Easter for me is considered the most important Christian celebration!
My family took us to church making sure that we were wearing new clothes or, if they couldn’t afford a total new outfit, at least we had a new pair of shoes.
For the Shanineh (Palm Sunday) celebration church bells were ringing and the crowds waved olive branches as they made their way in a procession around the church. Children carrying candles decorated with olive branches and flowers tied with ribbons, are carried on their parents’ shoulders, traditionally in our house the most exciting activity was preparing the eggs which we colored for egg-cracking games on Easter morning.
My mom would decorate the house before Easter with Branches and painted eggs, spring flowers in the centre of a table with nests made out of moss and leaves filed with multi-coloured chocolate eggs.
Chocolate is an essential component when celebrating Easter. In many patisseries, chocolateries, great attention to detail results in chocolate eggs looking more like pieces of art than anything edible.
Easter Sunday is spent visiting relatives and friends, usually for a short time and children playing the egg-cracking games. In each household we visited we were offered Maamoul and Easter holiday cookies along with other delicacies and of course Chocolates!!!
I especially like Easter in Canada when it corresponds with maple syrup season.
This past Saturday a group of maple enthusiasts gathered at the lake of bay cottage to make maple syrup. Although I have no previous experience, I was keen to try it out. It was a long day collecting sap and boiling for hours to produce Real maple syrup. A treat that can be enjoyed year round thanks to my friend in Lake of Bay who harvests this sweet sap from his maple trees.
In the late winter and early spring when temperatures begin to rise during the day, but still fall at night, is when sap can be harvested.
This sugaring season is when trees are tapped, using a drill, to make a hole that’s small enough to hold a Spile.
Ian Karn and Sue Barker said the tree is like a thermometer. Spring temperatures warm the sap in the root of the maple tree and the sap begins to travel up the tree toward the buds. Snow on the ground helps cool the sap so that it rises slowly to a perfect condition to extract the sap before it reaches the buds
It’s a slow and steady process that sees countless drips of sap drop into the bucket before being collected and taken into the sugar house.
Then the sap is poured into an evaporator that quickly boils off the sap’s water,
If using a large outdoor pan, you may not have enough syrup to maintain the depth needed to prevent scorching. Always have at least 2.5 centimeters of sap in the evaporating pan.
As you boil, keep adding more sap to maintain this level. If you are boiling the sap on an outdoor fire, then move it to an indoor stove for the final stages. Using The Hydrometer for measuring the density of maple syrup the syrup needs to have a temperature less than 20°C, to concentrate it into thick syrup.
Then we strain the hot syrup through a felt filter to remove the sugar sand this sand can also be settled out in the jars, The syrup can then be poured into hot sterile jars and sealed The sugar content preserves the syrup. If the sugar content is too low, the syrup may spoil. Syrup that grows mold can be filtered and re-boiled with no damage to the flavour. So for every 43 L sap that we collected we made 1L syrup.
It was worth every drop!
Maple-glazed meatballs with pineapple
Ingredients For the meatballs:
Makes about 24 meatballs
- 1/2 pound lean ground turkey
- 1/2 pound ground pork
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 eggs
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped basil
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped parsley
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 1/2 Cups gluten free oatmeal
Ingredients For sauce:
- 1 1/2 cups ketchup
- 1 cup maple syrup
- 1/3 cup low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 20-ounce can pineapple chunks in juice, drained
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. To make the meatballs, use your hands to combine all of the ingredients in a medium mixing bowl until just incorporated.
- Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake 20 minutes or until golden and cooked all the way through.
- In a large saucepan, combine the ketchup, syrup, soy sauce, allspice and mustard and bring to a boil
- Turn the temperature down and let cook 5 minutes Stir the mixture to avoid sticking to the saucepan Carefully add in the pineapple chunks and meatballs and cook for 10 minute to warm through , and to glaze them in the sauce.
- Serve with toothpicks
Eggplant And Yogurt (fatet batinjan)
- 1lb Ground beef
- 2 whole onions, chopped
- 1 tsp. chili flakes,
- 1 tsp. ground allspice,
- 1tsp.black pepper,
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 1 large eggplant,
- 1 pita bread
- 2 cups yogurt
- 1 garlic, finely chopped
- Toasted Sliced Almonds and pine nuts for garnish
- Salt to taste
- Oil for frying the eggplant
- In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups of yogurt and salt and finely chopped garlic set aside
- Peel eggplant then cut in cubes and heat the oil and fry the cubes of eggplant to nice golden color drain on paper towel set aside.
- Cut the pita bread into square pieces toasted until golden crisp set aside.
