For my first Passover, I wore a new dress. My parents went and bought me and my sister matching outfits, frilly white dresses with black aprons and lace peeking out from under our skirts. We had our hair washed, our faces scrubbed, packed into a relative’s car, and driven off to another city in the centre of the country. There we found a lush green garden, a house teeming with relatives we’ve never met and didn’t even know existed, and a lot of candy. All night, our relatives strung together words in a singsong inflection, strange phrases that conveyed stories of Pyramids, blood and locusts, and Rabbis who didn’t know how to ask questions. We understood very little, but experienced a lot. That night, a world of ceremony and tradition opened up to us, and we realized we weren’t so isolated in the world.
Growing up in a small family can be difficult. It gets even harder when your parents work long hours away from home, and your sole company most of the time is books and the one boy in your class who speaks your language. We saw our cousins rarely due to an unfortunate family dispute. My sister and I barely got along, and as is, she was only three at the time. My grandmother and I also rarely saw eye-to-eye. So most of the time, I was by myself, lost in a reverie of my own making. My mother recalls crying as she would look outside, only to see me pacing the street outside our home, talking to a doll in gibberish that I thought resembled Hebrew. Though I wanted friends, I was far too shy to seek them out. And I had no common language with the ones who approached me. At the end, I was often alone.
But as we stepped out of the car that bright spring day, making our way through a yard crowded with laughing children of all ages, I realized we weren’t all alone after all. As we walked into a large home with a roof of red bricks, filled with the sound of classical music, I felt like people shared a language that was more than just words. As I was patted and hugged, squeezed and bribed with sweets, I felt that loneliness could be only temporary. And as I sat at a beautifully laden table and bit into my first kneidlach (matzo ball), I understood that it was easy to feel satiated by kindness.
From that day on, Passover has always been a celebration of renewal in my eyes. As the years went by and I moved countries, twice, it took on a special meaning. We began to discuss our own release from bondage to freedom, and the different forms that freedom could take. Some years, my Seder nights were big and grandiose like the first; other years, they were small and a bit melancholy. But it never stopped feeling special to me. And a lot of that specialness has to do with the flavour of kneidlach.
Your first kneidlach is an experience you won’t soon forget. Floating in a watery broth, these balls look like unassuming masses. Their colour a greyish-yellow, they are reminiscent of meat, and it’s hard to ascertain exactly what’s in just by looking. With the first poke of the spoon, you find out that they are dense, and resist slightly towards any attempt to cut them in half. But once your spoon breaks through the ball’s outer shell, a slew of soup pours in, and in it floats a little part of that strange sphere. A faint smell of onions emanates from the bowl. As you carefully bring that spoon to your mouth, you can’t help but prepare for some unpleasantness; the kneidlach’s colour and unappealing shape suggest nothing else. But when you bite in, your palette is transformed. The kneidlach is soft and pillowy, faintly eggy. The onions lend it a distinctly Jewish scent, reminiscent of chicken soup and soggy noodles. The broth is simple and comforting, an afterthought that fills your mouth with warmth. You quickly reach out for more, surprised that so much flavour can be locked inside something so simple.
Though the Passover table offers many treats, the kneidlach remains my favourite one. It reminds me of the surprise I felt when I walked into the doors of my great-aunt’s home all those years ago. When I was transformed from a homely girl who expected another evening with her small family, to a welcome guest who is to be lavished by gifts and attention. In that kneidlach are my childhood desires to be loved and accepted. In its flavour is the joy I felt when life turned out to be more than it seemed.
Whether you’re Jewish or not, I urge you to give this simple treat a try. Perhaps it will help you be transported as well. And even if it doesn’t – have a happy Passover.
The kneidlach is soft and pillowy, faintly eggy. The onions lend it a distinctly Jewish scent, reminiscent of chicken soup and soggy noodles. It is a surprising morsel, full of texture and flavour. Just remember that they’re quite fatty, and don’t overeat.
