Israeli food maven Galya Sarner has added a new twist to fusion cuisine.
We tend to think of fusion food as western-style fare melded with Asian or Mexican cuisine. But Sarner describes her fusion dishes as “Israeli-style food with a French twist.”
Her cooking reflects the cuisine of the countries where she has lived – France and Israel. And since she moved to Canada nine years ago, many of her recipes contain maple syrup, an iconic Canadian ingredient.
Sarner, director of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s Israeli-Canadian project, and the originator of A taste of Israel, a culinary program based at the Schwartz-Reisman Centre, recently gave a cooking demonstration to some 40 people at Beth Sholom Synagogue, hosted and organized by the shul’s sisterhood.
Sarner said her “love affair with cooking” dates back to her childhood. She grew up in Jerusalem and she loved to shop with her mother in Mahane Yehuda, the bustling outdoor market. She also helped her mother prepare traditional Iraqi dishes for Shabbat.
When she and her husband, Toronto native Robert Sarner (a former columnist for The CJN), moved from Israel to Paris, she took up French cooking. “I learned so much from the French and their famous passion for food.”
Sarner said many of the Iraqi dishes she had grown up with were made with a lot of oil. But after her five-year stint in Paris, she learned to cook with less oil and more fresh produce.
For instance, her mother would often fry eggplant, she recalled. “I would wake up to the smell of eggplant.
“Eggplant is like a sponge. When you fry it, it absorbs a lot oil, and when you eat it, you feel like you’ve put on three kilos. I try to make eggplant in a different way.”
One of the recipe she demonstrated was baked eggplant slices seasoned with ingredients including fresh basil and sage, paprika, balsamic vinegar and maple syrup.
Sarner also prepared a labane (yogurt cheese) dish with roasted maple pears, fig balls stuffed with a mixture of sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese, Iraqi-French-style pickled lemons, an Israeli-style quinoa salad, and roasted maple pecans.
She encourages people to be creative in the kitchen. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” she said. “When it comes to the kitchen, there are no mistakes.”
GALYA’S BAKED EGGPLANT
1 cup fresh organic arugula
2 medium eggplants
4 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
3 tbsp. dried oregano
3 tbsp. chopped onions
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. sweet paprika
5 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp. fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
Preheat oven to 350. Prepare spice mixture by combining basil, oregano, onions, paprika and olive oil in a bowl. Mix well and set mixture aside. Slice eggplant in discs about 1/2 in. thick, and place slices on a lightly greased flat baking tray.
Bake eggplant for about 10 minutes. When the colour turns gold, turn the eggplant slices over. Bake another 7 minutes. Take tray out of the oven and carefully spread 1 tbsp. of the spice mixture in the centre of each eggplant slice. Bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes. Remove the tray of eggplant slices and let cool to room temperature.
For dressing, combine oil, wine and balsamic vinegars, syrup, garlic, basil, mustard or marinated sage. Mix well and refrigerate.
About an hour before serving, place arugula on a serving platter and arrange eggplant slices on the bed of arugula. Pour sauce evenly over the eggplant and arugula. Makes 6 servings.
LABANE WITH ROASTED MAPLE PEARS
1 litre (about 4 cups) organic 3 per cent yogurt
juice of 1 small lemon
2 tbsp. good quality olive oil
1/2 tbsp. mint, finely chopped
2 tsp. salt
Roasted Maple Pears
5-6 medium sized ripe pears, thinly sliced
1/2 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried rosemary
Labane: Mix yogurt together with lemon, mint and salt. Line a large bowl with 2 layers of cheesecloth, leaving enough material to hang over the sides. Pour in yogurt mixture. Tie ends of cheese cloth together and secure with a string. Leave yogurt mixture to drain in fridge for 3 to 4 days.
Roasted Maple Pears: Preheat oven to 400. Place pears in a single layer on a greased baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes. Combine maple syrup, rosemary, salt and pepper. Sprinkle mixture over the pears and let pears bake another 5 minutes. Turn off heat and leave the pears in the warm oven another 2 hours so pears can absorb the sauce.
To serve, place labane on a platter and cover the top with olive oil. Arrange pears around the labane on the platter. Makes 6 servings.
ROASTED MAPLE PECANS
2 cups raw pecans
2/3 cup maple syrup
3 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. dried rosemary
Preheat oven to 400. Place pecans evenly on a baking sheet. Sprinkle pecans with syrup, oil, rosemary and vinegar. Bake 15 to 20 minutes until golden. (Watch carefully or they can burn.) Spread nuts over a new baking sheet and let cool for 10 minutes. Transfer nuts to an airtight container. Can keep 1 week.