Movin’ On Up!

MovingDear Fabulous Followers!

You may have noticed that they way you are notified about updated posts has changed recently, or those of you who visit frequently, but are not subscribed, will notice that I’m not updating this blog. This is because I have moved! The company I blog for (COR – Kashruth Council of Canada) has linked my blog to their main web domain, so now a lot more people can read my posts and check out the awesome recipes. If you like, please check out their site at www.cor.ca and the direct link to the blog is http://blog.cor.ca/

Thank you so much for your continued support and I hope you continue to check us out!

Love and recipes,

Sarah308

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Shavuot – The End of the Counting… And the Beginning?

Shavout 1Those of you who are familiar with Jewish holidays, or read my blog regularly, know that since Passover we have been counting the days of the Omer. The Omer is the seven week (or 49 days for those of you who are counting, see… counting! it was in the title!) period between Passover and Shavout. At Passover we celebrated our Exodus from Egypt and the liberation and freedom that came with it. At Shavout, we celebrate and remember our time at Mt. Sinai, when G-d gave down his Ten Commandments, and the rest of his Torah (there are A LOT more than 10 rules people! See, counting again!).

This was obviously a great celebration for the Jewish people, who so recently had been slaves, were now being exalted as G-d’s chosen people, worthy to receive his Torah and practice Judaism. Many a Sage has compared Shavout, and our receiving of the Torah, to a wedding ceremony. Instead of Bride and Groom, you have G-d and His people, vowing to each other to keep and respect each other. We the Jewish people, swore on the lives of our children and future generations to uphold G-d’s laws and customs, and in return G-d bestowed upon us the majesty that is the Torah, and all that it encompasses.

Pretty heavy for newly freed slaves. In fact, if you’ve seen “The Ten Commandments”, you know the old standby with Charlton Heston, then you will know that we didn’t handle it so well when Moses went up to Mt. Sinai to commune with G-d. That is why in fact, that this is special holiday to include children in. It is upon their merit that we received the Torah in the end, for the current generation was not ready.

So we know that it’s a special day, obviously, but what about the food? Well, on this holiday, the tradition is to eat dairy meals, not the meat meals that you normally expect for a big, important holiday. Why is this? (C’mon, you knew there would be a reason!). This is because before we were blessed with receiving the Torah, we did not have the complete rules of kosher. Once receiving the Torah, we now knew we could only have certain animals, slaughtered in a certain way, etc. All of our meat pots had to be made kosher! So to resolve this temporary food setback, we ate milk!

So in honour of this, one of the most special and holy occurrences in Judaism, I present to you a week of dairy dishes sure to hit the spot with your guests! Enjoy and Chag Samayach!

Victoria Day

So next weekend here in Canada we celebrate Victoria Day, after Queen Victoria of England who ruled from 1837 to 1901. It also kicks off the official beginning of the summer season in Canada, much like Memorial Day does in the States. Originally, (as in back in 1845), we observed the holiday on the actual Queen’s birthday, which was May 24th, however, over time it has become tradition to celebrate it on the last Monday before May 25th. What does this mean for me? No work on Monday! What does this mean for you? A week of Victorian Era recipes!

I actually came across a copy of a menu that was served to the Queen on May 15th, 1879. I am going to try a give a modern day version of some of the dishes served that night. Hopefully you’ll enjoy them as much as she did!

Victoria Day MenuFor those of you not up on your French, the menu reads as follows:

Potages (Soups)
A la Tortue (Turtle Soup)
A la Julienne (Julienne Soup)

Poissons (Fish)
Whitebait (Fried Baby Herring or Sardines)
Le Saumon bouilli (Boiled Salmon)
Les Filets de Merlans frits (Fried Whiting Fillets)

Entrées (Mains)
Les Petite Pâtés à la Bechamelle (Small pies with Bechamel Sauce)
Les Ris de Veau, en escalopes sautées. (Sautéed Sweetbreads)
Les Filets de Canetons, aux pois. (Ducklings with Peas)

Relevés (**See note below)
Les Poulardes à la Milanaise. (Chicken Milanese)
Roast Beef
Roast Mutton

Rôts (Roasts)
Les Cailles Bardées (Quail in Bacon)
Les Poulets (Roast Chicken)