- Sauté the Chopped onion until soft and golden Add ground beef and cook about 5 minute stirring frequently
- Add spices and chicken stock then stir again until meat is cooked about 10 minutes
- Or until mixture is dry and not too wet
- Into a serving dish layer the fried eggplant, Top with meat mixture then toasted bread.
- Cover with the yogurt mixture.
- Garnish with toasted almonds and pine nuts
- 1 kg flour
- 450 g almonds
- 400 g icing sugar
- 400 g butter
- 4 tbsp. water of rose
- A dash of salt
- Almond paste: Boil almonds. Peel them then dry them in the oven.
- Finely chop almonds. Mix them with sugar and water of rose. Roll dough like a long rope as thick as a pencil.
- Main dough:
- Sift flour with a dash of salt then put it in a bowl.
- Make a hole in the middle of the flour then pour in melted butter and knead well.
- Gradually add warm water until soft dough is formed.
- Boil water in a pot Take a small portion of dough, dip it for a few seconds in that water then roll it out as thinly as a paper on a greased surface.
- Cut dough in 15cmx7 cm rectangles. Fill every rectangle with almond paste and roll it and form it like a ring
- Bake in a hot oven at medium heat for 25 minutes approximately.
April always reminds me how important it is to share and give back to the community. Sharing is caring and that is the spirit in which we base our upcoming gala on in support of children’s education! I enjoy the art of food sharing which is an essential part of my Lebanese heritage and enjoy sharing it with guests.
I also love getting a few plates to share. It is always exciting to try a few small bite of new cuisines while dining out.
My Mom used to say sharing the loaf of bread with others, brings you closer together. Through sharing a meal in a Family –style dining guests can make an instant connection in a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
Family-style dining nonetheless has its challenges. How do you arrange a table when food is shared rather than simply plated and served? Its presentation!
I admit that the downside to family-style dining is that food inevitably looks messy after a few servings.
My suggestion is choosing a cultural theme to bring some order to the table without quashing the convivial atmosphere at the reunion. Use innovative dishes that comprise a fresh and sophisticated bite so you can enjoy sharing with your family and friends. Organize the tableware and timing to keep the presentation simple, and choose the number of serving dishes depending on the number of guests and table size. For a long table, you may divide the same type of food into two plates to allow people to serve themselves simultaneously. Don’t be afraid of mixing and matching dinnerware combining the old with the new and the formal with the casual.
Grilled eggplant with sesame paste and lemon juice. Moutabel is a dip like hummus, but it is a completely different experience. Like hummus, moutabel is regularly found on my mom’s table. In this recipe the eggplants are grilled, however they can also be baked. I can remember my mother assigning me the task of crushing garlic
Ingredients (serves 4-6 people)
- 2 eggplants
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
- 3 ounces plain yogurt
- 1-2 teaspoons of salt or to taste
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons pomegranate paste (optional)
- Sweet red peppers
- Pomegranate seeds
- Grill the eggplants.
- Stick the eggplants on a couple of skewers and grill on BBQ over an open flame (I place them on the naked flame of my gas stove). This is the best way to obtain that great smoky flavor (you can put them under the grill if you like). The skin will blacken and wither with the heat, keep turning them until the eggplants’ skin is soft all over to the touch and a skewer can easily cut through the vegetables.
- As soon as this happens, take them off the flame and put them in a pot filled with cold water (this will help to cool the eggplants and make it easier to peel them).
- Peel the eggplants (I find it helps also to peel them under cold running water).
- Discard the burnt skin and put the pulp in a strainer to preferably leave overnight in the fridge. This will ensure that the excess water is removed.
- (Instead of grilling, you can deep or shallow fry your eggplants until golden. Then continue on with preparation. Using this method however, you do not get that smoky taste which is so typical of this dish.)
- Cut the eggplants into small pieces and then pound to a rough pulp (you don’t want it too smooth, it’s good to have some texture left).
- As you add the other ingredients make sure you incorporate them one by one into the mixture.
- First, add the tahini, then the yogurt if you wish (yogurt will help take some of the bitterness of the vegetables away, but if you like that bitter taste don’t add any yogurt).
- Now add the lemon juice and the salt (to taste).
- If you prefer a sweeter taste I found that adding pomegranate paste works very well.
Place the mixture in a dish and smooth it out to cover the dish. Garnish with paprika, parsley leaves, wedges of sweet red pepper, pomegranate seeds and walnuts (walnuts go extremely well with this dish). Finish off with a dash of olive oil. Like hummus, moutabel will keep for a couple of days in the fridge. Don’t forget to cover with plastic wrap.
