Shabbat Shalom! We celebrate Tu B’ Shevat, the New Year of the Trees and the beginning of spring (in Israel) on Feb. 9. Tu B’ Shevat is the time when the trees begin to bear fruit. Many people mark this holiday by eating fruit and dishes made with fruit, while some people even attend Tu B’ Shevat seders.
In elementary school, I sold trees for the reforestation of Israel on Tu B’Shevat. The Jewish National Fund (JNF) distributed paper-tree-kit /certificates with little leaf stickers that we put onto the trees.
We also got small party favour-style baskets with so-called treats from Israeli trees – almonds in their shells, dried figs and dates, and a hard, brown carob seed pod called bokser.
It was a disappointing party basket, to say the least. None of these items were particularly tasty and you could break your jaw trying to eat the bokser.
Shoresh, the grassroots Jewish environmental organization, will be holding Taking Root, its annual fundraiser, on the evening of Feb. 12 during the week of Tu B’Shevat.
Sabrina Malach, Shoresh’s director of engagement, said Taking Root will be a night of celebration with live music and a buffet with an array of vegan delicacies.“Taking Root is the tastiest way to support our work inspiring and empowering our community to take care of the earth.”
She expressed gratitude for the “annual generosity” of the diverse group of local vendors and food purveyors who donate their wares and services annually.
One of these regular food contributors is Carolyn Tanner Cohen, owner of the Delicious Dish Cooking School and a home cooking educator and recipe developer.
Her recipe for Chicken with Pears and Leeks offers a delicious main course option for carnivores looking for savoury fruit options to celebrate Tu B’Shevat .
On Feb. 9, Fort York holds its annual Hungry for Comfort: A Celebration of Food History. This year the spotlight is on the Canadian Jewish community. Celebrity cook and baker, Daphna Rabinovitch, a contributor to The Canadian Jewish News, will be giving a presentation on challah the event.
Rabinovitch said her recipe for Tarte Tatin Cake – it’s made with caramelized apples – would be a delicious finish to a Tu B’Shevat dinner. “This cake is stunning with other fruits as well,” she says. “You can substitute pears, mango and even peaches or apricots for the apples.”
Tarte Tatin Cake is a recipe from Rabinovitch’s award-winning cookbook, The Baker in Me.
On Feb. 19, cookbook author and food columnist Amy Rosen will be headlining Balabusta, a baking demo taking place at 7:30 p.m at Congregation Habonim of Toronto (5 Glen Park Ave.).
The evening, organized by UJA Genesis, will feature recipes from Kosher Style: Over 100 Jewish Recipes for the Modern Cook, Rosen’s latest cookbook.
Her Winter Compote recipe – it can be found in Kosher Style – is “fab for Tu B’Shevat,” says Rosen, adding that the compote “is nice with brie and crackers too.”
CHICKEN WITH PEARS AND LEEKS (Carolyn Tanner Cohen)
6 chicken breast supremes*or boneless skinless chicken breasts
30-45 ml (2-3 tbs) olive oil
3 pears (2 Bosc – just ripe but still firm and 1 Anjou or Bosc, ripe)
2 small leeks, white and light green parts, finely chopped about 250-375 ml (1-1½ cups)
1 large shallot, chopped, about 60 ml (¼ cup)
1 small sprig rosemary
60 ml (¼ cup) white wine
125 ml (½ cup) chicken stock
15 ml (1 tbs) white wine vinegar
30 ml (2 tbs) vegan butter or coconut oil
10 ml (2 tsp) sugar
2½ ml (½ tsp) finely chopped rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
15 ml (1 tbs) balsamic vinegar
60 ml (¼ cup) dried cherries or dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 180°C (350°F).
In the meantime, dry the chicken well and season with salt and freshly ground pepper. Heat an oven-proof frying pan over medium-high heat. Add half the olive oil, add the chicken in batches, skin side down (if using supremes). Do not overcrowd the pan. Let the chicken brown undisturbed until a dark golden crust forms, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pan, repeat with the remaining breasts. Only brown one side. Pour off any remaining fat or liquid from the pan.
Add the remaining oil to the pan, add the chopped leeks, shallots and rosemary sprig, sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
In the meantime, core and roughly chop (4-6 pieces) the one ripe pear and add that to the pan with the leek mixture. Sauté for 3-4 more minutes. Turn the heat to medium high.
Add the wine, cook until the wine has been reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Add the stock and white wine vinegar, bring to a boil. Add the chicken breasts, skin side up (browned side), cover the pan with a lid.
Slide the pan into the lower third of the oven. Cook for 30 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer reads 75°C (150°F) in the thickest part of the breast. Baste once or twice. (Remove the entire pan from the oven while you baste the chicken and close the oven door behind you. Otherwise you will lose too much heat in the oven.)
