Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Moroccan Inspired Pear and Corn Bastillas

As part of Kosher Connection, Joy of Kosher's food blogger community that undertakes a monthly kosher recipe challenge, I had to push my cooking creativity to the max. This month's chop challenge had to incorporate two of the following ingredients: pears, canned corn or Mike & Ikes. 

My inital reaction was 'Ew, corn and pear?' I definitely felt challenged. After a good night rest, I thought about my Moroccan background and how my culture incorporates sweetness to vegetables, and combines fruits to main dishes i.e. caramelized raisins in couscous and tagines. At first I was going to make traditional Moroccan bastillas with chicken, coriander, corn, lots of spices and a pear dipping sauce, but I changed my mind along the way because I wanted to be able to enhance the taste of corn and pears together, rather than dilute them. So here is my rendition of a 'poultryless' mini Moroccan pear and corn bastillas. This is my first time participating in a cooking challenge, my shabbat guests marveled on them and overall, I was very pleased in uncovering this winning culinary combination. These are perfect for a holiday appetizer or perhaps for brunch served with goat cheese or sour cream.

INGREDIENTS Makes 6 to 8 rolls depending on the size

  • 6-8 fine pastry sheets, thawed
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of oil for frying
  • Paper towel

Pear Filling

  • 1 tbs of vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 1/2 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 4 Barlett pears, sliced
  • 1 1/2 tbsp of sugar
  • 1/2 tsp of rose water

Corn Filling

  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 2 medium onions
  • 1 12 oz can of sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 1 tsp of cinnamon
  • Salt to taste

Apricot Dipping Sauce

  • 1/4 of apricot jam
  • 2 tbs of water

  1. In a bowl mix 1/2 cup of water, oil and spices. On medium heat, pour the mixture in a saute pan and gently mix in the pear slices. As the mixture heats up, the pears soften, gradually add water in a way to ensure the pears do not stick to the pan.
  2.  Sprinkle half the sugar over the pears. Again, add water and the remainder of sugar and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Pears should soften but not to the point of breaking. 
  3. Sprinkle the rose water and let it simmer for another couple of minutes.

  1. In another pan, on medium heat, put oil and onions, caramelize for 10 minutes. 
  2. Slightly lower the heat and ad the can of corn, cinnamon, salt and sugar and mix for 5 minutes. 
  3. Stir in the raisins for another 3 minutes. Let cool.

  1. Whisk your egg in a bowl. 
  2. With a cooking brush, brush on the egg on the edges of the filo sheet.
  3. Place 2 tbsp of the corn mixture an inch from the top of the sheet and center; place 3 slices of the pears vertically and then roll.
  4. Once you have reached the center of the filo sheet, you fold in the right side inwards, repeat the same step from the left side. 
  5. Once you reach the end, you might want to ad more egg to seal it properly. 
  6. Repeat 5 to 7 more times.
  7. In a deep pot, heat oil on medium, once heated lower a bit and fry the bastillas until nicely browned, about 2 to 3 minutes. 
  8. Place them on a platter topped with paper towl. Allow the paper towel to absorb the oil from the bastillas. 


  1. In a sauce pan, on low-medium heat, mix in the jam and water thoroughly. 
  2. Place your bastilla on a platter, you can either drizzle the sauce on top when serving or place it in a bowl on the side for dipping. Voila, here you have a Moroccan inspired corn and pear appetizer recipe, perfect for a holiday appetizer, and even for a brunch his can be perfect for a brunch served with goat or ricotta cheese. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

A Cookbook Review: The Modern Menu by Kim Kushner

The Modern Menu Kosher cookbook
 was launched on April 1st, 2013. Photo credit from www.kimkushnercuisine.com

Kim Kushner
There are many great kosher cookbooks available on Amazon.ca and one of my new favorites happens to be by Montreal-born, Kim Kushner, entitled The Modern Menu. Coined as "Simple. Beautiful. Kosher." The Modern Menu, launched April 1st, 2013, is a refreshing cookbook consisting of 12 creative and fairly easy to make menus.

A graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan, Kim Kushner has been giving cooking classes for over 10 years; she is a pr
ivate chef for New York's most 'discerning' eaters and is a recipe contributor for major New York publications. In her new cookbook, Kim demonstrates how her lifelong love of food, her cooking techniques along with her family's Jewish Modern Orthodox traditions result in delicious modern cuisine, that also happens to be kosher.

Some of the recipes which can be found in this coobook are:
 Jon's Roast ChickenSweet & Sour Broccoli Salad and Gingered Butternut Squash and Sweet Potatoes. Photos by Andrew Zuckerman.

Her menu themes revolve around concepts like: vibrant, crisp, piquant, warm, nourishing... each concept includes an appetizer,  main course, 2 to 3 side dishes. For example, the vibrant section includes:

Kohlrabi and Cabbage Salad with Maple Lemon Dressing
Eggplant with Spicy Harissa Dipping Sauce
Baby Lamb Chops with Pesto Croute
Couscous with Dried Fruit and Almonds

The Cinnamon-Hazelnut Pavlova with Raspberries is one of the minimalist yet spectacular desserts featured. Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

As for sweets you'll find:

Lychee-Melon Fruit Salad with Pistachios and Honey
Cinnamon-Hazelnut Pavlova with Raspberries
Medjool Dates Stuffed with Walnuts (a traditional sweet I grew up at home with)
Broken Dark Chocolate Cake
and close to a dozen more...

On September 23rd, over 70 people gathered at the YM-YWHA for Kim's first Montreal cooking demo. That evening, she cooked-up 5 Minute Chummus (a staple in her home), Mediterranean Green Salad with feta and figs (as she calls "delish!") and Marinated Vegetable Salad all from The Modern Menu. 

For those who couldn't make the event, Kim shared some key cooking tips including: 
  • Make dressings in advance and store in the refrigerator
  • For those allergic to sesame in the chummus recipe, she recommends using roasted garlic in place of tahini
  • Use Zaatar to make homemade pita chips
Although she loves Manhattan and looks forward to cooking all over NYC i.e. Brooklyn, Long Island and Detroit, what she misses most from Montreal food, is La Marguerite challah and of course, Montreal bagels!" 

One of the salads made at the cooking demo. Mediterranean Green Salad with feta and figs 

The Modern Menu by  native Montrealer, Kim Kushner
Photo by Andrew Zuckerman

All in all, most of the recipes I tried from this cookbook turned out successful, from the Salmon en Croute, bourekas, Jon's Roast Chicken, Balsamic-Marinated Chicken with Olives and Sun-dried Tomatoes, Grilled Eggplant, Sun-Dried Tomato and Bocconcini Salad. This cookbook not only reflects aspects of traditional Jewish Moroccan, Mediterranean and Italian cuisine as many of her recipes benefit from sun-dried tomatoes, sauteed onions, jams and herbs.

I think Kim is adorable and anyone who reads her cookbook can see how her love of cooking is reflected throughout her book. It's always nice to see a native Montrealer cooking on the Today Show!

For more information go to: http://www.kimkushnercuisine.com/
Modern Menu Hardcover / Price: $39.95 USD | Paperback / Price: $21.95 USD or $23.50 CAD at Coles in Montreal

Easy-to-Make Lavender Havdalah Sachets

Sewing little sachets and filling them with dry lavender is easier than you think.

Easy-to-make bessamim by simply placing lavender in pre-made organza sachets.

Havdalah (Hebrew: הַבְדָּלָה, meaning 'separation') is a Jewish religious ceremony that marks the symbolic end of Shabbat and Jewish holidays, and ushers in the new week. The ritual involves lighting a special havdalah candle with several wicks, blessing a cup of wine and smelling sweet spices or herbs. Shabbat ends on Saturday night after the appearance of three stars in the sky. (Wikipedia)

Back from our visit at La Maison Lavande, we had lots of lavender to dispose of. Placing dry lavender inside Havdalah sachets is one of my favorite uses of this flower. These can be easy to make by placing them in Dollarama organza sachets. You can purchase these in sets of 3 or 10 depending on the size. 

