As I may have previously mentioned, baking is one of my favorite things to do. When I first entered the kitchen, baking is what I began with. It came easy to me and I knew that if followed the instructions and measurements outlined in a recipe, the results would, more likely than not, turn out to be delicious. I have always felt more confident when it comes to baking and because of this it has become an activity that I try to do as often as possible.
The cannon of Jewish recipes is an extensive one that spreads across many places and generations. Many of the recipes contained therein have been cooked by generations of women with only small changes in the way they have been prepared. Many of these recipes have come to be viewed as traditional dishes, prepared on holidays, Shabbat and other special occasions. They have come to play an important role at these times and are often specifically associated with these occasions.
I don’t quite know how it happened, but the nights are getting cooler and there’s that feeling of fall in the air. Summer is winding down and with that comes the reds, yellow and orange colors of the changing leaves, thicker sweaters and of course the High Holidays. With the New Year almost upon us, attention is beginning to shift to the upcoming celebrations and of course what will be served at the festive meals that will be part of the holiday.
Talking about food, about the recipes that we’ve tried and recipes that we want to try is often a topic of conversation when I’m with my family and friends. It allows us to share recipes for dishes that we’ve enjoyed and those that we think others would also enjoy. It gives us the opportunity to learn about new dishes or about new ways to make ones that we’ve previously tried. We get to share the stories that go along with the dishes, while at the same time allowing us to connect to our cultural and religious identities.
My neighborhood in Montreal, called Mile End, is known for hipsters, Chasidic Jews and bagels. Although each of these topics could potentially make for an interesting blog post, it is, of course, the bagel that I would like to discuss. I absolutely love bagels and have been eating them for as long as I can remember. Living in walking distance of two of the most famous bagel shops in the city means that they’re on the menu very often.
Growing up, most foods that contained poppy-seeds simply didn’t appeal to me. I was wary about those tiny black seeds that dotted pastries, muffins or cookies and wished that they simply weren’t there. Due to this aversion to poppy-seeds, I usually stayed away from desserts that contained any. Yet in the last few years that has changed, mainly because of a poppy-seed strudel that opened my eyes (or rather my taste buds) to the nutty sweetness that poppy-seeds could bring to a dish.
I remember being enamored by the various small salads that were placed on the table to begin the meal at the first Shabbat dinner I attended that was hosted by my friend’s parents, of whom her father is Moroccan. The salads, of which there was, among others, corn salad, avocado salad, roasted red peppers, beets, radishes, and of course salade cuite, which literally means "cooked salad" in English, were a nice way to start the meal. The salade cuite came highly recommended by my friend, who loves it and can’t have Shabbat dinner without it.
I always said that I was a knish girl. They were my first choice when buying something to eat at the snack bar in elementary school and if they were on the menu at a restaurant there was no doubt that I would order them. However, this all changed recently when I was introduced to the boreka. I was having a conversation about Jewish food (something that seems to happen quite often with most people that sit down to talk to me) with my friend who is Sephardic. When she told me that she preferred borekas to knishes, I was skeptical.
Nothing says summer to me like coconut; whatever form it comes in, its taste and smell evoke a beautiful summer day with the warmth of the summer sun on my skin (it also reminds me of a coconut suntan lotion I loved the smell of as a kid and which happens to be my first memory of its smell) Needless to say, I have always loved coconut and I will eat it in almost any dish, whether it is sweet or savory.