Home Food Back to healthy eating after some New Year’s indulgence

Back to healthy eating after some New Year’s indulgence

Malai, a Romanian cornbread and cottage cheese dish is served with yogurt and a pineapple garnish (Barbara Silverstein photo)

Shabbat Shalom! We’re almost two weeks into the new year and I wonder if people are keeping their new year’s resolutions (I’ve already broken mine).

I resolved to eat less and exercise more, but that turned out to be quite a challenge. My husband and I spent the first week of the year on a cruise – not exactly a setting conducive to dieting.

I went with a good friend and she was my partner in crime as we tried all the desserts on offer. As a food writer, I justified this indulgence as research.

My friend and her husband also invited us to spend time with them at their condo in Miami. We prepared a couple of healthy meals together to counteract some of our dietary transgressions on the cruise.

Our last night was a particularly memorable meal. My host made a baked salmon dish, a recipe I’ll share after I first make it at home. To accompany the salmon, I tried Oven Roasted Asparagus, a recipe I found in Norene Gilletz’s new book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.

The Brain Boosting Diet update: The book is not in stores yet. It’s available online at Chapters for $39.95, but shipping will take 1 to 2 weeks. Amazon.ca is currently out of stock.

Israel’s is currently offering a 25 per cent online discount ($37.50) until Sunday. You reserve your book and pick it up once Israel’s receives stock.

There’s also a new kosher cookbook from Miriam Pascal – More Real Life Kosher Cooking was recently released by Mesorah Publications. Pascal is sharing two recipes – Sweet Potato Wedges with Avocado Drizzle and Matbucha Brisket, a roast braised in a matbucha-inspired sauce.

For dessert, my friend made her mother’s recipe for Malai, a Romanian dish of lightly sweetened cornbread and cottage cheese. You could say that Malai is the Romanian equivalent of cheese blintzes. It goes well with sour cream or yogurt and it’s a good dish to serve on Shavuot.

Aside from the really delicious taste, one of the nice things about Malai is that it’s quick and easy to make. The ingredients can all be mixed by hand, so there’s no need to use a stand mixer.

Oven roasted asparagus (Barbara Silverstein photo)


900 g (2 lb) asparagus spears

30 ml (2 tbsp) extra virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, about 2 tsp, minced

10 ml (2 tsp) freshly grated lemon zest

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil, spray with nonstick spray.

Soak the asparagus thoroughly in cold water and drain well. Bend the asparagus and snap off the tough ends where they break off naturally.

Place the asparagus in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, garlic, and lemon zest. Brush the asparagus evenly with the oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, in the lower third of the oven for 10–12 minutes, or until the spears are tender-crisp and lightly browned. Using tongs, turn asparagus once or twice during roasting for even browning.

Transfer to a serving platter. Serve hot, at room temperature, or chilled



250 ml (1 cup) fine cornmeal

265 ml (1 cup + 1 tbsp) all purpose flour

2½ tsp baking powder

125 ml (½ cup) sugar

125 ml (½ cup) oil

2 eggs

500 ml (2 cups) buttermilk


454 g (1 lb) farmer’s cheese

1 whole egg plus 1 egg white

60 ml (¼ cup) sugar

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla

60 ml (¼ cup) sugar to taste


Preheat oven to 175ºC (350°F).

Grease a 13 x 23-cm (9 x13-inch) ceramic or pyrex baking dish.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, and baking powder. Add the sugar, oil, eggs, and buttermilk. Mix all the ingredients well and place the batter in the prepared baking dish.

Topping: Mix the cheese, eggs, sugar and vanilla. Spoon the topping over the cornmeal batter.

Bake in the prepared oven for about an hour, until golden brown. Makes 12 servings.

Best served warm with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

Malai freezes well.


Sweet potato wedges with avocado drizzle (Miriam Pascal photo)


Sweet Potato Wedges

3 sweet potatoes

45 ml (3 tbsp) oil

5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt

2 ml (¼ tsp) black pepper

Avocado Drizzle

1 avocado, peeled and pitted

125 ml (½ cup) mayonnaise

2½ ml (½ tsp) kosher salt

5 ml (1 tsp) garlic powder

10 ml (2 tsp) lemon juice


Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into wedges. Place the potatoes into a large bowl; add oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to coat.

Place the wedges in a single layer on a prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the outsides are starting to brown.

Meanwhile, make the avocado drizzle: Place the prepared avocado into a bowl, mash until smooth. Add the mayonnaise, salt, garlic powder and lemon juice and stir to combine the ingredients.

Remove the roasted sweet potato from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Just before serving, drizzle the avocado mixture over the wedges.

Plan Ahead: Avocado drizzle can be prepared 2 to 3 days ahead. Due to the acid in the recipe, it should not turn brown. Sweet potato wedges are best fresh, but can be prepared a day or two ahead and served at room temperature.

Matbucha brisket (Miriam Pascal photo)


1½ kilograms (about 3 pounds) second cut brisket

Kosher salt, for sprinkling

Black pepper, for sprinkling

45 ml (3 tbsp) oil

2 onions, sliced

10 ml (2 tsp) kosher salt, divided

3 bell peppers, sliced, preferably different colours

2 plum tomatoes, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

½ jalapeño pepper, minced

10 ml (2 tsp) cumin

5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder

1 800 g (28-oz) can diced tomatoes


Preheat oven to 160°C (325°F).

Sprinkle salt and pepper over both sides of the roast.

Heat a large, deep frying pan over high heat. Add the roast; sear for 2-3 minutes per side, until browned on the outside. Transfer the meat to a roasting pan and set aside.

Turn the heat under the frying pan to medium. Add oil, onions, and 5 ml (1 tsp) salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened.

Add peppers, tomatoes, garlic, jalapeño, and remaining teaspoon salt. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until softened.

Raise the heat to high. Add the cumin, chili powder, and diced tomatoes with their liquid. Cook until the mixture starts to bubble around the edges. Pour the vegetable mixture over the meat.

Cover the roasting pan tightly. Bake for 40-50 minutes per 450 kilogram (1 lb), until the meat is soft and tender.

Makes 6-8 servings

Plan Ahead: This meat freezes well in the sauce, wrapped and airtight. Reheat, covered, until warmed through.



Sun. Feb. 9: A Celebration of Canadian Jewish Cookery is the theme for the annual Hungry for Comfort: A Celebration of our Food History. The program takes place 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m at Fort York National Historic Site and will be part of Winterlicious 2020.

Wed. Feb. 12: Shoresh Annual Fundraiser: Taking Root. Time: 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm. Location: Eglinton West Gallery, 2301 Keele Street. https://shoresh.ca/takingroot

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