3. Add flour a little bit at a time let the dough rest about 5 minutes and then knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cover in plastic wrap (or big plastic bag) and let rise until almost double the volume
    (about half an hour to forty five minutes)
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  6. Proceed with Hafrashat Challah
  7. Grease 5 to 6 loaf pans, depending on the size you prefer) and braid your challah.
  8. Cover again with plastic bag until well risen (about 45 minutes).
  9. Glaze with egg wash and your choice of topping. 
  10. Bake in a 350° preheated oven for 30 minutes

For more info visit The Sugarbox Montreal Facebook Page. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

A Chocolatier in Montreal


Monsieur Bensabat, The Chocolatier behind  Excellence Chocolates 

There’s more to Jewish food culture in Montreal than babkas or bagels. Our City's unique Jewish chefs, bakers or chocolatiers have many untold stories, secrets or tips to be shared, which is why I am on a new culinary mission. A mission to finding out what drives these cooks to do what they do best in the kitchen.

Monsieur Bensabat (right) with his son-in-law, Yerucham State. On the table is the only original chocolate box from the 80s.

My first encounter with a chocolatier
Last Sunday, I met Monsieur Bensabat, owner of Excellence Chocolates, the maker of some of the best Belgian Pralines Montreal has to offer – literally the best I've ever tasted – plus they happen to be kosher. Located in the heart of the DeVimy area, I toured the family-run business and understood the complexities of making confectionery chocolate. Making chocolates isn’t as easy as we think, humidity is enemy #1, the tempered machinery is key, and the success of the shine on the pralines depends on timeworn molds used. However, with all this in mind, the true secret to creating fine pralines isn't simply about the high-quality chocolate used, but also about the patience, passion and humility embraced by the chocolatier who hand-makes each one.



About Monsieur Bensabat
Little boys in Morocco don’t dream of becoming Belgian Praline makers, interestingly, this is how Monsieur Bensabat’s career unfolded. He was born and raised in Marrakesh, his love of fine cuisine and traditional Moroccan cooking was homebred. He was a young scout when he began cooking-up salads for his family to enjoy. After living in France for some time, his family moved to Montreal where he became a high school teacher in the public school system. But in 1987, his life changed, a conversation with a colleague led him to  visit a Lasalle chocolate factory. Soon after, in 1989, he seized an opportunity to create a unique line of kosher dairy-free Belgian Pralines for local kosher caterers.


Top right: Both his son, Gamliel Bensabat, and son-in-law, Yerucham State help him run the business

"Chaque fois que j'avais une grande commande, 
j'appeler le mashgiach (kosher supervisor),
et je mettais la machine en marche à 6 h du matin, 
et c'est comme ça que j'ai commencé." 

- Monsieur Bensabat





Soon enough, word of mouth spread, and his clientele expanded. In 2010-2011, he took over the entire chocolate making facility, and transported it to his current facility on Bates, which is opened to the public as well. He works out of two kitchens6, a pareve one and a dairy one in which he develops various truffles such as whisky, passion fruit, caramel and more. 



The White House Chocolatier
Years ago, Monsieur Bensabat's son-in-law Yerucham, was at a food show where he met the official chocolatier of the White House (yes, the White House has its very own chocolate maker.) Point aside, Yerucham asked the White House chocolate maker if he can train them. The WH Chocolatier tasted Monsieur Bensabat's Belgian Pralines and confessed: " with chocolates like that, there is nothing I need to teach you."

Gamliel Bensabat (left)  holding  pistachio, almond, cranberry white chocolate bark. 

Right, pralines start with quality hazelnuts. 











After my visit, I have an entirely new perspective on chocolate-making, but more so, admire the humility of a man, once a teacher, who followed his culinary dream, making the finest chocolates we can taste.

For info visit their facebook page at Excellence Chocolates.

"Sisters and chocolate make life bearable." So true.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Milk Bar Birthday Cake

Recipe by Christina Tosi via Bon Appetit &  photograph by Leslie Perez







Last Sunday was my birthday, le'chaim! Who would have thought that somehow aging can have its perks. As long as the family is healthy, we're surrounded by great people, and  we stay young at heart, age is just a number.