Mom’s Addas bi Hamod- lentil and Swiss chard soup
- 1 cup brown lentils, rinsed
- 4 cups water
- 4 cups homemade vegetable stock
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving (optional)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- pinch of crushed red pepper
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 bunch green Swiss chard washed and chopped (1 1/4 pounds),
- 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
- 1 cup or 1 medium potato cut into small cubes
- 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice (or 2 lemon)
- freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
Yield: 6 Servings
Note: If you’re not a cilantro lover, feel free to omit it. I’ve done so a couple times and it’s still a great soup.
- In a medium saucepan, combine the lentils and potato with the water, and vegetable stock and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt and bring to a boil.
- Cover partially and cook over moderately low heat until the lentils and potato are barely tender, about 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet.
- Add the onion, crushed pepper and a pinch of salt and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cilantro and cook for 1 minute. Then add to the lentils
- Add the chard to the lentils, cover partially, and simmer until thickened, about 15 minutes.
- Stir in the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle the soup into bowls, season with pepper and olive oil and serve.
Bemieh bi Zayt (Okra stew)
Okra, stir-fried in olive oil and cooked till tender in a stew of onions, tomatoes and garlic is served at room temperature with a side of pita bread.
- 2 lb (1kg) fresh okra (tender)
- 4 medium-sized onions chopped
- 2 whole garlic bulbs
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 3 lb (1 1/2 kg) ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup chopped fresh coriander
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon ground, dried coriander
- 1 teaspoon of allspice
- Cut off the stems of the okra then wash and drain.
- In deep skillet heat ½ cup oil and Sauté the okra, a few at a time, until almost golden, then drain and set aside. Repeat until all finished.
- Peel and finely chopped the onions, peeled and crush the garlic bulb in the same skillet sautéed the onion until lightly browned. Then add the crush garlic.
- Return the okra to the skillet and add in the diced tomatoes, salt and allspice.
- Crush and add the dried coriander, and the chopped green coriander.
- Pour half a cup of water over the okra and allow boiling over low heat and lemon juice cook for half an hour without stirring.
- Garnish with some more chopped coriander then serve cold with pita bread
For more information on the Waladi Child Education gala, please visit http://www.waladi.ca
In February, cellar cupboard onions come in handy, while braising leafy Savoy cabbage with chestnuts, pancetta and juniper berries or wilting some finely sliced cabbage as wonderful winter salad adding baby arugula pomegranate seeds, crumbled goat’s cheese and radicchio leaves with citric lemon dressing.
Not to miss the mighty leek! Leek, a favorite of the ancient Egyptian, and Greeks is packed with anti-oxidants and vitamins, can help you to stave off winter’s chill. From a bowl of hearty leek and potato soup or the perfect side dish of deeply satisfying leek and goat cheese au gratin.
Leeks are a great addition to the nutritional diet; known to reducing cholesterol and helping combat the offset of diabetic heart disease, and to help lower blood pressure.
Along with being nutritious, delicious and endlessly versatile, potatoes a good source of complex carbohydrates , vitamin C and folate. They contain the minerals copper, potassium and manganese and the skin provides dietary fiber. They are ingredients of many winter stews and soups including Mom’s hearty potato and leek – the ultimate comforting classic soup!
Usually eaten hot, but it’s also surprisingly delicious eaten cold with a squeeze of lemon juice and a dollop of natural yoghurt.
Potato & Leek Soup
- 3 cups sliced leeks, white and tender green parts
- 3 cups peeled and diced potato (like russets)
- 2 small carrot peeled and diced
- 2 small onions
- 2 clove garlic
- 3 table-spoon olive oil
- 6 cups vegetable water or chickens stock
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Wash Peel and fine roughly dice the carrots,
- Peel and finely chop the onions cut the ends off the leeks , quarter them lengthways ,
- wash them under running water and cut them into 1cm slices ,
- Peel and thinly slice the garlic
- Place a large pan on a high heat and add 3 tablespoons o f olive oil
- Add all your chopped and sliced and diced ingredients and mix together with a wooden
- Cook for around 10 minutes or , until the carrots have softened, but are still holding
- their shape, and the onion and leeks are lightly golden
- Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1cm dice add the potatoes to pot
- Add in the stock and bring to boil over high heat cover partially
- Reduce the heat and simmer for 20 to minute until all the vegetable are tender
- Correct the seasoning to taste
- Top each serving with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkling of fresh chives.
