Shabbat Shalom! On Sunday, we usher in the last month of the year and that means winter is coming. Although technically the season does not begin until Dec. 21, the freezing weather seeps in way before the winter solstice.
This year, Hanukkah parallels the start of winter. The Jewish holiday does not begin until Dec. 22, but the celebrations and partying will be well underway before the official lighting of the first Hanukkah candle.
In fact community holiday celebrations kick off this week. The organizers of NoshFest, the Toronto Jewish food festival, takes place Dec. 1 at Wychwood Barns, where organizers are presenting a Hanukkah market.
Shuk Toronto by Ezer Mizion, the recreation of a shuk or Israeli market, takes place at the Promenade Mall in Thornhill from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2. While it’s not a Hanukkah market per se, people in attendance will be able to do plenty of Hanukkah shopping, so forget Black Friday sales.
In this week’s column, we showcase festive recipes from two award-winning food writers/ authors – Norene Gilletz and Amy Stopnicki. The recipes are dairy, which would work well for Hanukkah get-togethers where latkehs are served with sour cream. Is there any other way to eat latkehs?
Gilletz has kindly sent over the recipe for Mediterranean Stuffed Mushrooms from her upcoming new cookbook, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Brain. Stopnicki, an event planner and the author of Kosher Taste: Plan Prepare Plate, said her Spinach Feta Quiche works well for holiday brunches or afternoon parties. The quiche comes from Kosher Taste, but the Crepe Cake with BlueBerry Glaze, also a crowd pleaser, can be found along with many other recipes on Stopnicki’s Instagram: @amyskoshertaste.
MEDITERRANEAN STUFFED MUSHROOMS (Norene Gilletz)
24 large cremini mushrooms
15 ml (1 tbsp) olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, about 5 ml, (1 tsp), minced
125 ml (½ cup) roasted red bell peppers, drained and chopped (see Norene’s Notes)
80 ml (1/3 cup) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (optional)
1 300 g (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
30 ml (2 tbsp) chopped fresh basil or 1 tsp (5 ml) dried
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
125 ml (½ cup) grated low-fat mozzarella or Parmesan cheese
Wash the mushrooms quickly and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the stems and chop them coarsely, reserving the mushroom caps.
In a large nonstick skillet, heat the oil on medium. Add the onion, garlic, and chopped stems. Sauté about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Stir in the roasted bell peppers, sun-dried tomatoes (if using), and spinach. Cook until most of the moisture has disappeared, about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture begins to stick, add a little water. Season with basil, salt, and pepper; let cool.
Stuff the mushroom caps with the onion/garlic mixture, using a teaspoon to mound the filling slightly. Arrange the stuffed mushrooms in an oblong baking dish sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with Parmesan. (This dish can be prepared in advance and refrigerated, covered, overnight.)
Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 175°C (350°F) oven for 15 minutes, until golden.
Roasted red peppers: Preheat broiler or BBQ. Broil or grill red bell peppers until the skins are blackened and blistered, about 12–15 minutes, turning them occasionally. Immediately place the hot peppers in a bowl, cover, and let cool. Scrape off the skins, using a paring knife. Rinse peppers quickly under cold water to remove any bits of charred skin. Cut the peppers in half and discard stems, cores, and seeds. Cut the peppers into long, narrow strips. Refrigerate or freeze.
SPINACH FETA QUICHE (Amy Stopnicki)
125 ml (½ cup) milk
250 (1 cup) grated mozzarella cheese
750 ml (3 cups) baby spinach, cleaned and checked, chopped
100 ml (1/3 cup ) feta cheese
100 ml (1/3 cup) pine nuts
salt and pepper to taste
1 ready-to-bake frozen deep dish pie shell
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F).
In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, cheese, spinach, feta cheese, pine nuts, salt and pepper.
Pour the mixture into frozen pie shell. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until set.
CREPE CAKE WITH BLUEBERRY GLAZE (Amy Stopnicki)
500 ml (2 cups) water (or more to thin out batter)
500 ml (2 cups) flour
10 ml (2 tsp) vanilla extract
500 g (1 lb) finely pressed cottage cheese or farmer cheese
125 ml (½ cup) sour cream or plain Greek yogurt
125 ml (½ cup) sugar
15 ml (1 tbsp) vanilla extract
500 ml (1 pint) of blueberries
180 ml (3/4 cup) sugar
To make the batter: In a large mixing bowl, combine eggs, water, flour and vanilla and mix until smooth.
Heat a medium-sized fry pan over medium-high heat. Coat the pan with a non-stick spray. Using approximately 1 soup ladle, pour the batter into the pan, turning quickly to fill the bottom and cook until the crepe appears set. Flip and cook for 15 to 20 seconds on the other side. Repeat until all batter is used up. Set the crepes aside.
Filling: Mix the cottage cheese, sour cream or yogurt, sugar and vanilla together in a medium-sized bowl.
In a round oven-proof baking dish, layer the crepes and filling, alternating each. (Use a dish larger than the crepes).
For the glaze: combine the blueberries and sugar in a medium saucepan on medium heat. Continue mixing until the blueberries break down and the sugar is melted. Add water if a smoother consistency is desired.
Before serving, pour the glaze over the crepe cake and enjoy!
NoshFest runs 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 at Artscape Wychwood Barns (601 Christie St.) in the heart of the St. Clair West/ Hillcrest neighbourhood. This is the fourth year that Michelle Gordon and Andrea Segal, co-founders of NoshFest, have run this community event.
This year, they are presenting a Hanukkah Market that will feature Judaica, food booths, food demos, live music entertainment, and arts and crafts. Community non-profit sponsors include Temple Sinai/ Leo Baeck Day School and Habonim Camp Gesher.
Gordon said originally the date of NoshFest did not coincide with that of The Shuk by Ezer Mizion. She said that organizers of the Shuk changed the date after NoshFest had booked the Wychwood Barns and she regrets the time conflict.
NoshFest is featuring 30 vendors. The food booths include Marty’s Pickles, the Electric Love Bakeshop, Baker & Scone, In the Manor Catering, and the Parallel Brothers.
Visitors can nosh on Hanukkah treats and other traditional cuisine, and/ or shop for holiday gifts at the Yoffi Bazaar, Purple Hamsa Ceramics & Art and Sweet Legs.
Rock the Shtetl and Oozakazoo will provide some of the musical entertainment. For aspiring and seasoned cooks, there will be food demos provided by Amy Rosen, Carolyn Cohen, and Rooks to Cooks. For more information visit www.noshfest.ca
Toronto Shuk by Ezer Mizion
Get a taste of Israel this weekend at the Toronto Shuk by Ezer Mizion, which will feature 40 vendors from Israel along with 25 vendors from Canada. The Shuk be held from Dec. 1 to Dec. 2 at the Promenade Mall in the retail space formerly occupied by Sears.
On Dec. 1, the shuk runs from 10 a.m to 6 p.m. The night shuk that evening – it’s geared to people 16 and over – runs from 7:30 to 11 p.m. The shuk reopens on Dec. 2 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
The vendors will be selling everything from falafels, spices and candy to Judaica, hand-woven prayer shawls and clothing. People who attend will also be supporting Ezer Mizion, the world largest Jewish bone marrow registry.
The Shuk venders include Ba-Li Laffa, Fruit of the Land, Hummus by Eliyahu, Halvah Kingdom and Rosemary Spices. You can also dine on food prepared by Israeli master chef, Avi Levi. He’ll be at the Shuk Restaurant.
For more information about the Toronto Shuk by Ezer Mizion or to purchase tickets, visit the website at ezermizion.ca/shuk.