Sunday, January 24, 2016

Halva & Ricotta Stuffed Figs


Create reasons to celebrate. Always... even if its -20 outside, or you are stuck indoors due to the blizzard of the year. Today is Tu B'shevat, the birthday of  the trees. This holiday is about celebrating the season of the earliest-blooming trees beginning a new fruit-bearing cycle in Israel.





We mark the day by driving-up to the nearest forest and hugging lots of trees, just kidding... Essentially, this holiday is about getting together with family and eating symbolic fruits: figs, grapes, dates, pomegranites, and olives. It's also a festive opportunity to get creative with your dry-fruit cooking or baking. From date squares, fruit cakes, compotes to even Harosset Handpies, a personal creation.

Last Friday, I totally lucked-out when I crossed fresh figs at IGA. I knew the perfect recipe, BusyinBrookly.com's Halva & Ricotta Stuffed Figs. Halva is a flaky and dense tahini-based delicacy, not as common here in North America.

Did you know Halva is over 3000 years old? It's origin is debatable, some argue it's from India, The Balkans or even Turkey. There are hundreds of types of Halva, from marble, pistachio to plain vanilla and each culture has its own Halva. I love the ricotta-fig combo, that sweet tahini flavor rocks the palette.You can enjoy this fig treat for breakfast, snack, lunch... you get my drift. Keep warm to all!

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Savor Something Sweet with Neapolitan Trifles


Happy places...We all crave, and yup, we can all eat in them, at least some of them that is :). 


Cookbooks aren't just about the recipes y'a know. I'm in my happy place when I explore an author's culinary world, vision or palette. Last June, I won my first Instagram contest "woohoo!" I was giving Norene Gilletz a tour of Cheskie's bakery when I found out that I won my seat at the 2nd annual Kosher Foodies Potluck dinner, held on a Fifth Avenue rooftop and hosted by renowned kosher cookbook author, Kim Kushner. Over a dozen influential kosher food bloggers/foodies attended. We gathered over wine, laughter and yes, of course, over yummy food. You can get a glimpse of the evening in this article.

Lucky me sat right in front of Miriam Pascal, creator of OvertimeCook.com food blog and daytime marketer. for a major publishing firm in NYC. It was really nice learning about the development of her upcoming baking and pastry cookbook Something Sweet, so when I finally got my hands on it this past fall, I was excited to see her vision in fruition.


The dessert photos are beautiful, recipes are geared for kosher people - keeping in mind the need for delicious parve desserts; plus the recipes can  easily be adapted into dairy. It's totally kid-proof, my kids had an easy and enjoyable time following the recipes. I learned about new ingredients on the market, like praline paste (though a bit costly) and strawberry filling (yes, I didn't know I can buy it canned). What I especially enjoyed is the chapter on bundt cakes, chocolate truffles and delicious cold drinks. What I found most practical was the comprehensive list of icings and glazes to pick and chose from. 

What impresses me the most is the fact that Miriam is in her 20s, a self-taught baker with immense talent. Like many, she juggles between her daytime job and her passion for food blogging. 

Montreal-ers are in luck! Miriam Pascal will be doing a cooking demonstration at The MTC, this Sunday, January 24 at 7:00 PM in support of countless community organizations geared to Jewish women. Click here to register.

"I started to cook and bake as an outlet, and over the last couple of years, it’s morphed into so much more than that." ~ Miriam Pascal

Below is a glimpse of some tried and true delicious recipes:

A recreation of Miriam Pascal's Something Sweet Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie. I turned it into a tart (pictured above).
My family really enjoyed these easy egg-free mini chocolate mousses from Something Sweet.
I really enjoyed  and found useful the countless trifle and mousse recipes available





Miriam Pascal, is THE expert baker on bundt cakes.
There an entire variation of bundt cake and glaze recipes to choose from. I really had fund baking this one (shown above).


INGREDIENTS
Author: Miriam Pascal | Serves: 12-14 mini cups 

Chocolate Crumbs
  • 1 cup flour
  • ½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • ⅔ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup oil

Strawberry Mousse
  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream or nondairy whip topping
  • 1 cup strawberry pie filling, pureed
  • 8 oz. cream cheese or soy cream cheese
  • ⅓ cup sour cream or soy sour cream
  • 1 tsp, vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
Vanilla Cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream or nondairy whip topping
  • ⅓ cup powdered sugar

INSTRUCTIONS

Prepare the chocolate crumbs

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. Combine all crumb ingredients in a bowl. Mix until combined and the texture of crumbs. (I found it easiest to mix this with my fingers.)
  3. Spread the crumbs in a single layer on prepared baking sheet; bake for 8 minutes. Remove from oven; cool completely before assembling the trifles.

Prepare the strawberry mousse

  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on high speed, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form.Remove whipping cream to another bowl. There's no need to wash the bowl before continuing.
  2. Add pie filling, cream cheese, sour cream, and vanilla to mixer bowl. Beat on medium speed until combined and smooth. Add powdered sugar; beat until incorporated. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold whipped cream into strawberry mixture until combined. Set aside.
Prepare the vanilla cream
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, on high speed, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Reduce mixer speed to low. Gradually beat in the powdered sugar until combined.

ASSEMBLY
Place crumbs into a 6-ounce jar or cup, filling it about one-quarter full, Spoon or pipe strawberry mousse over crumbs, filling container a little more than three-quarters full. Pipe on vanilla cream, filling container almost to the top. Repeat with remaining jars.