Entremêts (Sweets)
Les Asperges à la Sauce (Asparagus in Sauce)
Les petits Gàteaux de Compiegne (Little Compiègne Cakes)
Les Tartelettes merniguées à l’Italienne (Meringue Tarts – Italian Style)
Les Gelées d’Oranges oubannées (Jellied Oranges)

** My mom, who is awesome, y’all should meet her, helped me with the menu section of “Relevés” – First, I thought it was a b not a v in the word (that menu has tiny font) and two, I still didn’t know what Relevés meant – enter Google! Apparently, it means to relieve, or to remove, and was used in the following sense (according to Larousse Gastronomique, which is pretty much a food bible, so I believe it)

“Remove: Dish which in French service relieves (in the sense that one sentry relieves another) the soup or the fish. This course precedes those called entrees.”

Maybe because they were English they did it after the entrees? What can I say, when you’re Queen, you can have your meals served any way you want!

Lag B’Omer – The Bonfire Holiday!

Lag B'OmerSo we’re going to take a brief intermission from Mother’s Day Week (sorry Mom!) to celebrate the Jewish Holiday of Lag B’Omer. In English, the name of the Holiday translates to the 33rd day of the counting of the Omer. Lag, or the Hebrew letters Lamed ל and Gimmel ג, have a numerical valuation of 30 and 3, respectively, and this Holiday celebrates the break in the counting of the Omer, or the period between the Holidays of Passover and Shavout (the holiday where we received the ten commandments, and the rest of the laws, at Mt. Sinai). Lag B’Omer is traditionally celebrated with bonfire celebrations, family picnics with the children playing with imitation bows and arrows, and the eating of Carob.

So what is so special about the 33rd day? And why the bonfires, bows and arrows, and Carob? Well, let me explain (thank you Chabad.org!).

There are two main reasons why we celebrate this day. The first (in no particular order) explains both the day and the bonfires. During the 2nd Century, there was a great Jewish scholar known as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (c.100 – c. 160 CE). He was a great Kabbalist, and shed a powerful light on the world through his mystical teachings. It is said that the secrets of the Torah that he revealed to his disciples was so profound and intense that his house was filled with fire and blinding light, to the point that his students could not even approach or look at him. Rabbi Shimon stated that the day of his death, the 33rd day of the Omer, should be a day of great joy, not sadness, for he was moving on to the World to Come. So to commemorate is death, we have great celebrations, and light great fires that emulate the fire of Torah and knowledge that Rabbi Shimon was famous for.

So what’s the second reason for the 33rd day? During the time of Rabbi Akiva (c. 40 – c. 137 CE), during the weeks between Passover and Shavout, a great plague ran rampant amongst his students, “because they did not act respectfully towards each other.” Therefore to this day, the Jewish nation treats this time period (7 weeks) as a time of mourning with no joyous activities. However, by a miracle, on the 33rd day of the Omer, the deaths stopped, so we treat this day as joyous one, careful to remember to treat every fellow man with love and respect.

Okay, so that’s why this day and the bonfires, but the bows and arrows? The carob?

It is a tradition for Children to go out into the fields and play with imitation bows and arrows. This is in remembrance of the Midrashic tradition that no rainbow was seen during Rabbi Shimon’s lifetime. Rainbows first appeared after the great flood in the time of Noah, when G‑d promised to never again devastate the world. When the world is deserving of punishment, G‑d sends a rainbow instead. Rabbi Shimon’s merit protected the world, rendering the rainbow superfluous. The children’s bows are a tribute to the “rainbow” that Rabbi Shimon’s presence gave us.

As for the Carob, this is in remembrance of a lifesaving miracle that Rabbi Shimon experienced. For 13 years, Rabbi Shimon and his son were fugitives from the Romans, and hid in a cave in northern Israel. Food was scarce and hunting was dangerous, should they be caught. G-d intervened and created a carob tree that grew at the entrance of the cave, providing nourishment for its two holy occupants.

So, I hope that explains why we celebrate Lag B’Omer, and how we do it too! For today, I’m posting two recipes, a barbecue chicken, in honour of the bonfires, and a delicious non-dairy carob cake! I hope you enjoy!