Not to forget February is Valentine-Red. We tend to think o f Valentine’s Day as “owning” February, but I would say otherwise. Don’t let one day of red satin candy boxes limit your celebration when there are other month-long festivities. Using time-honoured and honed skills! February is artisan chocolate, just like any product—jewelry, furniture , haute couture, is A handmade Art. You will find chocolatiers innovators of flavour in the kitchen preparing and packing small batches no assembly line of Simon Truffles – they are to share for the love of Chocolate!
Simon’s Chocolate Truffles
Twenty years ago my brother came to visit Canada from Lebanon. Chocolate being one of his favourite foods , I was inspired to create something wonderful for him . What better a treat for a chocolate lover than a pure chocolate truffle? This time I decided to share what has been favourite for so many social gatherings
Ingredients for Truffles Mixture:
- 1/4 lb. Milk chocolate 125g
- 1/4 lb. Dark chocolate 125g
- 1/2 tsp. grated orange rind 2 ml
- Pinch salt pinch
- 1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream 125 ml
For Dipping Chocolate:
- 1/3 lb. dark chocolate 170 g
- 1 tsp. vegetable oil 5 ml
- Cocoa powder for coating
- In a blender or food processor grate milk chocolate and dark chocolate. Add orange rind and salt.
- In a saucepan heat 1/2 cup (125 ml) cream. Do not let boil. Pour into processor .
- Process with an on/off motion until mixture is smooth and all chocolate has been
- Remove mixture from processor. Put into a container and freeze overnight.
- With a teaspoon and your hands, shape truffles one at a time in the shape of a rough
- ball and place on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
- Place back in freezer 1 hour, until truffles are firm .
- To make dipping chocolate: In the top of a double boiler over boiling water melt dark
- Add vegetable oil to the melted chocolate and blend in.
- Remove truffles from freezer and dip each one into melted chocolate and put once
- again on a cookie sheet. Let stand 1 to 2 hours , until chocolate coating is firm.
- Roll truffles in cocoa powder to coat
- Makes 24 truffles
So why don’t you make it your own. This recipe is simply rich and sinful …….Enjoy.
February also is my birthday month – oh the Celebrations! As much I welcome valentine day, it is the perfect time to reflect and focus on healthy food so no matter what your age, Your awareness of what you are eating and how you are moving needs to be considered. Sure, you can trim excess fat from our diet by cutting red meat, drinking less
coffee and more tea. But if you really want to keep up a healthier heart you need to start eating more foods naturally designed to nourish and protect our heart.
Here are some tips to help you through:
- Barley – known to reduce the risk of heart disease lowing cholesterol you can use it instead of rice as side dish
- Avocado – Rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, avocados have an abundance of heart-healthy nutrients — vitamin E, folate and vitamin B6. Avocados are a good source of potassium that helps control blood pressure by lowering potassium. Avocados are excellent toppings for salad
- Tomatoes – one of the highest sources of lycopene, a powerful antioxidant. Studies show a high intake of lycopene is linked to a lower risk for heart attacks. Tomatoes contain other substances that may help prevent plaque from clogging arteries.
- Carrots – packed with nutrients for a healthy heart. Unique to carrots is the rich content of vitamin A and beta-carotene. Studies show those who eat one serving a day of carrots or other food rich in beta-carotene (think squash) decrease the risk of a heart attack by 60 percent
Many of my favorite winter vegetable on their way out although you’d never know it as they are in store all year around. Savoy Cabbage Pleasingly wrinkly to the touch and nutty to the taste, the Savoy makes a mighty fine addition at any meal, sautéed finely sliced cabbage with crushed garlic, ginger and a little sesame oil – this works brilliantly and delicious also a great companion to Yukon gold and leek. Cabbage is an excellent source of vitamin C. It also contains significant amounts of glutamine, an amino acid that has anti- inflammatory properties. Cabbage can also be included in dieting programs, as it is a low-calorie food.
Bubble & Squeak
- 2 pounds (about 7 medium) Russet or all-purpose potatoes
- 2 cups chopped washed leek
- 1 cup milk (I used whole milk)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/2 large head o f Savoy cabbage, coarsely chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Peel potatoes and cut into 2-inch dice .
- Place in a saucepan or Dutch oven and cover with cold water .
- Over medium heat, bring to a simmer and let potatoes cook until tender (as tested with a sharp knife).This takes about 20 minutes .
- In another saucepan, combine milk, butter, add a washed and chopped leek chopped
- cabbage, salt and pepper.
- Bring to a simmer and let cook until tender, about 15 minutes.
- Drain potatoes , add butter then mash. I like a rustic mash, with just a few chunks .
- Gradually add the cooked ribbons cabbage and leek to the buttery, creamy potatoes
- stirring until mixture is well combine in flavour and texture.
a la Carte is a company that has been there, done that, seen it all, done it all, could and should write a book.