If you want to get a little more sophisticated, sewing pieces of cloth and tying them with ribbon can be another hobby. For easy instructions check-out this video via Martha Stewart episode on sachet making.

Shavouah tov everyone! And have an amazing week!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Lavender Shortbread Cookies

INGREDIENTS  Total Time: 50 min | Prep 20 min | Cook 30 min | Yield: 15 bars
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) cool unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried lavender flowers


  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Cream the butter until soft in a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Add 1/4 cup sugar and mix until incorporated. Stir together the flour, cornstarch, and salt in a medium bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix at low speed just until the ingredients are almost incorporated, then add the lavender, and mix until the dough starts to come together. Flour a work surface, turn the dough onto it, and knead it 5 to 10 times, to bring the dough together and smooth it out.
  3. Reflour the work surface. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a little less than 1/4-inch thick to fit an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan lined with parchment. To transfer to the pan, roll the dough up onto the rolling pin, lift it up, and unroll into the pan. (Or, press the dough thoroughly into the pan with your fingers.) Prick the shortbread all over with a fork, or use a pique-vite (dough docker) if you've got one, to prevent any buckling or shrinking. Sprinkle the surface evenly with 1 tablespoon of the remaining sugar.
  4. Bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, deflate the dough by knocking the pan once against the oven rack then rotate the pan to ensure even cooking and a flat surface. Bake 10 to 15 minutes more, until golden all over and very lightly browned. As soon as it comes out of the oven, sprinkle the surface evenly with the remaining tablespoon of sugar. Let cool about 5 minutes. Using a very sharp knife, cut into 3 rows by 5 rows making about 1 1/2-inch by 3-inch bars. Let cool completely in the pan. Remove from the pan and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Adapted from foodnetwork.com

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sweet September at La Maison Lavande

Taking a rest by the rows of lavender crops

There is something serene about driving on  a pathway in the midst of countless farms, especially on a sunny Sunday in September. I don't have superpowers, unless you consider a big heart powerful ;) but I have a feeling that Montreal is going to experience an amazingly mild winter this year.

Visiting farms with my daughters happens to be one of my biggest Quebec joys and this end of September, we lucked out on a gorgeous sunny afternoon, perfect for a visit to not 1, but 2 farms! I happened to drive by rang de la Fresnière street in St-Eustache where I crossed dozens of farms and attractions, some of which included: the Exotarium, stables, corn fields, cabane à sucre, an austriche farm and my two 'pit-stops' the Lavender farm La Maison Lavande and the Verger Magie de la Pomme  apple orchard.


Entrance to La Maison Lavande, opened from 10 AM to 5 PM

Lavender is one of my favorite aromas, it's simply soothing and delightful. I love placing a dry bouquet of it on my night table, spraying linens with the vaporizer, placing sachets of lavender potpourri in drawers or use lavender massage oils to relax. La Maison Lavande is a perfumery and farm that established a range product line of lotions, soaps, aromatherapy, sea salts; even all-natural household cleaning products and handmade lavender chocolates.   

My early afternoon visit made me realize the abundant things we can do with lavender, including baking cookies or making ganaches. The premises is charming, informative and peaceful. Many people prepared picnics eaten at tables while others can have a massage within the lavender field. Although the lavender crop was removed this time, it was still worth seeing. In case you cannot make the visit, you can order their products online as well at La Maison Lavande. Check these photos for a glimpse.

Seeing a little rustic country home, my daughters were reluctant to get out of the car, the incentive to draw them in was going to the washroom ;) it always works. The way to the massive field of lavender crops ended-up impressing them. In the boutique, my eldest daughter wanted to try all the hand creams, taste the chocolates (but they weren't kosher) and buy bouquets of lavender. I treated them with sachets of dry lavender that they sprinkled under their pillows that night.

Photo from La Maison Lavande

This farm offers a comprehensive line of lavender products from: bath salts, shower gels, hand creams, body wash, massage oils, lip balms and soaps.  Left photo from La Maison Lavande

So many Lavender options: dried bouquets, oils, lotions...

A little photoshoot at the farm  
Off we go to the apple orchard, goodbye La Maison Lavande!