The Shabbat table: A memorable mother’s day menu

Lox and Bagel Cheese Strata (Norene Gilletz photo)

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! Mother’s Day in North America falls on the second Sunday in May. This year, it is on May 13, one week before Shavuot. Here are some family favourites that will work well for your Mother’s Day brunch and are also perfect for Shavuot. Best of all, the cheese strata and tortilla lasagne can be prepared in advance and the kids can help makes them for their moms and bubbes.

Then there’s blueberry pie. I adore blueberries and eat them almost every day, because of their health benefits. The best thing about blueberries is their fabulous flavour and the special memories they evoke. My sister, Rhonda Matias, has marvellous memories of our late mom’s fabulous blueberry pie. Mom always added a green apple to her blueberry filling, which gave it a hint of tartness, as a counterpoint to the sweetness of the berries.

My sister (affectionately known in the family as Cookie) tells the story about how she had a craving for mom’s blueberry pie and finally convinced her to bake one for her. It had become difficult for mom to go shopping, so Cookie went to a small supermarket one Sunday morning and bought two cartons of blueberries. They cost $4 each, but my sister bought them anyways, rather than going to the big supermarket.

Mom nearly went meshugge when she heard how much the blueberries cost. “You spent how much? I usually pay $2 a box!” she said. My sister replied: “When was the last time you bought blueberries? Don’t worry about it. I paid for the berries. Just make the pie!”


My mom used to bake a plethora of pies each summer when we went to Winnipeg Beach for our summer vacation. There was no electric stove and no running water, so each day, we schlepped a heavy pail of well water from the pump. I can still remember the fun of pumping the handle up and down until the slightly metallic water finally flowed into the pail.

Mom would rinse the fresh berries in the newly pumped water, pat them dry, then prepare the filling for her wonderful blueberry pie. She would make her flaky pastry, rolling it out deftly with her heavy rolling pin on the rickety kitchen table. She would fill the pie shell to overflowing with her special blueberry-apple mixture, then carefully transfer the top crust to cover the filling. We loved to sprinkle sugar on top. “Not too much sugar,” warned mom.

Then she would test the temperature of the wood-burning stove to see if the oven was hot enough. She would put her hand in the oven quickly, then withdraw it even more quickly. We could never figure out how she knew when the oven was “just right.”

The pies always disappeared quickly, but the special flavor of their memory will last forever.

Lox and Bagel Cheese Strata

Lox and Bagel Cheese Strata (Norene Gilletz photo)

Adapted from Norene’s Healthy Kitchen (out of print).

This do-ahead dish is perfect fare for any special occasion – especially Mother’s Day, or even for Shavuot. It’s an excellent way to use up leftover bagels – or buy day-old bagels so that you can afford the lox. You can also use lox bits and pieces.

  • 5–6 whole wheat or sesame bagels, cut in bite-sized pieces (about 8 cups)
  • 225 g (8 oz) lox (smoked salmon), cut in bite-sized pieces
  • 225 g (8 oz) Swiss, Havarti and/or cheddar cheese (about 2 cups), grated or coarsely chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 45-60 ml (3-4 tbsp) minced fresh dill
  • 6 large eggs
  • 250 ml (1 cup) plain yogourt or sour cream
  • 500 ml (2 cups) milk (skim or 1%)
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt (optional)
  • 1.25 ml (1/4 tsp) freshly ground black pepper

Spray bottom and sides of a 23 x 33-cm (9 x 13-inch) glass baking dish with cooking spray. Spread bagel pieces evenly in dish. Top with lox and sprinkle with cheese, green onions and dill.

In a large bowl, combine eggs, yogourt, milk and seasonings; blend well. (You can use a blender, whisk or large food processor). Pour evenly over bagel-cheese mixture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or up to 24 hours.

Preheat oven to 180 C (350 F). Bake, uncovered, for about 1 hour, or until puffed and golden. Remove from oven and let it stand for 10 minutes for easier cutting. Serve with a large Caesar or mixed garden salad.

Yield: 12 servings. Keeps for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator; reheats well. Freezes well for up to 2 months.


Use your favourite savoury bagels, such as sun-dried tomato, spinach, multigrain or all-dressed. You can also make this using whole wheat or multigrain bread, cut in 2.5-cm (1-inch) pieces.

