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The Shabbat Table: savvy family travel … then and now

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Blueberry pie TRAVIS WISE PHOTO

The Shabbat Table is the latest CJN column from noted chef and food blogger Norene Gilletz. Click here for last week’s recipes.

Good Shabbos, Shabbat shalom! It’s finally summer, the perfect time to pack up the car and the cooler and head out of town for a few days … or maybe a few weeks. I’ve always loved car trips. In our family, we would start eating as soon as our car would turn the corner! My mom would always pack an overstuffed cooler with all sorts of sandwiches, cookies, cinnamon buns and more. She always made a ton of sandwiches for any trip we took, because she didn’t want anyone to be hungry.

My mom’s standard selection included corned beef and pastrami sandwiches with tomato (my father’s favourite), salami (everyone’s favourite), egg and olive (her favourite) and chopped egg with green onions (my favourite). She sometimes included sandwiches with cold, sliced hamburger or chicken, once again with tomato slices – mom wanted to be sure we ate our vegetables. Salmon salad sandwiches with sliced cucumber and onions were often included, but rarely tuna – no one in our family liked tuna very much.

Mom also packed apples, oranges, bananas plus a selection of homemade cookies, such as mandelbroit and chocolate chip cookies. Cinnamon buns were another favourite of ours.

In the summer, we usually travelled to a rented cottage on Winnipeg beach, a short trip away. It seems like my mom took our whole kitchen with us in the car. Our beach cottage had no running water and no refrigeration, although there was an icebox and a wood stove. There was no shortage of fresh pickerel from the nearby lake, fresh vegetables and fruit from the local farmer and meat from the kosher butcher. We ate to our heart’s content.

My mom used to bake the most fabulous pies when we were on vacation at Winnipeg beach. No electric stove, no running water, but we still called it “our vacation.” Each day, we would shlep a heavy pail of well water from the old-fashioned pump that was a block or two away, depending on where our rented summer cottage was located. I can still remember the fun of pumping the handle up and down until the slightly metallic water finally flowed into the pail. Then, my younger sister and I carried the overflowing pail back to the cottage, sharing the heavy load in our tiny hands.

Mom would rinse the fresh berries in the newly pumped water, pat them dry and then prepare the filling for her wonderful blueberry pie (see recipe, below). She would make her flaky pastry, rolling it out deftly with her heavy rolling pin on the rickety kitchen table. She would fill the pie shell with her special blueberry-apple mixture and then carefully transfer the top crust to cover the “blue-ti-full” filling. We loved to sprinkle sugar on top. “Not too much sugar,” mom warned.

Then she would test the temperature of the wood-burning stove, checking to see if the oven was hot enough. She would put her hand in the oven quickly and then withdraw it even more quickly. We could never figure out how she knew when the oven was “just right.”

Today, travel is somewhat different, but some things remain the same. My friends told me that they usually pack an insulated bag or cooler with bagels or pita and cream cheese, peanut butter, or tuna salad, or assorted sandwiches, such as chopped egg or cheese. Deli sandwiches are a favourite for a meat meal, with sliced deli turkey or chicken often offered as healthier choices.

Juice boxes and water bottles can be frozen to act as ice packs, and the defrosted, icy-cold beverages can be enjoyed along the way. Veggies often include baby carrots, cherry or grape tomatoes and miniature cucumbers packed in resealable bags – moms still focus on getting vegetables into their kids! Chocolate chip cookies are always a favourite, plus fresh fruit – apples, grapes, cherries, bananas, plums and individual containers of yogourt. Don’t forget the napkins, paper towels and wipes for quick cleanups and spills. And maybe some noshes, like potato chips or crackers with hummus.

For those of you who are travelling to a rented cottage or apartment, there are additional challenges to consider, especially if you keep kosher. Organization and advance planning are the keys to a happy holiday, so it’s a good idea to keep an updated list from one year to the next.

Here are some helpful tips to help simplify things so that you will really have a holiday when you arrive at your destination!

  • A “Vacation Box” can be packed with inexpensive kitchen equipment, so it won’t matter if you lose something. The equipment should be of decent enough quality to work properly:
    1 dairy skillet (preferably nonstick);
    1 pot for pasta plus a colander;
    1 pot for boiling eggs;
    1 soup pot plus 1 large skillet for meat;
    1 pot for cooking vegetables;
    a big salad bowl or two (plastic is fine);
    disposable cutting boards;
    a few decent knives;
    ladle, tongs, measuring cups/spoons;
    a few mixing bowls, spoons and spatulas;
    grater, vegetable peeler, cheese slicer, can opener; and
    new sponge and scrubbies.
  • Buy paper goods (disposable paper plates, plastic cutlery, glasses, cups, napkins), plastic wrap and foil at the local supermarket or dollar store when you arrive at your destination. You can also buy disposable foil containers for roasting chicken, meats, vegetables, etc.
  • To be “green,” use reusable or recyclable dishes. Consider bringing an unbreakable set of cheap dishes and inexpensive cutlery with you. There are also collapsible storage containers and dishes that pack easily.
  • Pack seasonings, herbs and spices in small containers or resealable bags: salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion flakes, basil, oregano, paprika, instant chicken soup mix, cinnamon. Keep it simple – and be sure to seal the bags well.
  • Pack individual-size packets of mustard, ketchup, mayonnaise, peanut butter and jam. No refrigeration needed.
  • Buy perishables such as yogourt, cheeses, margarine and milk when you arrive at your destination. Fresh fruits and vegetables can also be bought at any supermarket or corner grocery store, or at farmer’s markets. Kosher pasta and rice are easily available and are quick to prepare.
  • Consider special dietary needs such as gluten-free diets, allergies and diabetic choices before you leave for your trip.
  • Don’t forget to pack Shabbat candles, matches and wine. A box of matzo can be used if kosher bread isn’t available.
  • Bring a plastic dish tub to wash dishes (or stack the dirty dishes on the counter, then hold them with one hand and wash and rinse them under running water).
  • Bring food for a quick, simple meal when you arrive: bagels, breakfast cereal, a whole salami or cooked boneless turkey breast, tuna in pouches, canned salmon, sardines, beans, chickpeas, corn.

