Home Food Retro-style dishes make great party food

Retro-style dishes make great party food

Sushi rolls made by EDO Kosher (EDO Kosher photo)

Shabbat Shalom! I love social gatherings, especially pot luck dinners when everyone contributes a dish.

This week’s recipes – Beef Wontons and Tangy Sweet and Sour Sour Meatballs – work well for entertaining and they both have a retro feel.

I recently attended the 90th anniversary celebration of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation and many of the dishes served were reminiscent of a different era. That event inspired me to include some retro recipes today.

The wonton recipe comes from Miriam Pascal’s More Real Life Kosher Cooking: Approachable Recipes for Memorable Dishes (Mesorah Publications, 2019). I’ve also included Pascal’s recipe for Roasted Vegetable Soup.

The Asian Dipping Sauce, which comes from Spruce Eats, can be paired with the Beef Wontons.

The recipe for Tangy Sweet and Sour Meatballs comes from Second Helpings, Please!, a great source for retro recipes given its 50-plus year history.

This book launched the career of food maven and author, Norene Gilletz. Her upcoming book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, is slated to be released next week.



Last Saturday, I was lucky enough to attend a special celebration – the 90th anniversary of Shaarei Shomayim, a modern Orthodox Congregation in midtown Toronto.

Almost 400 people were in attendance, but the simchah had the warmth and feel of a house party. Food, drinks and conversation flowed.

Earlier that evening, Toronto mentalist, Haim Goldenberg, had entertained the congregants. Later, Beyond the Pale played some wonderful klezmer music, but at this event it was the food that had the starring role.

When I arrived at the synagogue, there was quite a bit of snow on the ground. However, upon entering the social hall I stepped into summer. The room had been transformed into an elegant garden party, with a central bar and retro lights strung up across the room.

In that spirit you could order ’50s-style cocktails like whiskey sours and Moscow mules, but more contemporary drinks were also on tap. The bartenders served craft beer and a Shaarei Shomayim cocktail that had been customized for the occasion.

In that vein, Edo Kosher created a special “Shomayim” sushi roll for this event.

Yvette Rosenberg, a member of the organizing committee for the 90th anniversary gala, explained that the theme encompassed the past and the future: “It’s about where we came from and how we got here and where we are going.”

And so the food – it was catered by Menchens – straddled this timeline theme with old and new dishes, Rosenberg said.

A deli station was set up to recreate a European or Kensington Market type stall complete with hanging salamis and pretzels. This style of food of the past was an acknowledgement of the European roots of many of the synagogue’s founders. This station served up mini deli sandwiches on pretzel buns.

At a nearby station, people could help themselves to an assortment of herring dishes. While it was a nod to the shul’s European founders, herring bars have become fashionable among a younger generation of herring aficionados.

Large market-size baskets of crusty bread also added to the atmosphere of the old-world market era.

Another station offered cocktail-sized latkehs, regular or sweet potato, with a modern twist – they were topped with beef or chicken.

The sushi and the vegan poke bowls, foods commonly consumed by younger people, symbolized the younger generation of Shaarei Shomayim members.

Sushi rolls made by EDO Kosher (EDO Kosher photo)

The dessert station – it had multi-generational appeal – was pure wow thanks to Lollicakes and Ellen Jane Desserts. The sumptuous assortment of sweets included chocolate and lemon mousse cups and tarts, meringue pops and red velvet and carrot cakes.


Carrot cake served at the 90th anniversary of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation (Barbara Silverstein photo)
Lemon tarts served at the 90th anniversary of Shaarei Shomayim Congregation (Barbara Silverstein photo)

The desserts were a sweet finale to a lovely evening.



750 g (1½ lbs) of ground beef

5 ml (1 tsp) salt

1½ ml (¼ tsp) pepper

1 clove garlic, minced

1 egg

30 ml (2 tbsp) matzah meal

375 ml (1½ cups) ketchup

500 ml (2 cups ) ginger ale


Combine the beef, salt, pepper, garlic, egg and matzah meal and form into small balls, about an inch in diameter. Set aside.

In large saucepan, combine the ketchup and ginger ale, and bring to a boil. Drop the meatballs into the sauce. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Makes 4 dinner servings.


BEEF WONTONS (Miriam Pascal)

750 g (1½ lbs) ground beef

30 ml (2 tbsp) soy sauce

2½ ml (½ tsp) toasted sesame oil

30 ml (2 tbsp) sesame seeds, preferably a mix of black and white

4 scallions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, minced

50 wonton wrappers, approximately


Combine the beef, soy sauce, sesame oil, sesame seeds, scallions, and garlic in a large bowl; stir gently until just combined.

Place about 10 ml (2 tsp) of the meat mixture onto the centre of a wonton wrapper. Brush a small amount of water along the edges before pressing them together to help keep them sealed. Bring the edges together to form a wonton. Set aside. Repeat with remaining meat and wonton wrappers.

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Drop a few filled wontons into the boiling water; cook for about 6 minutes, until the meat is cooked through. Work in batches to avoid overcrowding the pot.

Remove the wontons with a slotted spoon; place on parchment paper, not touching each other. Set the wontons aside.



For the Chili Oil

5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder (or chili flakes)

30 ml (2 tbsp) cooking oil (of your choice)

For the Sauce

2 cloves garlic (minced)

45 ml (3 tbsp) light soy sauce

30 ml (2 tbsp) Chinese rice vinegar

10 ml (2 tsp) sesame oil

5 ml (1 tsp) hot chili oil


For the Chili Oil: Place the chili powder or chili flakes into a heatproof bowl. In a small saucepan, heat the oil. Pour the hot oil into the chili powder. Let it cool.

The chili oil can be stored in the fridge an airtight jar or container if it’s not used immediately.

For the Sauce: In a small bowl, combine the garlic, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and hot chili oil. Whisk until well combined.

The dipping sauce can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.



2 large zucchini, diced

3 medium yellow squash, diced

2 red bell peppers, diced

2 onions, diced

500 g (1 pound) frozen cauliflower florets, defrosted

60 ml (¼ cup) oil

15 ml (1 tbsp) kosher salt

2½ ml (½ tsp) black pepper


1 L (4 cups) vegetable broth

1½ L (6 cups) water

2 bay leaves

15 ml (1 tbsp) kosher salt


Prepare the roasted vegetables: Preheat oven to 200°C (400°F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Place the vegetables, oil, salt, and pepper into a bowl. Toss to combine. Divide them between the prepared baking sheets. Roast for 50-60 minutes, until vegetables are starting to brown.

Prepare the soup: Place the roasted vegetables, along with any juices, into a large soup pot. Add the broth, water, bay leaves and salt and bring to a boil.

Simmer for about 1 hour. Discard the bay leaves. Using an immersion blender, blend soup well, for about 3 minutes, until it is fully smooth. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.

Plan Ahead:This soup can be prepared ahead and frozen in an airtight container.

Share and enjoy !

Share and Enjoy !

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