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Feed your head

Chef Doug Gilletz with Sharona Abramovitch (Barbara Silverstein photo)

The word is out: it is possible to serve an elegant and delicious Passover meal that can also boost brain health and strengthen memory.

That was a key message for the 200 people who attended the Panic Free Passover event, an evening featuring a cooking demo of recipes created by food columnist and cookbook author Norene Gilletz.

The event, which was held on April 9 at Beth Emeth Bais Yehuda Synagogue in Toronto, featured a cooking demonstration by chef Doug Gilletz, Norene’s son, along with a nutritional commentary provided by Sharona Abramovitch, a registered dietitian.

Dr. Edward Wein – co-author, with Norene Gilletz, of the upcoming book, Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory – gave a short lecture on brain health.

Wein said that while dementia is most prevalent among people who are 85 years of age and over, research shows that a healthy lifestyle may help prevent the onset of such diseases.

“Food is medicine,” he said. “The diet we consume will determine how healthy we are in the future.”

Doug Gilletz relayed greetings from his mother, who was not able to attend the event. He said she was his inspiration for becoming a chef. “I’ve been cooking with my mother since I was a year old,” he noted.

Abramovitch said she’s learned a lot from Norene Gilletz through their collaboration on Brain Boosting Diet.

People who attended the event had the opportunity peruse booths featuring jewellery, handicrafts, specialty foods and kosher wines, as they noshed on hors d’oeuvres and sipped wine. Later, they were each served a light dinner of salmon Mediterranean, rainbow quinoa, Winnipeg herring salad and smashed potato latkes, all dishes that were demoed by Doug Gilletz.

Throughout the evening, he provided cooking tips, such as how to get the most flavour from fresh herbs and proper knife skills.


Salmon Mediterranean

ο 1 salmon fillet with skin (1.5 kg or 8 individual salmon fillets)

ο 2 cloves garlic

ο 3 medium Roma tomatoes, quartered

ο 1 yellow or red pepper, cut in chunks

ο 1 medium zucchini, cut in chunks

ο 4 green onions, cut in chunks

ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice

ο 10 ml (2 tsp) honey

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh basil (or 5 ml  dried)

ο 125 ml (1/2 cup) sliced black olives (optional)

ο salt, pepper and dried basil to taste

Preheat an oven to 220 C (425 F). Line a baking sheet with foil and spray it with nonstick spray. Place the salmon on the baking sheet and sprinkle it lightly with salt, pepper and basil.

Drop the garlic through the feed tube of a food processor while the machine is running. Process the garlic until it is minced. Add the tomatoes, pepper, zucchini, onions, oil, lemon juice, honey and basil. Process ingredients with quick on/off pulses, until they are coarsely chopped. Season the vegetables with salt and pepper. Spread the mixture evenly over the salmon and marinate for 30-60 minutes.

Bake the fish uncovered for 12-15 minutes, or until the salmon flakes when gently pressed. If desired, top the fish with the olives before serving. Makes 8-10 servings.

Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible: 30th Anniversary Edition.


Rainbow Quinoa

ο 750 ml (3 cups) vegetable or chicken broth

ο 350 ml (1½ cups) quinoa

ο 2 cloves garlic

ο 125 ml (1/2 cup) fresh parsley (or 15 ml dried)

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) fresh basil or dill (or 10 ml dried)

ο 4 green onions, cut in thirds

ο 1 red and 1 orange bell pepper, cut in chunks

ο 250 ml (1 cup) canned mandarin oranges

ο 125 ml (1/2 cup) dried cranberries

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) extra virgin olive oil

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) orange juice (preferably fresh)

ο salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

To make the quinoa, place the broth in a medium saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Place the quinoa in a fine-meshed strainer and rinse it under cold running water for 1-2 minutes and then drain well. (Rinsing removes the bitter coating.) Add the quinoa to the boiling liquid. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and let it stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff the quinoa with a fork. Transfer it to a large bowl and let it cool.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the garlic, parsley and basil until the herbs are minced, about 10 seconds. Combine them with the cooled quinoa in a large bowl.

Process the green onions and bell peppers with several quick on/off pulses, until they are coarsely chopped. Add the vegetables to the quinoa, along with the mandarins and dried cranberries. Add the oil, orange juice, salt and pepper. Mix all the ingredients gently to combine. Cover and refrigerate the dish up to a day in advance. Adjust seasonings to taste before serving. Can be served cold as a colourful salad, or hot as a pilaf.  Makes 8 servings.

Adapted from Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.


Winnipeg Herring Salad

ο 1 jar (600 g) herring fillets in wine marinade

ο 3 stalks celery, diced

ο 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced

ο 3 or 4 firm, ripe tomatoes, diced

ο 6 green onions, thinly sliced

ο 30 ml (2 tbsp) minced fresh dill

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil

ο 60 ml (1/4 cup) brown sugar (or equivalent of other type of sweetener)

Drain the herring and rinse well. Discard the onions. Dice the herring and place it in a large bowl.

Add the celery, peppers, tomatoes, green onions, oil and sweetener. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.

Adapted from Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.


Smashed Potato Latkes

ο 12 baby red-skinned potatoes (5 cm in diameter)

ο lightly salted water

ο 15-30 ml (1-2 tbsp) olive oil

ο salt and freshly ground pepper

ο additional seasonings to taste: basil, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika

Place the potatoes in enough lightly salted water to cover them. Boil for 15-20 minutes, until they are fork-tender. Drain the potatoes well. (The potatoes can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated for a day or two.)

Preheat oven to 200 C (400 F). Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or sprayed foil. Place the potatoes in a single layer, about 8 cm (3 inches) apart, on the prepared baking sheet. Cover them with a piece of parchment paper. Smash each potato once or twice with the flat part of your palm, making a flat disc. Round off any ragged edges by pushing them together with your fingers.

Brush the potato tops lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. Bake the potatoes, uncovered, for 20-25 minutes, until golden and crispy. If desired, turn the potatoes over halfway through the baking and brush the tops with oil. Makes 4-5 servings.

Adapted from Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.

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