THE MONTREAL GAZETTE REVIEWS NORENE'S HEALTHY KITCHEN  

Norene's Healthy Kitchen by Norene GilletzTinkering with tradition

by SUSAN SCHWARTZ

The Montreal Gazette, Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Review and recipes from Norene's Healthy Kitchen

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Many Montrealers learned their way around the kitchen with help from a friendly cookbook called Second Helpings, Please! I'm one of them - and since that time I've thought of former Montrealer Norene Gilletz, its editor, as a friend.

Clearly, I'm not alone.

Gilletz, a cooking instructor and food consultant who decamped some years ago to Toronto, has gone on to write several more cookbooks, but Second Helpings, first published 40 years ago, is still selling: It's in its 15th printing.

There's a generous, enthusiastic, you-can-do-this tone to her writing. Gilletz clearly loves cooking and food - and wants to share that love with her readers.

"I hope you use this cookbook often and make it dirty," she urges readers in the introduction to her latest book, Norene's Healthy Kitchen (Whitecap Books, $34.95), a book featuring more than 600 imaginative and user-friendly recipes and all kinds of advice and thoughts on cooking and food.

Gilletz is an authority on kosher and Jewish cooking and, although it is not a kosher cookbook per se, the recipes are suitable for kosher kitchens. With the Jewish festival of Hanukkah around the corner, I decided to check out what she had to suggest in the way of latkes. For many North American Jews, latkes - pancakes fried in oil - are the edible embodiment of the eight-day festival, which this year begins Dec. 4 at sundown.

Hanukkah commemorates an early victory for religious freedom, claimed when Jewish rebel armies were victorious over the forces of Antiochus IV, the Greek-Syrian ruler who had tried to force Greek culture on the Jews. But what resonates for many is the legend of the miracle of the oil: In preparing the reclaimed temple for rededication, the Maccabees, as they were known, found enough purified oil to kindle the temple light for a single day. Miraculously, the light burned for eight days, until more sanctified oil was ready. Hence the foods fried in oil.

What I found in Norene's Healthy Kitchen were latke recipes with a twist on the traditional potato and onion version: latkes made with potatoes grated together with carrots, zucchini and red peppers, then fried or baked on oiled cookie sheets and served topped with tzatziki and smoked salmon; potato latkes made with parsnips and sweet potatoes and bound with whole-wheat flour. Chocolate pancakes, made with cocoa and chocolate chips. Cheese pancakes and blueberry cornmeal pancakes, fried in only nominal amounts of oil because, after all, this is is a cookbook of healthful recipes, but oil nonetheless.

Here are three of them. I've incorporated a couple of my own suggestions.

MINI VEGGIE LATKES WITH SMOKED SALMON AND TZATZIKI

Makes about 4 dozen

Don't bother peeling the potatoes, Gilletz says: Just scrub them. And if you don't have or like sweet potato, use another Idaho.

1 medium onion, cut into chunks
1 Idaho potato, cut into chunks
1 medium sweet potato, cut into chunks
1 carrot, cut into chunks
1 medium zucchini, cut into chunks
1 red pepper, seeded and cut into chunks
2 eggs, or 1 egg plus two egg whites
1/3 cup (75 mL) matzo meal or whole-wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons (30 mL) chopped fresh dill
3 to 4 tablespoons (45 to 60 mL) olive oil, for frying (plus more as needed)
1 cup (250 mL) tzatziki (see note)
1/4 pound (125 g) smoked salmon, cut into bite-size pieces
Additional dill, for garnish

In a food processor fitted with the steel blade, process the vegetables in batches until finely minced, 8 to 10 seconds.

Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl and add the eggs, matzo meal, salt, pepper and dill and mix well. Spray a large nonstick frying pan with cooking spray, add 1 tablespoon (15 mL) oil and heat over medium-high heat. Drop the batter from a teaspoon into the hot oil to form pancakes. Don't crowd the pan. Flatten each latke slightly with the back of the spoon, reduce heat to medium and brown well on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Remove latkes from the pan as ready and drain on paper towels. Add more oil to the pan as needed and stir batter before cooking each new batch of latkes. If latkes are for immediate consumption, keep them warm in a 250-degree (120C) oven.

(Otherwise, latkes keep well in fridge for up to 2 days and freeze well for up to a month. Reheat, uncovered in a preheated 400 degree F/200C oven for about 10 minutes, or until crispy. No need to defrost first.)

When ready to serve, arrange latkes on a platter and top each with a dollop of tzatziki, smoked salmon and a sprig of dill.

Variations: Instead of zucchini, you could use 1 10-ounce (300 g) package of frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry.