With AIDS Awareness month here, and World AIDS day approaching, we were asked to document our support of the cause and the organizations that work so tirelessly to eradicate their own need.
Here are some of Brian’s thoughts on the matter in his own words….
O lordy!!. How long and why??
Well. was told to be involved actually. LOL!! it’s true .By dear Dinah Koo . She said, Bri , we have to do something. everything was so new then . No one knew anything but , we knew we had to do something.
Food for thought year one. I was on steering committee with all the oldies but goldie’s . Bluma Appel ,Diana Koo dear robert many. Roger bullock and the wonderful and generous , overly so Susan Davidson and the great Salah Bachir . Sidney Krelstein and Skippy and Lynn and Deena and Michael Siegel!!! Ah . it really was the best of times and the worst of times.
a brave lot then as so many people’s wanted nothing to do with AIDS. It was the curse and the boys who contacted it were made to feel like lepers. But . this wonderful people took the bull by the horns and CANFAR was born and Food for Thought was the first of many many wonderful fundraisers. Wacky and wonderful and caring home owners gave their places over to wacky wonderful caring caterers and florists , like dear Richard Hayter and Lydia Tacconelli and others . rental companies such as Chairman Mills and Exclusive gave all free .
We would do the dinner s, maybe 6 or 8 at a house and then , Susan Davidson ,the most generous and philanthropic would invite all and sundry to her house on Ava as a thank you . Staff . chefs waiters. Valets, florists and guests all rolled together . Those parties were so much appreciated after doing the dinners and , well, I could go on , but . diplomacy , lol , and the law advises me not to do so . and .
WHY?. Cos . We were losing our friends and sometimes family . They dropped liked flies then…
All I have to do is to go read the Names at the AIDS memorial in Cawthra Park and , I know why .
- 750g whole fat yogurt
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- Combine the yogurt and salt together and mix well,
- Set colander over bowl and let it drain in the fridge for 24-36 hours
- Line a colander or other large strainer with pieces of cheese cloth then place the mixtures into the centre of the cheese cloth
- Check in a few hours to make sure the liquid doesn’t overflow and empty bowl if necessary
- The yoghurt is ready when most of the liquid has drained out and the remaining yogurt is thick with a firm texture.
- Remove the Labneh from the cloth transfer to an air tight container to refrigerate until ready to use (should last 1 week refrigerated.)
- You can scoop the Labneh into balls with an ice-cream scoop
- Place the balls of Labneh into a sterilised jar along with fresh herbs, garlic cloves and a sprinkling of sea salt.
- Then fill the jar with olive oil.
- Serve it simply with olive pesto and crusty bread.
Makes approximately 2 cups
- 2 large handfuls of arugula, rinsed and dried
- 3 Tbsp. pine-nuts
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor or in mortar Pestle just like my grandmother did (preferably)
- Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.
- Serve over sliced tomato salad
- ½ cup black olives
- 3 Tbsp. pine-nuts
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tsp. lemon juice
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor or in mortar Pestle just like my grandmother did (preferably)
- Try a bit, and add more of any of the ingredients to suit your taste.
- Serve with Labneh and toasted pita breads
GRANDMA’S BAKED CHICKEN CASSEROLE
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- One 3-pound chicken, cut into 8 pieces
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 12 cipollini onions, peeled and trimmed
- 4 shallots, peeled and trimmed
- 2 heads garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 4 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 ½-inch chunks
- 2 small celery roots, peeled and cut into 1 ½ inch chunks
- 12 small cremini or oyster mushrooms, cleaned and trimmed
- 2 cups homemade unsalted chicken stock or store-bought low-sodium chicken broth
- 3 tablespoon fresh coriander roughly chopped
- Center a rack in the oven and preheat to 375°F.
- Working over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil in a 12-inch ovenproof sauté pan or skillet – choose one with high-sides and a cover.
- Season the chicken pieces all over with salt and pepper, slip them into the pan, and cook until they are well browned on all sides, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Take your time – you want a nice, deep color and you also want to cook the chickens three-quarters through at this point. When the chicken is deeply golden, transfer it to a platter and keep it in a warm place while you work on the vegetables.
- Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the cooking fat from the pan.
- Lower the heat to medium, add the butter, the onions, shallots, garlic and thyme and cook and stir just until the vegetables start to take on a little color, about 3 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, celery root, and cook 1 to 2 minutes,
- Add the mushrooms, season with salt and pepper and return the chicken to the pan.
- Add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, and slide the pan into the oven.
- Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.
- Spoon everything onto a warm serving platter or into an attractive casserole sprinkle with the chopped coriander.