Instead of lox, use 2 cans of sockeye salmon, drained and flaked. You could also use 375 ml (1½ cups of leftover cooked salmon). This can also be made with canned tuna.

Different cheeses can be used; try Monterey Jack, cheddar, Jarlsberg or a mixture. For a different twist, add 125 ml (1/2 cup) crumbled feta or goat cheese.

Tortilla Lasagne Florentine

Adapted from The New Food Processor Bible (Whitecap).

There’s no need to cook pasta for this quick lasagne, which makes a delicious dairy dish for Shavuot and is also ideal for a Mother’s Day brunch. I often make it in two pie plates and freeze one for a future meal. Everyone will say, “More cheese, please!”

  • 340 g (12 oz) chilled Mozzarella cheese (3 cups grated)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, cut in chunks
  • 750 g (1½ lb) dry cottage cheese
  • 1 (10 oz) pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) salt (or to taste)
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) each, dried basil and dried oregano
  • 1 l (4 cups) vegetarian tomato sauce (store-bought or homemade)
  • 6 (10-inch round) large soft flour tortillas

Grater: Grate mozzarella cheese in food processor. You should have 750 ml (3 cups). Empty processor bowl.

Steel Blade: Process garlic and carrot until finely minced, about 10 seconds. Add cottage cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil and oregano; process until blended. Scrape down sides of bowl, as needed.

Spray two 23-cm (9-inch) glass pie plates with nonstick spray.

In each pie plate, layer 125 ml (1/2 cup) of sauce, a tortilla, 1/4 of the spinach mixture and 125 ml (1/2 cup) of grated cheese. Repeat layering, ending with a tortilla. You will have 3 layers of tortillas and 2 layers of spinach mixture in each pie plate.

Top with remaining sauce and grated cheese. (Can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated.) Bake, uncovered, in preheated 180 C (350 F) oven for 30 minutes, until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes for easier slicing. Cut in wedges to serve.

Yield: 8 servings. Reheats and/or freezes well.


Use a combination of grated mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. Replace part or all of the cottage cheese with ricotta cheese or tofu.

Belle’s Famous Blueberry Pie



  • 500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
  • 2 ml (1/2 tsp) salt
  • pinch of baking powder
  • 150 ml (2/3 cup) chilled shortening (e.g., Crisco)
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) ice water
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) vinegar


  • 1 l (4 cups) fresh blueberries
  • 1 large green apple, peeled, cored and grated
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) lemon juice
  • 175 ml (3/4 cup) sugar
  • 45-60 ml (3-4 tbsp) flour
  • 5-10 ml (1-2 tsp) additional water, for brushing top of pie
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) additional sugar for sprinkling on top of pie


Old-Fashioned Method: Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. Cut in shortening with 2 knives or a pastry blender, until particles are the size of peas. Add water and vinegar slowly, mixing lightly with a fork until all the flour is moistened. Shape into a ball.

Food Processor Method: Combine the flour, salt, baking powder and shortening in the food processor. Process with several quick on/off pulses, just until the particles are the size of peas. Add the water and vinegar and process just until dough gathers together in a ball, about 10 to 15 seconds longer.

Divide dough into 2 equal parts. Wrap well and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes for easier handling. Prepare the blueberry filling.

Filling: Combine berries, grated apple, lemon juice, sugar and flour in a large bowl; mix well.

Assembly: Roll out 1 piece of dough about 3-mm (1/8-inch) thick. The board and rolling pin should be lightly floured. Keep pastry circular and roll it 2.5-cm (1-inch) larger than an inverted 23-cm (9-inch) pie plate. Fold pastry in half and transfer it to the pie plate. Unfold, being careful not to stretch dough. Place filling in pie shell and trim off overhanging edges. Moisten edge of bottom crust with water.

Roll out the top crust and make several slits to allow steam to escape. Place the top crust over the filling. Fold the overlapping edge of the top crust under the edge of the lower crust. Seal and flute, making sure edges are hooked onto the rim of the pie plate. Brush top crust lightly with water and sprinkle lightly with sugar.

Bake in a preheated 220 C (425 F) oven (or a very hot wood-burning oven) for 40 to 45 minutes, until golden. Inhale and enjoy!

Yield: 8 servings. Freezes well – if there’s any left!