Author: Berta Prints, my paternal grandmother
Recipe type: Appetizer
3 Tbs oil
1.5 cups of matzah flour (matzo meal)
1-2 tps salt
1 cup of boiling water
Portions of your favourite simple stock (vegetables or chicken stock is best)
Dice onion finely. Bring a pan to medium-high heat, add oil, and fry the onion pieces until they are translucent (do not let it brown). Take off heat and let them cool slightly.
Whisk the eggs, until the yolks and whites are well combined. I believe that the more you whisk, the fluffier will your kneidlach be (this is probably not true, but do whisk the eggs a bit). Fold the eggs into the matzo meal. Add the onions and fold everything together. Add salt and fold.
Boil a cup of water. Then slowly add water to kneidlach. Start by adding ¼ of a cup and mixing to combine. If mixture is still dry, add another ¼ cup. Mixture should be sticky at this point, enough to form it into balls of similar size to meatballs. Let mixture rest for 30 minutes. Test stickiness level again, and if it forms into balls that stay together, then proceed.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. With clean hands or with two spoons, form the kneidlach mixture into meatball-sized balls, and drop them one by one into the boiling water. Let kneidlach cook on medium-high heat for 10 minutes, until water is boiling again and the kneidlach rise to the top (do not remove them as soon as they float to the top, but give them some time to fluff up). Remove them into a large container or bowl with a slotted spoon.
When ready to eat, add two or three kneidlach balls to each bowl of soup. Garnish with cilantro or parsley, and dig in.
As a kid, one of the only ways in which I would eat vegetables was in a tomato and pickle salad. Finely diced tomatoes, joined by salty pickles (absolutely, under no circumstances, would I ever accept regular ol’ cucumbers), and smothered in a thick glob of mayonnaise was what my mother would serve me nearly every evening, alongside some bread with cheese. That was what she knew how to make, and what I would agree to eat. This concoction looked unappetizing, smelled acrid, but tasted divine to this 6-year-old palette. Sadly, I’ll admit it’s still one of my favourite salads to date (and you can all feel free to question my palette).
Buoyed by my love affair with zesty salads, I decided to make my parents a big bowl of vegetables after a long day of work. I was about 11, and this was around the time that I was first discovering the kitchen and the joys of playing around in it. After opening the doors to our small fridge, I was met with an open can of Israeli pickles in brine, tomatoes and carrots. Eggs were nestled in a ceramic bowl. Mayonnaise rested in its rightful place on the side of the fridge, glistening with the promise of flavour. Big, round apples sat in a fruit bowl on the table. My eyes took it all in, my mind started racing, and my mouth began salivating. I decided I would make them an omelette, one of the first things my mother taught me how to cook, and a delicious salad.
So into a bowl went finely chopped pickles, sloppily cut tomatoes, half of a badly grated carrot (I nicked myself on the grater and gave up halfway through), and nice, big, rosy chunks of apple. I think I even threw in the seeds. The whole thing was crowned with a big tablespoon of mayo, and a little bit of dill. I knew I abhorred the salad, but I saw no reason why my parents would disagree. I burnt the omelette.
Sadly, they felt otherwise. My father silently ate his portion, divulging no comments about the quality of the meal. My mother took one look at the salad and adamantly refused to even taste it. No amount of crying and complaining would convince her; “Ksenia, there is a limit,” she said, and tossed the whole sorry mess into the garbage. The omelette was inhaled, despite the visible char. And then they helped themselves to some bread with cheese and butter, thanking for my efforts but saying I should think a bit before putting apples and mayonnaise together in a bowl for others to eat.
I avoided salads for a long time after that.
But then, in high school, I started going with a group of friends to a cheap local restaurant for lunch. Between the five of us, we would always order an extra-large salad with fried pita, extra dressing on the side. We would scarf the whole thing down, and have room for cheesecake for dessert. Then we started skipping classes, using the time not to drink or smoke like other kids our age, but to make a pot of freshly squeezed lemonade and a big salad as a group (recipe coming, I promise). And I discovered salad making wasn’t actually such a big deal.