Mother’s Day Week

Happy Mother's DaySo a couple of years ago, when the Downton Abbey kick was in high gear, we decided to do High Tea for my mother for Mother’s Day. My mother has always enjoyed the simple elegance of a High Tea service, and we thought we’d go all out. That year, Bon Appétit Magazine actually published a bit of a how-to on all the accoutrements that go along with a service, including some yummy tea sandwiches (small bite sized sandwiches), an amazing savoury tart and a lovely scone. I will be re-posting them this week, with a few tweaks, koshering ingredients when needed, or adjusting to suite tastes. I hope you (and your mother) enjoy them as much as we did!

Our Southern “Canadian” Heritage

Cajun MapSo there is a cultural demographic located in the southern United States know as Cajuns (pronounced KAY-jun). This group of people celebrate a rich and fascinating history, filled with their own language, music, religious leanings, and of course, foods! So what does Canada have to do with this? Quite a lot actually.

Back in the day (y’know, around 1710), the British overtook the section of what was then called French Acadia (now the maritime area of Canada). Over the next 45 years, the Acadians (pronounced Ah-KAY-dee-yans), loyal to the French, refused to sign an unconditional oath of allegiance to Britain, and in fact did everything they could to participate in militia operations against the British. The British, not appreciating the local rebellion, began to deport the Acadians from Acadia, in what became known as “The Great Upheaval” or “Le Grand Dérangement”.

While some moved to France, or other parts of Canada, a large contingent moved to the region of Atakapa, in present-day Louisiana. Over time, the term “Acadians” became “Cajun”, and the Cajun people flourished in the warm climate of Louisiana and it’s Bayous. While there are endless topics that I could focus on within the Cajun world, this week, I’m going to zero in on the food! So this week, look forward to Jambalaya, Gumbo, Dirty Rice and more!

Bring on the Dairy!

Eat More MilkI’m sure by now most of you are pretty sick of eating meat meals… and with some more days of Yom Tov coming up, you know you’re going to be having beef, chicken and turkey all over again! How about some dairy meals for a change? Today I will be posting two dairy dishes, that can be served together, separate, however you like! Hope this breaks up the monotony!

Foods that Scream Passover! – It Starts Tonight!

So there are certain traditional foods that just scream “Passover” to me. Here are a few for your viewing pleasure!

1. Egg Lokshen

Since flour-base noodles are out, many people make thin crepe-like pancakes out of eggs and potato starch, which they then roll up and cut into strips, forming kosher-for-Passover noodles (“lokshen” in Yiddish) which taste marvelous in chicken soup.

2. Macaroons

MacaroonsYep, you knew that macaroons would be on this list somewhere. These are not the pretty, delicate French Macaroons that come in a million colours, but they tend to be just as expensive. You either love ’em, or hate ’em! (I love them!)

3. Syrupy, Sweet Seder Wine

At one time, this kind of wine was so ingrained as a Jewish wine preference that Schapiro’s Wine advertised (in Yiddish) that their wine was so thick you could almost cut it with a knife! Thankfully, there are hundreds of high-quality kosher wines out there, but we respect the traditionalists who like the old thick stuff.

4. Jelly-Fruit Slices

Jelly FruitI personally never really got these… I don’t see the temptation, but I know those that would fight over the last one of these strangely sweet, sugary treats.

 5. Soup Mandlen

Mandlen These are my personal favourite at the seder table. These are the old fashioned treats that everyone had before the Israeli Ossem soup squares became main stream.

What are your favourite Passover Foods? I hope you have them this holiday and I wish you and yours a healthy and happy Passover! Chag Kosher v’Samayach!

 

No Matzo Balls?! All About Gebrokts (One Day to Go!)

GebroktsOkay, so for this first time that I can remember, in my entire life, we will not be having Matzo Balls in our chicken soup at the Seder. Let me explain to you the seriousness of this… it’s like an 11th plague has hit. Why you ask? Well, last year (around this time actually), my baby sister married an amazing, wonderful man, who comes from a likewise amazing, wonderful family. The downside to this obvious blessing? My new brother-in-law does not eat Gebrokts. What are/is Gebrokts? Gebrokts is a Yiddish word that refers to Matzo that has come in contact with water. It literally means “broken,” and it has come to mean “wet Matzo” because Matzo is usually ground or broken up into crumbs before it is mixed with water.