Some believe birthday parties, balloons and sprinkles, are just for kids... I beg to differ. 

I might be over 30, raise two kids, sit in conference calls or parent teacher interviews,  regardless of all this mommy stuff, I think sprinkles rock. These colorful sweet tiny things spark smiles and make cakes look delishy.

All in all, the world wouldn't be the same without sprinkles, and Momofuku Milk Bar totally gets it. This funky NYC bakery chain has 6 locations under the direction of pastry chef Christina Tosi, (and she's young at heart too.)

So, to celebrate my 30+ birthday, I baked their signature funfetti cake. You can't find it anywhere in Quebec, nor order it from any kosher bakery, which left me no choice but to bake it, cream it and assemble my very first Momofuku Milk Bar Birthday Cake

Though my icing may not have fluffed up to Milk Bar standards, the sprinkles sparked smiles and the cake achieved its taste-bud mandate. I look forward to baking my next Momofuku Milk Bar inspired cake. Hopefully this recipe revives the kid in all of  us.



INGREDIENTS 
MAKES ONE 6" LAYER CAKE

cake
  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 2 cups cake flour
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles, divided
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ⅓ cup grapeseed oil
  • 2 teaspoons clear imitation vanilla extract
  • 1¼ cups granulated sugar
  • ⅓ cup vegetable shortening
  • 4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs

crumbs
  • ¾ cup cake or all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rainbow sprinkles
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup grapeseed oil
  • 1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla extract

for the frosting & assembly
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • ¼ cup vegetable shortening
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon clear imitation vanilla extract, divided
  • 1¼ cups powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon citric acid (or ½ teaspoon fresh lemon juice)
  • ¼ cup milk

special equipment
  • 6" cake ring or springform mold
  • 2 strips acetate (flexible plastic paper), each 3" wide and 20" long


INSTRUCTIONS 



cake
  1. Preheat oven to 350°. Line a 13x9" rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and coat with nonstick spray; set aside.
  2. Whisk flour, baking powder, salt, and ¼ cup sprinkles in a large bowl. Combine buttermilk, oil, and vanilla in a medium bowl.
  3. Using an electric mixer on medium-high, beat granulated sugar, shortening, butter, and light brown sugar in another large bowl until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl. Continue to beat mixture, occasionally scraping down sides and bottom of bowl, until almost doubled in volume and very light, airy, and pale yellow, about 4 minutes.
  4. With mixer on low, add buttermilk mixture until incorporated. Add dry ingredients, beating until just combined, about 1 minute.
  5. Scrape batter into prepared pan; smooth top. Sprinkle with remaining 2 Tbsp. sprinkles. Bake until cake is light golden brown, the center springs back when gently pressed, and a tester inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 30–35 minutes.
  6. Remove cake from oven and cool on a wire rack or, in a pinch, in the fridge or freezer (don’t worry, it’s not cheating).
  7. Do Ahead: Store cooled cake wrapped in plastic in fridge up to 5 days.

crumbs
  1. Preheat oven to 300°. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.
  2. Combine flour, granulated sugar, light brown sugar, sprinkles, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Add oil and vanilla, and using your hands, mix until no dry spots remain and large clumps form when mixture is pressed together. As though you were making a crumble topping, break mixture up into clusters (some small, some large) and spread onto prepared baking sheet. Bake, stirring occasionally, until crumble is light golden brown and crunchy, 10–12 minutes (it will firm up as it cools). Let cool completely.
  3. Do Ahead: Wrap crumbs tightly in plastic and store at room temperature up to 5 days
frosting & assembly
  1. Combine butter, shortening, and cream cheese in large bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high until mixture is smooth and fluffy, 2–3 minutes. Scrape down sides of bowl and slowly stream in corn syrup and 1 Tbsp. vanilla. Beat until mixture is silky smooth and glossy white, about 3 minutes.
  2. Scrape down sides of bowl and, with mixer on low, add powdered sugar, salt, baking powder, and citric acid until just combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until you have a brilliant stark white, beautifully smooth frosting, about 4 minutes (it should look just like it came out of a plastic tub at the grocery store!).
  3. Do Ahead: Store frosting in an airtight container in fridge up to 1 week.