Since then, I have made salads of all shapes and colours. Some of themwereposted on thisblog. Others are thrown together late at night, when I need a good, fresh pick-me-up. In summer, salads make up my lunches and dinner. My parents eat a big bowl of Vinaigrette or Greek salad for breakfast every morning. Even more are prepped at home, in my parents’ kitchen in Israel, where the local produce is abundant and beautiful. Give me any ingredients, and the first thing I’ll want to make with them is probably salad. But I’ve avoided putting apples in them as long as I could.
And then last Saturday, my partner’s parents were coming over for dinner. We had already cooked and assembled all the main dishes, but I knew I wanted a salad to cut through all the fat. After opening the doors to our medium-sized fridge, I was met with bright, fresh vegetables and cheeses. Avocados and tomatoes were laying in a ceramic bowl by the windowsill. Eggs were nestled in a cardboard box. Mayonnaise rested in its rightful place on the side of the fridge, glistening with the promise of flavour. Big, round apples sat in a fruit bowl on the table. Sadly, Israeli pickles in brine were nowhere to be found. My eyes took it all in, my mind started racing, and my mouth began salivating. But this time, what I came up with was actually not half bad.
The apples were sliced thinly and nestled on a bed of fresh, curly, crispy baby kale. Slivers of purple onions intermingled amongst the greens. A simple vinaigrette of Dijon mustard, honey, and white wine vinegar crowned the whole affair. The mayonnaise stayed in the fridge, none the wiser to the snub. The apple and greens salad was gone within 30 minutes, with seconds and even third helpings all around. And no one at the table threw their portion away.
That day, I learned a valuable salad: apples do belong in salads. It’s mayonnaise that should probably stay in the fridge.
This is a bright, seasonal salad full of fresh flavours. Use this as a roadmap to build your own: if you’re out of baby kale, use other bitter greens, or even spinach, in its place. Use any type of apples or pears you have; in summer, firm nectarines will do the trick. Almonds, which I didn’t have at the time of shooting these photos, would also make a great topping. Go nuts – just keep the mayonnaise away.
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: Salad
3-4 cups of baby kale, arugula, or other small leafy greens, preferably with a bite
1 large, firm apple, pear, or 2 firm nectarines, according to season
½ a medium-sized purple onion (you don’t want too much)
¼ cup of slivered almonds, optional
a handful of fresh dill
a handful of chives
⅓ cup of extra olive oil
¼ cup of white wine vinegar
1 Tb Dijon mustard
1 Tb maple syrup (or honey, if non vegan)
Salt & pepper, to taste
Wash and thoroughly dry your greens and fruit. Arrange the greens on a large plate.
Core and thinly slice the apple (or other fruit that you’re using). Thinly slice the onion. Place sliced onions and apples on top of the greens.
Chop dill and chives finely. Sprinkle on top of the vegetables.
If using almonds, toast them in a pan for 5 minutes, until they are fragrant and golden.
In a small jar, mix all the rest of the ingredients. Pour vinaigrette on salad at the very last minute.
Bring out the salad to your guests, and toss it at the table, allowing them to take in all the colours. Dig in, and forget about that mayo already.
As I return home after a long day, my mother is standing at the kitchen counter, chopping vegetables. She greets me enthusiastically, asking how my day was. As she comes over to give me a hug, her leopard-print robe is falling off her shoulder, revealing a homely pyjamas underneath. Her hair is up in a messy bun and her make isn’t fully off yet, but the smudging is already visible. She smiles at me, the gap between her teeth showing.
The smell of fried onions and freshly cut tomatoes is in the air. As I peek at the cutting board, I see she is chopping a full head of white cabbage, following my grandfather’s signature technique: cut the head in half, remove the core, and hold one half firmly in place, cut-side down. Move your knife around it, slicing thin strips of cabbage off the sides, not moving the head until you get to the last little nob. The cabbage is quickly reduced to a pile of shreds. She barely avoids cutting off her finger with the dull knife.