Easy Meal Suggestions:

  • Pack a cooler with frozen meats and poultry that’s been double-wrapped.
  • A few weeks before your trip, prepare double portions of whatever you’re having for dinner: lasagna, meatballs, burgers, brisket, chicken and salmon patties (see below) are great choices. Label them clearly, double-wrap and freeze them until you’re ready to leave. Pack tightly along with frozen concentrated juice containers in a cooler or designated suitcase lined with a plastic garbage bag.
  • Place the food in the freezer as soon as you arrive at your destination. If tightly packed, it will probably stay frozen. Reheat and enjoy when needed for a carefree meal.
  • Hopefully there’s a microwave oven at your destination. You can prepare eggs, fish, potatoes, and other vegetables in it easily, as well as use the microwave for reheating and defrosting foods in a hurry.
  • A barbecue is great for grilling burgers, steaks, chicken, hot dogs, fish or veggies.

Safe travels and happy holidays. Enjoy.

Sam’s favourite salmon patties

My 12-year-old grandson Sam loves salmon patties. These can be mixed up quickly and are ready to eat in minutes – no special equipment needed. Our mom always made these for us when we were growing up, and so our family tradition continues.

2 cans (7 3/4 oz each) salmon (with skin, bones and juice)
2 1/2 cups corn flakes (measure, then crush with your hands)
4 eggs
Dash freshly ground black pepper
Oil for frying

  1. Combine all ingredients except oil in a large bowl and mix well.
  2. Heat oil in a large, nonstick skillet. Drop salmon mixture from a large spoon into hot oil. Flatten slightly with the back of the spoon. Brown on medium heat on both sides, until golden. Drain well on paper towels.

Yield: 6 servings. Freezes well. Perfect for travelling.

Norene’s lemon dill chicken in a pouch

Adapted from: Healthy Helpings/MealLeaniYumm!

Easy and versatile! This is a perfect dish for one person, or for a crowd. For a large quantity, multiply all ingredients. Leftovers are delicious when thinly sliced and served on crusty rolls or in a salad.

1 boneless skinless chicken breast per person, trimmed of fat (1/4 lb/125 g)
Salt, optional
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Paprika to taste
1 tsp minced fresh dill (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp olive or canola oil
1 to 2 Tbsp lemon juice

  1. Place chicken breast in a bowl or resealable bag and sprinkle with seasonings. Rub with dill, oil and lemon juice. Let marinate for half hour at room temperature (or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours).
  2. Cut a large square of foil or parchment paper. Place chicken on the foil and drizzle lightly with marinade. Seal package by crimping edges closed. (If preparing several portions, make individual packages.)
  3. Place on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 400 F for 20 to 25 minutes. To serve, place pouch on a serving plate and cut open at the table.

Yield: 1 serving. Best served immediately, but if you make a large quantity, leftovers can be reheated or frozen.

Chicken in a bag: Combine chicken with seasonings, dill, oil and lemon juice in a resealable freezer bag. Press out air and seal tightly. Freeze for up to one month. Thaw overnight in the fridge. Cook as directed above.

Forget about the pouch version: Double or triple the above recipe. Place marinated breasts on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, at 400 F for 20-25 minutes. Alternatively, grill or broil over medium-high heat, allowing five to six minutes per side, basting with marinade to keep chicken moist.

Chicken & veggies in a pouch: Prepare chicken as directed, but before sealing package(s), top chicken with one of the following veggie combinations: broccoli and/or cauliflower florets, chopped green, red and/or yellow peppers; julienned zucchini, carrots and/or green onions. Sprinkle with a little marinade or white wine. Bake as directed.

Ma belle’s famous blueberry pie

Mom’s pies always disappeared quickly, but the special flavor of their memory will last forever.

Pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch baking powder
2/3 cup chilled shortening (e.g., Crisco)
Scant 1/2 cup ice water
1 tsp vinegar

  1. Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with two knives or a pastry blender until particles are the size of peas. Add water and vinegar slowly, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Shape into a ball.
  2. Divide dough into two equal parts. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for easier handling. Prepare the blueberry filling.

Filling:

4 cups fresh blueberries
1 large green apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 tsp lemon juice
3/4 cup sugar
3 to 4 Tbsp flour
1 to 2 tsp additional water, for brushing top of pie
1 Tbsp additional sugar for sprinkling on top of pie

  1. Combine berries, grated apple, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl; mix well.

Assembly:

  1. Roll out one piece of dough about 1/8-inch thick. The board and rolling pin should be lightly floured. Keep pastry circular and roll it one-inch larger than an inverted nine-inch pie plate. Fold pastry in half and transfer it to the pie plate. Unfold, being careful not to stretch dough. Place filling in pie shell and trim off overhanging edges. Moisten edge of bottom crust with water.
  2. Roll out the top crust and make several slits to allow steam to escape. Place the top crust over the filling. Fold the overlapping edge of the top crust under the edge of the lower crust. Seal and flute, making sure the edges are hooked onto the rim of the pie plate. Brush top crust lightly with water and sprinkle lightly with sugar.
  3. Bake in a preheated 425 F oven (or a very hot wood-burning oven) for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden. Inhale and enjoy!

Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of 12 cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer and cookbook editor. Norene lives in Toronto and her motto is, “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website, or email her.

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