for the assembly
  1. Place a silicone baking mat or piece of parchment on a counter. Invert cake onto mat, then peel off parchment. Use cake ring to punch out two 6" rounds from cake (or, using a springform pan as a guide, cut out 2 rounds using a paring knife). These are your top 2 cake layers (the remaining cake scraps will form the bottom layer of the cake).
  2. Line a sheet pan with a clean piece of parchment. Clean cake ring and place it in center of the pan. Use 1 acetate strip to line inside of cake ring. Place cake scraps inside ring and use the back of your hand to press scraps together into a flat, even layer (you never see this layer, so it’s okay that it’s messy—but since it’s the base of the cake, it needs to be flat).
  3. Combine milk and remaining 1 tsp. vanilla in a small bowl. Dunk a pastry brush in milk mixture and use half of it to generously moisten the base layer.
  4. Use the back of a spoon to spread about 3 Tbsp. frosting evenly over cake. Sprinkle ⅔ cup birthday crumbs evenly over frosting. Use the back of your hand to press them in place. Use the back of a spoon to spread another 3 Tbsp. frosting as evenly as possible over crumbs.
  5. With your index finger, gently tuck second acetate strip between cake ring and the top ¼" of the first acetate strip, so that you have a clear ring of acetate 5–6" tall—high enough to support the height of the finished cake. Top with a cake round (if 1 of your 2 cake rounds is less pretty than the other, use it for the middle layer and save the most perfect one for the top). Brush layer with remaining milk mixture. Repeat frosting-crumb layering process.
  6. Nestle remaining cake round into frosting. Cover top of cake with remaining frosting. Use an offset spatula to form decorative swirls, or do as they do at Milk Bar and shape it into a perfectly flat top. Top with remaining birthday crumbs.
  7. Transfer cake to freezer and freeze at least 3 hours to set cake and filling.
  8. At least 3 hours before serving the cake, pull sheet pan out of freezer and, using your fingers and thumbs, pop cake out of cake ring. Gently peel off acetate and transfer cake to a platter or cake stand. Defrost in fridge at least 3 hours.
  9. Do Ahead: Cake will keep up to 2 weeks in freezer or 5 days in refrigerator

FYI  bake this cake on a Sunday afternoon or when you have time, it's a total building project.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Kosher Uncovered at Atwater Market



I'm such a market nerd.

It feels good to take a break away from a bustling every day life especially to surround myself with beautiful greens at an outdoor market like Atwater Market. I urge all moms to leave their kitchens to explore this place at least just once this season.

After all, tis the season to veggie/ fruit/ flower/plant/seed/ herb shop outdoors; or if you're a market nerd like me :), you can run and jump around amid aisles of lemon thyme or swiss chard; stand under pretty hanging tomato trees, chitchat with smiling farmers, or even better pet a total stranger's poodle; that's living to me. Atwater Market is a farmers' market located in the Little Burgundy area of Montreal. It opened in 1933.

On a mission to finding kosher food at Atwater market, I lucked-out after stepping into Les Délices du Marché. A quaint shop with an array of certified imported kosher products. Products like, citrons marinés (marinated lemons), anchovies, coconut oils, Prana dried fruits, gluten free crackers, Mighty Leaf Marrakesh tea - a favorite- and yes, a variety of hot sauces. For those of you who keep kosher in Montreal, don't think twice about heading to Atwater for a charming shopping experience. Enjoy some pics below, a glimpse of what Little Burgundy has to offer everyone!






Satay Brothers (not kosher)

You can get kosher food at Les Douceurs du Marche...

... so many farm stands, so little time...
... love those blue hydrangeas...
... Simply gorgeous...
... I couldn't resist, I stocked up on thyme, mint, basil...

... wall plants, nice!...

... ice cream anyone...
... in love with lilies.
... Lily of the Valley, love these too.
...cuties.