While the chicken is cooking, peel, core and slice the remaining just-ripe pears into 8-10 slices. Set a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add the vegan butter or coconut oil, and when it stops foaming, add the pear slices, using a spatula, and toss to coat. Add the sugar, chopped rosemary and salt and pepper. Allow to cook and brown for about 5 minutes, then add the balsamic vinegar and dried cherries/cranberries. Toss. Turn the heat off. Reheat if necessary. (This step can be done well in advance or at a separate time and reheated in the fry pan when needed).
Once the 30 minutes are up and the chicken is cooked, remove the pan from the oven ** and raise the oven rack to the second slot from the top. Turn the broiler on. Uncover the pan and broil the chicken for 3 minutes. Remove. (**When you remove the chicken from the oven, you can let the chicken sit in the pan with the lid on for up to half an hour before putting the chicken under the broiler.)
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board. Set the pan with the gravy on the stove top. Turn the heat to high and reduce the sauce until it thickens to a thick vinaigrette (about 5 minutes) and serve as a gravy for the chicken.
TARTE TATIN CAKE (Daphna Rabinovitch)
1 cup (250 ml) granulated sugar
¼ cup (60 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) unsalted butter (60 g/ 2 oz)
2 large apples
375 ml (1½ cups) all-purpose flour
7 ml (1½ tsp) baking powder
2 ml (½ tsp) cinnamon
1 ml (¼ tsp) baking soda
1 ml (¼ tsp) salt
125 ml (½ cup) unsalted butter, softened (125g /4 oz)
250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla
125 ml (½ cup) buttermilk, at room temperature
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
Grease the bottom and sides of a 23-cm (9-inch) cake pan (you need to use a cake pan here and not a springform to prevent the caramel from leaking out during baking). Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper cut to fit; set aside.
Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan set over medium-heat. Cook without stirring but brushing down the sides of the pan occasionally with a brush dipped in cool water, until the mixture turns a deep golden colour, 5–7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and start to whisk in the butter, about 15 ml (1 tbsp) at a time. Be careful, the caramel will bubble and spit but keep going. Pour the hot caramel into the bottom of the prepared pan.
Peel and core the apples. Cut into thin slices and arrange in concentric circles on top of the caramel, fitting the slices snugly together.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, baking soda and salt in a bowl until the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined; set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or using a hand-held mixer, beat the butter for 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat together until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, add in the eggs, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla.
Remove the bowl from the stand. Using a wooden spoon, alternately stir in the flour mixture with the buttermilk, making three additions of the flour and two of the buttermilk. Scrape the batter on top of the apples, smoothing the top with an offset spatula knife. Place the cake pan on a rimmed baking sheet.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven until the cake springs back when lightly pressed in the centre, 35–40 minutes. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 3 minutes. Run a small sharp knife around the edge of the pan. Place a large serving platter on top of the cake pan. Carefully invert the pan and cake onto the platter. Remove the parchment paper and scrape any remaining caramel from the pan onto the apples. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.
Makes 8–10 servings.
Tip: Be sure to choose an apple that is firm and will hold its shape when making this cake. Look for Gala, Golden Delicious, or Spy apples.
WINTER COMPOTE (Amy Rosen)
250 ml (1 cup) dried pitted prunes
250 ml (1 cup) dried apricots
250 ml (1 cup) dried cranberries
60 ml (¼ cup) packed brown sugar
2 strips lemon rind
2½ ml (½ tsp) ground cinnamon
1 ml (¼ tsp) ground cardamom
125 ml (½ cup) toasted chopped walnuts (optional)
Place the prunes, apricots and cranberries in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, stirring now and then. Add the brown sugar, lemon rind, cinnamon and cardamom. Cook, uncovered, for 10 minutes, stirring often, until the fruit is soft and the syrup is thick.
Remove the fruit from the heat and discard the lemon rind. Chill the compote for several hours. Sprinkle with walnuts if desired.
Sun. Feb. 9 – A Celebration of Canadian Jewish Cookery at Fort York. Time: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There will be speakers, demonstrations, workshops and giveaways. Participants will enjoy tastings and a catered lunch from traditional Jewish recipes. To purchase tickets, go to: https://fortyork.streamintickets.com/purchaseProductSP.aro?sum=Fort+York+Events#33460
Wed. Feb. 12 – Shoresh Annual Fundraiser: Taking Root. Time: 7:00 to 9:00 pm. Location: Eglinton West Gallery, 2301 Keele Street. For more information, go to: https://shoresh.ca/takingroot
Wed. Feb. 19 –Balabusta: UJA Genesis. Cooking Demo by cookbook author Amy Rosen Time: 7:30 p.m. Location: Congregation Habonim of Toronto (5 Glen Park Ave.)