Fress rehearsal: Experiment with new recipes before the holidays

Eggplant parmesan (Pixabay photo)

Shabbat Shalom! The holiday season is just weeks away and what I like to do at this time of year is to try out new recipes before I actually serve those dishes to company. There are so many new cookbooks out there so I experiment at family dinners.

These days, I’m getting some culinary assistance from my husband. Lately he’s been taking a greater interest in cooking. I get to review a lot of cookbooks, but what I’m noticing is that my husband is poring through the recipes and trying some out as well.

One dish that he’s made that’s been a real hit with our kids is Pull-Apart Eggplant Parmesan from Daniella Silver’s latest book Variations:Simple and Delicious Dishes. The eggplant is easy to prepare and it’s really yummy.

Marmalade-Glazed Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner is another dish that looks amazing. This recipe is a sampler from The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory, Norene Gilletz’s upcoming new cookbook (it should be out the first week in December).

Gilletz says the dish is “festive enough for company.” For variety, she recommends substituting apricot or peach jam for the marmalade. “It’s jam-good!”

I serve a green salad at every meal, but when I entertain, I seek out more interesting recipes. I came across Waldorf Slaw, a lovely salad from a new kosher cookbook, Simply Gourmet: a complete culinary collection for all your kosher cooking by Rivky Kleinman.

When I’m entertaining, I like to have one dessert that’s not chocolate, and Cinnamon-Almond Babka fits the bill. The delicious recipe comes from Little Book of Jewish Sweets by Leah Koenig.


Pull-apart eggplant parmesan (Food stylist: Abraham Wornovitsky; Photography by Jasmine Deboe)


375 ml (1½ cups) marinara sauce

1 large eggplant

10-15 slices cheese (such as mozzarella or cheddar)

250 ml (1 cup) shredded mozzarella cheese

2 cloves garlic, minced (about 1 tsp)

100 ml chopped flat leaf parsley, plus more for garnishing


Preheat oven to 230°C (400°F). Coat a 23×33-cm (9 x 13-inch) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Evenly spoon the marinara sauce into the dish.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut 2 cm (½-inch) width-wise slits into the eggplant, making sure not to cut all the way through. Place eggplant into prepared dish.

Place a cheese slice into each eggplant slit. Bake, covered, for 40-45 minutes, until eggplant has softened.

Uncover; sprinkle with shredded cheese, garlic, and parsley. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until cheese is golden and bubbling. Garnish with additional parsley. Plate each serving with a few slices of eggplant along with pan sauce.

Makes 4-6 servings

Variation: baby eggplant parmesan. Use 5-6 baby eggplants. Follow recipe, sprinkling with cheese, garlic, and parsley before baking, uncovered, at 230°C (400°F) for 30-35 minutes.

Marmalade glazed salmon sheet pan (Food styling and photography by Abraham Wornovitsky and Jasmine Deboe)


This one-pan dinner is simple enough for your family but festive enough for company. For variety, substitute apricot or peach jam for the marmalade.


4 salmon fillets or steaks (180–235g or 6–8 oz each)

750 ml (3 cups) sliced assorted mushrooms

1 red bell pepper, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, sliced

1/3 cup (80 mL) orange marmalade (preferably low-sugar or all-fruit)

2 Tbsp (30 mL) soy sauce or tamari (preferably low-sodium)

15 ml (1 tbsp) Asian (toasted) sesame oil

Freshly ground black pepper

60 ml (¼ cup) sesame seeds (optional)


Preheat oven to 220°C (425°F). Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick cooking spray. Arrange fillets in a single layer at one end of the prepared baking sheet and mushrooms and peppers at the other.

Combine marmalade, soy sauce, and sesame oil in a bowl and mix well. Using a pastry or barbecue brush, spread glaze evenly overtop of the fillets and vegetables. Season with pepper and sprinkle with sesame seeds, if using. Let stand for 20–30 minutes.

Bake, uncovered, for 10–12 minutes, until salmon is glazed and just flakes when gently pressed with a fork. Serve hot or cold.

Makes 4 servings

Waldorf slaw from Simply Gourmet: A Complete Culinary Collection For All Your Kosher Cooking by Rivky Kleiman (Mesorah Publications, Ltd.)

WALDORF SLAW (Rivky Kleinman)

1 (14-oz) shredded bag cabbage

375 ml (1½ cups) shredded red cabbage

2 Granny Smith apples, with peel, cored and cut into matchsticks

2 ribs celery, diced

125 ml (½ cup) fresh blueberries

125 ml (½ cup) red onion, diced

125 ml (½ cup) whole cashews


125 ml (½ cup) apple cider vinegar

100 ml sugar

100 ml canola oil

In a large serving bowl, toss together cabbages, apples, celery, blueberries, red onion, and cashews.

Prepare the dressing: In a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring vinegar, sugar, and oil to a boil. Stir in salt and spices. Set aside to cool slightly.

Pour dressing over salad; toss to coat well.