Meanwhile, tomatoes and red peppers are browning in the pan. Their once-firm forms are now lazily strewn across the non-stick surface, crisping at the edges. I give them a toss, allowing more peppers to come into contact with the heat of the pan. My mother adds the cabbage to the pile, giving everything a good stir. The pan is then covered with an ill-fitting lid that belongs to a long-lost and forgotten pot. Our pot drawer is an orphanage for abandoned cookware of all shapes, sizes and pedigrees. Some enamel pans date back to the Soviet Union, and though nothing ever cooks in them, we still hold on, refusing to throw the dented memories away.
We sit down at the little kitchen island. My dad makes me a cocktail, and I am privy to whatever strange concoction he is working on this week. Bitter grapefruit mixes with blue carcao, and I wonder for the umpteenth time if he gets his recipes from the Risky Business bartender’s book. We chat about this and that; my graduate studies are of some interest to them, but I avoid going into too much detail. The nuances of political theory and international affairs usually lead to arguments at our dinner table, and I would like to preserve the peace at this rare time that we all sit together. Time floats by as we nibble on cheese and olives. My mother adds tomatoes to the pan.
After a few minutes, the cabbage is done. We reheat leftover potatoes and rice in the microwave, and I rush to remove them at the last second in order to avoid the machine’s ear-splitting beep. We ladle strands of cabbage smothered in smoky tomato and pepper sauce into our bowls, cooked into submission by the heat of the gas flame. My father replenishes our cocktails.
We continue sitting there, eating languidly. It’s a dimly lit kitchen island in the middle of a crowded home. The table is laden with cheese, bread, packaged salads, chocolate, nuts, pills and yesterday’s mail. My mother and father are laughing, sharing stories over plates of brown rice and cooked potatoes, covered in silky, stewed cabbage. The stovetop is splattered, and the smell of a home-cooked meal is in the air.
Stewed cabbage with peppers, or the one dish to get right
My partner describes this as “the best cabbage he’s ever had.” To me, it’s one of the only dishes my mother could get right, thrown together at the end of a long day. It’s comforting, delicious, an Eastern European dish with real flavour pedigree. You can serve it over brown rice, alongside potatoes, or just eat it on a crusty piece of wholegrain bread. If you’re out of bell peppers, don’t worry and omit them.
Author: Ksenia Prints
1-2 red, yellow or orange bell peppers
1 small or medium head of cabbage
4 cloves of garlic
1 can tomato paste, or 4-5 tomatoes, in season.
2 tsps dry oregano or basil (if using fresh, 2 Tbs)
1 tsp of salt
½ tsp chili flakes (or more, to taste)
1 Tb sugar
1 Tb vinegar (white wine, apple cider. or regular)
Chopped parsley, cilantro, or chives, to taste (optional)
Slice onions and peppers into thin strips.
Sauté onions on medium heat for 5-10 mins, until they become translucent. Add peppers, sauté another 10 mins, until pepper strips and onions start to caramelize, stirring occasionally.
Chop garlic coarsely. Add to pan, sauté for 2 more minutes.
Chop cabbage head into fine strips. Add to pan, stir to mix with other ingredients, cover with lid, and sauté on medium heat for 15 minutes. Every 5 minutes or so, check that the cabbage and peppers aren’t sticking to the bottom, and give the pan a good stir.
If using fresh tomatoes, chop them finely and let them cook without adding the spices for 10 minutes on medium-high heat. If using tomato paste, add spices right away and let cook, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.