Plan Ahead: These trifles freeze beautifully. Move them into the fridge for a couple of hours before serving to allow them to soften a bit.























http://everydaykosher.blogspot.ca/2016/01/savor-something-sweet-with-neapolitan.html?m=1#more

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Mother's Salad

 

The best part of my life is being a mother. It's that simple.

It is the most rewarding and difficult role I have yet to fill. Balancing between who I am as an individual and taking care of my little family is a constant challenge. Millions share this sentiment no matter the continent they live in, no matter their profession or religious belief. When our children ache, mothers ache; when our children win, we win... and when they wine, we try not to wine back too much. Children are the most important legacy we will ever have.  

Yesterday, I found myself drowning in tears as my heart broke for another mother. My heart sunk deeply for Dafna Meir of Otniel, Israel. I have never written about terrorism on my blog; on the contrary, I much rather focus my thoughts on life and growth. But a young mother was stabbed in her home yesterday. She was murdered by a teen because she was Jewish. 

Dafna Meir died a hero.  She courageously fought her attacker, and spared 3 of her children's lives. She was kind, generous, grateful and humble, values we aspire to have. A holistic nurse by profession, she answered anonymous medical questions, helping women balance modern life, Jewish law and medical concerns. Her story extends itself beyond social media posts amid our desensitized culture, the words she expressed on her blog echoes the beautiful soul that she was. Reminding me, once again, to be grateful for all that I have.

I cannot write anymore, my tears are flowing too hard. On this Martin Luther King Day, I leave you with his words "every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness." In memory of a light who nurtured and inspired life, Dafna Meir, Z'L. To read more articles about her, visit: Times of Israel BlogPoint of viewHaaretz.





INGREDIENTS

Serves 4-6 |  PREP TIME: 30 Minutes

  • carrots, scrubbed, peeled and julienned
  • 1½ finely chopped red cabbage
  • 1 cup raw kale, washed, dried, stem removed and finely chopped 
  • Handful of mint, finely chopped
  • 1 large apple (or 2 small ones - I chose Gala) peeled, cored and cut julienned or sliced
  • 1/2 cup of pepitas / pumpkin seeds

    The Vinaigrette
  • 4 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1½ tablespoon honey
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • pinch of black pepper


INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the apple cider vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Place the carrots, cabbage, kale, mint and apples in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in the lemon juice.
  4. Add the pepitas.
  5. Pour the vinaigrette over the top and toss.



Saturday, January 9, 2016

Cozy Olive Chicken


Nothing like a good Shabbat heart-to-heart talk with my mom... Then again, nothing like learning fascinating new facts about my roots when I least expect it. A few weeks ago, during one of those cozy Shabbat one-on-one talks, I found out that each end of Ramadan, my grand-mother prepared trays and trays of delicious Morroccan pasties filled with traditional Chebakia, Ghriba, .. she offered them as presents to her neighbors, as a means to foster respectful relations.

What really surprised me was finding-out about Mohamed, a young fella who lived in my grand-parent's building. Mohamed's mother had passed away, leaving him as an orphan. My grand-mother adopted him, sheltering him for many many years until she moved to Israel in the 70s. I never knew this about her. This compassion exemplifies the power of love, disregarding differences and practices. Lessons we still need to learn in the world we live in today. I wish I can see her and give her a massive bubby or 'mamie' hug.

When I think of Moroccan cuisine, I automatically think of my mom's olive chicken tajine. Growing up as a Sephardi kid in the West Island, I ate a lot of "out-of-the-box" Moroccan dishes, and one of these dishes consisted of olive chicken. There wasn't one holiday my mother didn't cook-up her traditional green olive and chicken dish accentuated with curcuma, diced tomatoes, paprika and lemon juice. On a whim, I decided to cook-up my own take of olive chicken, and being my mother's daughter, I had to twist it differently; so I used black olives instead of green ones, sun-dried tomatoes instead of diced ones, added minced coriander (as she would generally rough-chop them), and had to add some nana (mint). It turned out to be a really flavorful dish inspired by my roots and childhood, my kind of girly TV dinner to savor while watching my favorite The Mindy Project, or Suits Netflix re-runs... and yes accompanied with a nice (very tall) glass of white wine. Enjoy and stay cozy!

INSTRUCTIONS




PREP: 20 mins  | TOTAL TIME: 55 mins | SERVINGS: 4

INGREDIENTS
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 1/2 cup fresh coriander 
  • A handful of mint
  • 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp of chili flakes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken (3 pounds total)
  • 1 to 2 cups of olives 
  • 1 tbsp water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, or oil from your sundried tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 cup of water

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. In a food processor, puree coriander, mint, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, oil, cumin, chili flakes, and tablespoon water until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  2. With a paring knife, lift skin off each chicken piece; using your fingers, tightly pack each pocket with mixture. Rub chicken with remaining teaspoon oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Oven bake version: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place chicken in a rimmed baking sheet, toss in olives, 1/2 cup of water and bay leaves. Sprinkle salt and pepper. Roast until chicken is cooked through 35-40 minutes.

  4. Stove-top version: Place chicken in a deep skillet, heat to medium, pour 1/2 cup of water, bay leaves, place chicken pieces beside each and top them with the olives. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Lower heat slightly and allow cooking for 30 minutes. Stir dish throughout the cooking process ensuring the chicken does not stick to the bottom of the skillet. And voila, you have a cozy olive chicken to enjoy during these cold winter days. Enjoy, and keep warm!