Makes 10 servings




Makes 3 loaves



125 ml (½ cup) water

125 ml (½ cup) sugar


12 g (2¼ tsp) active dry yeast

130 ml (½ cup plus 1 tsp) sugar

250 ml (1 cup) warm water

560 to 700 g (4 to 5) cups all-purpose flour

5 ml (1 tsp) kosher salt

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

125 ml (½ cup) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

5 ml (1tsp) vegetable oil


250 ml (1 cup) roasted unsalted almonds

125 ml (½ cup)unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature

250 ml (1 cup) sugar

10 ml (2 tsp) ground cinnamon

5 ml (1 tsp) vanilla extract

3 ml (½ tsp) almond extract

85 g (3 oz) almond paste, crumbled into tiny pieces


Make the syrup: Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, and set over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar, then turn the heat to medium-low and cook until the syrup thickens slightly, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

Make the dough: Stir together the yeast, 1 tsp of the sugar, and the warm water in a large bowl, and let sit until it bubbles and becomes frothy, 5 to 10 minutes. Meanwhile, whisk together 560 g (4 cups) of the flour and the salt in a separate bowl. Stir the remaining 125 ml (½ cup) sugar and the eggs into the yeast mixture. Add the flour mixture and gently stir until a wet dough comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface; knead well, adding the room-temperature butter, a few pieces at a time, and up to 1 cup of additional flour as needed, until the dough is supple and slightly sticky. The kneading can also be done for 5 to 7 minutes in a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.

Rub the oil around a large bowl; place the dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it sit in a warm place until it nearly doubles in size, about 1 to 1½ hours.

To make the filling: Place the almonds, butter, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and almond extract in a food processor, and pulse until a smooth paste forms.

Grease three 23 x15-cm (9 x 5-inch) loaf pans. Gently punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into three equal pieces, keeping two pieces in the bowl and covered. Roll the dough into a large rectangle that’s ¼ -inch thick.

Evenly spread about one-third of the filling onto the dough, leaving a ¼ -inch border around the edges, then evenly sprinkle some of the almond paste over the top. Roll the dough tightly like a jelly roll. Using a sharp knife, trim 2 cm (½ inch) off each end of the roll and then cut the roll in half lengthwise into 2 long strands of dough, with the layers of filling exposed. Twist the strands together and pinch at the top and bottom to seal. Place into one of the prepared baking pans. Repeat the process with the remaining two pieces of dough and filling. Loosely cover the pans with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rise for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Bake the babkas, rotating the pans halfway through baking, until golden brown and just cooked through, 30 to 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and brush the top of each babka with three layers of syrup (you may not use all of it).

Let the babkas cool in their pans for 20 minutes, then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool. Serve warm. Makes 3 loaves.

Wrap tightly in plastic wrap, and store for up to 3 days at room temperature or up to 3 months in the freezer. Reheat in the oven or toaster oven.

Lev Levine (Barbara Silverstein photo)


Lev Levine just marked two important milestones. She just turned 30, and Lox + Schmear, the restaurant she founded, has just marked two and half years of operation.

Lox + Schmear, located at 1030 St. Clair Ave. W., specializes in, what else?, bagels, cream cheese and smoked salmon. The restaurant is a popular neighbourhood hub for the Hillcrest community, which these days is comprised of a lot of young, two-income Jewish families.

Levine said it’s the ideal demographic for a restaurant that specializes in one of the most popular Jewish delicacies: bagels served with cream cheese and lox.

Enter the restaurant and you’re sure to see children because it’s a family-friendly place. Levine says that “I wanted people being comfortable with their strollers and wagons. You can come in and enjoy a casual, low key delicious meal.” “We get regulars who come in a few times a week.”

Levine is the daughter of former Montrealers, so it’s no surprise that Montreal bagels would be on the menu. What is surprising is that she cold-smokes two varieties of salmon in-house. The smokey aroma hits when you enter the restaurant, but it’s not a fishy smell.

As Levine puts it: “The salmon is the star of the show. The bagels come second. It’s the freshest smoked salmon you’ll ever have. It’s really our speciality.”

The pastrami salmon – it’s cured and smoked in-house – is particularly popular.

“We do the whole process. It’s all hand-sliced. There’s no additives, no preservatives, no artificial flavouring or colourings.”

You don’t even have to order a bagel to purchase the salmon. Levine says 150 g vacuum-packed packages are readily available, but large quantities for special events need to be ordered about five days in advance. “We do a lot of catering for brisses and baby showers.”

Other items on the menu include tuna and egg salad, pea soup, coleslaw, and Greek salad in the summer. “Everything is made in-house except for the bagels.”

Lox + Schmear also offers gluten-free bagels and vegan cream cheese with a cashew nut base that is made in house.

Levine has a degree in anthropology from Guelph University. After graduating, she went on to study culinary management at George Brown College with the plan of becoming a restaurant owner.

Her sister was living in the St. Clair West neighbourhood and encouraged her to open up her bagel and lox restaurant in that neighbourhood.

Levine said her family has been very supportive of the business. “My family has been a huge part of it, I could not have done this without their support.”

Lox + Schmear is open 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day but Tuesday.



Nov. 29 Let’s Do Brunch: Fundraiser to bring awareness to Crohn’s and Colitis

Dec. 1 NoshFest: Taking place at Artscape Wychwood Barns

Dec 1-2 Ezer Mizion Toronto: Shuk Machane Yehuda at the Promenade Mall