Those who refrain from eating Gebrokts (not everyone has this custom, it is mainly certain sects of Ashkenazi Jews, specifically what are known as Chassidim) on Passover do so for fear that during the baking process there may have been a minute amount of flour that did not get kneaded properly into the dough. Upon contact with water, that flour would become Chametz.

The custom of not eating Gebrokts gained prominence around the end of the eighteenth century. At that time, people began to bake Matzos much faster than mandated by the Rabbis, in order to be absolutely sure that the dough had no chance to rise before being baked. The flip side of this stringency is that the Matzo we eat today is not as well kneaded as Matzo used to be, and it is very possible that it contains pockets of flour.

Those who are careful with Gebrokts don’t eat Matzo balls, Matzo Brei (an egg and Matzo bake), or Matzo anything; in short, they do not cook with Matzo at all. Also, when there is Matzo on the table, they are very careful to keep it covered and away from any food that may have water in it. Drinks, soups, and vegetables that have been washed and not thoroughly dried, are all kept far away from the Matzo.

On the eighth day of Passover, which exists only outside the Land of Israel, the Gebrokts stringency doesn’t apply, and all feast on Matzo balls and Matzo Brei, and dip their Matzo into soups and salads. In fact, many have the custom to try to eat their Matzo with as many liquids and wet foods as possible. The simple reason for this is that the celebration of the eighth day is of rabbinic origin, rather than Biblical origin. Chabad, where I got the above information has a great article on the spiritual reasons for Gebrokts that I definitely suggest checking out! Click here to read it.

So, to sum this all up, since my mother, the hostess of our Seder, is kind and wonder cook, and doesn’t want to exclude people from parts of the meal, we will refraining from Matzo Balls this year, along with Matzo Farfel, Matzo Meal in various recipes… well, you get the idea. It’s a good thing my new brother-in-law is worth it!

Matzo – Was it Always a Dry Cracker? (2 Days to Go!)

MatzoSo, as you know, during the holiday of Passover, no leavened products, especially items like bread, can be eaten. Instead we eat Matzo, and A LOT of it! Modern day Matzo is a dry, cracker like item, made of flour and water. Machine processed matzo is square in shape, with lined perforations running about half a centimeter apart, and is about a quarter of a centimeter thick, or less. I’ve heard rumour however of a time when Matzo was soft, flexible and more like a pita or laffa, rather than the dry cracker (read: cardboard) that we eat now. So what’s the deal?

Here’s the deal: Once upon a time, yes, Matzo used to be thicker and softer, however…. here is the nitty gritty on how this has changed and become what we know now a days as a thin, dry, hard cracker-like food. For centuries, Jews have been debating the thickness of Matzo. In the Talmud, there is a record of a discussion between the students of Shamai and Hillel regarding the allowed thickness of Matzo, being as thick as a handbreadth (about 2 ½ to 4 inches or 6 to 10 centimetres). In the end, Jewish law follows the school of Hillel, which allows the thicker Matzo, however, all halachic authorities agree that a thickness of a handbreadth or more is not acceptable.

However, there are a few problems with a thick Matzo, even one less than a handbreadth:

  • Thick Matzo is susceptible to becoming Chametz because of the baking time needed to fully cook it (Matzo must be completed and out of the oven within 18 minutes of the flour and water first combining).
  • Conceptually, we are supposed to be eating “lechem oni” or “poor man’s bread”. A thick luscious bread is not considered that of a poor man.
  • Thicker Matzos use a higher ratio of water in the recipe, making them softer. This allows for the Matzo, left over time to become hardened and possibly moldy. There is even an incident discussed in the Talmud where a moldy loaf is found on Passover, and one can’t tell whether it’s bread or Matzo that has rotted. Was this a missed loaf of bread or a kosher Matzo that has spoiled? Our cracker-like Matzo would be easy to identify.

While some Jews of Middle Eastern descent still make their Matzos thick and soft, the overwhelming majority of Matzos today are hard and thick. Over the years, especially once Matzos started being made predominately by machines, rather than by hand, the Matzo has gotten thinner and thinner, until we get the cracker that we have today. Chabad has a great (but too lengthy for this blog post) article all about the thinning down over the years. You can read it by clicking here. I will also talk a little bit more about this in tomorrow’s post on Gebrokts or the custom of not allowing your Matzo to become wet. Tune in tomorrow to find out more!