If you'd prefer to bake these mini latkes instead of frying them, place oven racks on lowest and middle position and preheat oven to 450 degrees F (230C). Drop the latke mixture by the teaspoon onto well-oiled baking sheets and flatten slightly. Bake 10 minutes or until bottoms are browned and crispy. Turn latkes over, switch pans - bottom to middle and vice versa - and bake 8 to 10 minutes more.

Note: To make your own tzatziki, peel and grate 1 medium English cucumber, place in a strainer and press gently to drain excess liquid. Mix with 3 to 4 finely chopped green onions, 1 or 2 cloves minced garlic, 1/4 cup (50 mL) minced fresh dill or mint, salt and freshly ground pepper and 11/2 cups (375 mL) sour cream. (For a lower-fat version, make yogourt cheese by draining low-fat yogourt through a coffee filter in a strainer over a bowl in the fridge for 3 to 4 hours.) Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Approximate nutritional content per 4 mini latkes:

Calories....................................120
Protein.....................................5 g
Fat...........................................6 g
Carbohydrates.........................12 g
Dietary fibre..............................1 g
Sodium..............................315 mg

SMASHED POTATO LATKES

Makes 8

A no-grate alternative to potato latkes - and a terrific way to get your frustrations out by beating up on a potato. Recipe doubles or triples easily. Good topped with a dab of goat cheese. If you like, during the last 5 minutes of baking sprinkle each potato with some grated cheese.

8 baby red-skinned potatoes
Salted water
1 to 2 tablespoons (15 mL to 30 mL) extra-virgin olive oil
Seasonings to taste (such as coarse salt, rosemary, thyme, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika)

Boil potatoes in salted water 15 to 20 minutes, or until fork-tender. Drain well. Place potatoes in a single layer, about 3 inches (8 cm) apart, on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil. Cover one potato with a piece of parchment paper. Smash once or twice with the flat part of your palm, making a flat disc about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter. Round off ragged edges by pushing them together with your fingers. Repeat with remaining potatoes.

Brush tops of smashed potatoes lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with seasonings. Bake, uncovered, in a 400-degree F (200C) oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden and crispy. If desired, turn potatoes over halfway through baking and brush second side with oil.

Variation: As an alternative, consider Laura Frankel's method from Jewish Cooking for All Seasons (Wiley Publishing, 2006), a wonderful cookbook. She roasts new potatoes on a baking sheet for about an hour at 350 degrees F (180C), then smashes them and pan-fries them in olive oil until they're crispy and brown, about 5 minutes per side. Frankel says that, sprinkled with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, they're addictive.

Approximate nutritional content per serving:

Calories...................................120
Protein.....................................2 g
Fat...........................................2 g
Carbohydrates........................23 g
Dietary fibre.............................2 g
Sodium..............................125 mg

CHOCOLATE PANCAKES

Makes about 16 3-inch (8 cm) pancakes

These pancakes taste like brownies. Yum.

1/2 cup (125 mL) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (125 mL) whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup (50 mL) unsweetened cocoa powder
3 tablespoons (45 mL) granulated sugar
2 teaspoons (10 mL) baking powder
Pinch salt
2 large eggs
1 cup (250 mL) skim, 1 per cent or soy milk
2 tablespoons (30 mL) water
2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola oil
1/2 teaspoon (2 mL) pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup (125 mL) semi-sweet chocolate chips
Fresh or frozen raspberries
or strawberries, optional, for garnish
Vanilla yogourt, optional, for garnish

In a large mixing bowl or a food processor fitted with the steel blade, combine the flours, cocoa, sugar, baking powder and salt. Mix well. Add the eggs, milk water, oil and vanilla. Whisk together, or process for 8 to 10 seconds, until just smooth and blended. Using a rubber spatula, stir in the chocolate chips.

Spray a large non-stick frying pan or griddle with cooking spray and heat over medium heat for 2 minutes or until a drop of water skips on the surface. Drop the batter, using a scant 1/4 cup (50 mL) for each pancake, into the frying pan. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until bubbles appear on the top. Turn pancakes with a spatula and lightly brown the other side for 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the cooked pancakes to a plate and keep warm in a 200-degree F (95 C) oven.

Repeat with the remaining batter, spraying the pan between batches. Because chocolate chips tend to sink to the bottom of the bowl, stir batter often. Serve pancakes warm, with berries or yogourt or both - or just a light sprinkling of icing sugar.

Approximate nutritional content per serving:

Calories...................................95
Protein.....................................3 g
Fat..........................................4 g
Carbohydrates..........................14 g
Dietary fibre...............................1 g
Sodium...................................110 mg

sschwartz@thegazette.canwest.com

 The Gazette (Montreal) 2007

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Norene's Healthy Kitchen - Eat Your Way to Good Health
by Norene Gilletz

Published by: Whitecap Books
ISBN 978-1-55285-802-8
CDN $34.95, paperback
8" x 9", 512 pages
colour photographs throughout

   

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