One of my favourite stories growing up was the Russian folk tale The 12 Months (Dvenadcat’ mesyacev). It tells the story of a poor orphan girl, who is sent by her stepmother to the deep dark woods in the middle of January to gather the first flowers of spring, the snowdrops (named in Russian podsnejniki, or “under-the-snows”). Her stepmother is looking to curry favour with the young Queen, who wants these flowers for an upcoming celebration. Naturally, there aren’t too many flowers to be found in the Russian woods in mid-January, and the girl ends up wandering through the woods for a while, until she chances upon a strange campfire. Around it are sitting twelve men, all of varying ages, who are singing songs and telling stories. The girl relays her trouble to them, and the “men” find a way to help her – they speed up time to usher in the month of April, as they themselves are the embodiment of the twelve months. The girl is able to fill baskets with those first flowers, which she takes back to her stepmother. The story, of course, doesn’t stop there, and involves a few important lessons about generosity and kindness, but those are the bits that stuck with me throughout my childhood.
The part I loved most about that story were the flowers. The snowdrop came to symbolize everything I held dear: the warming up of the earth, which takes place unheeded for many weeks; the pristine cover of white snowflakes, parting to give way to the most resilient, but seemingly fragile flowers; and the silent embrace of the dark woods around it all, teeming with life, oblivious to the little miracle taking place in its midst. These first flowers were beautiful and delicate, but they were also pioneers, daring to break through the cold and make way for the thawing off of lakes, rivers, and many more flowers. It represented the power of nature, quiet but relentless in its pre-charted path. For me, snowdrops were about change. And for some reason, I have always liked change.
I have already spoken about the deep importance the woods, and nature, held to my family. I have also spoken about my displeasure with the ongoing winter, and my desire for spring. So when I found the first affordable bundles of asparagus at the local store last week, I knew that despite appearance, nature was continuing on its pre-determined path. And just like this asparagus was able to break through the ground (in its heated greenhouse, no doubt, but still), so, somewhere in the woods, I knew the first snowdrops were also trying to make their way through the mounds of snow.
I wanted to honour this first asparagus in a way that would pay homage to my favourite flower, and this dear childhood story. So when I came home and realized I had a container of soft, fresh ricotta in the fridge, the image of this dish materialized immediately. Nestled on flaky puff pastry, in a bed of pillowy ricotta, bright green spears of asparagus herald the coming of spring to the Northern Hemisphere. And I don’t care whether the snow outside accepts this or not. The sharp tanginess of Dijon mustard helps cut through all of the creaminess and provide a nice contrast to the softness of the dough. Together, they make a perfect package, just like those first snowdrop buds.
Nestled on flaky puff pastry, in a bed of pillowy, soft ricotta, bright green spears of asparagus herald the coming of spring to the Northern Hemisphere. The sharp tanginess of Dijon mustard helps cut through all the creaminess and provide a nice contrast to the softness of the dough. Together, they make a perfect package, just like those first snowdrop buds.
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: Tart
½ a package of puff pastry, defrosted overnight in the fridge
500 grams of ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon of lemon juice (or a bit more, to taste)
grated zest of ½ a lemon
1 asparagus bundle
Freshly grated pepper
3 teaspoons of Dijon mustard
A few pinches of sea salt
If your puff pastry was in the freezer, let it defrost overnight in the fridge. Drain ricotta cheese in a colander for a few hours, or even overnight in the fridge.
When ready to assemble the tart, Preheat oven to 450F.
Mix ricotta with lemon juice and grated lemon zest. Add sea salt and pepper, to taste. Taste and adjust flavourings – the filling should be light and just a bit zesty, but not acidic.
Wash your asparagus carefully. If desired, chop it into 1-inch pieces; these will be easier to eat, but I really like the way the whole spears look.
Roll out pastry on a lightly floured surface into a shape that is a bit bigger than the bottom of the pie shell or glass baking dish that you are going to use (ensure there is a border of 1 to 2 inches all around the bottom, to make small sides for your tart).
Butter or oil your baking dish. Place the pastry in it, ensuring there is a 1-2 inch border all around the bottom. If you rolled it out too big, cut off any excess pastry (you can cut the excess pastry into small squares, topping them with extra ricotta and a few pieces of asparagus for little amuse bouches).
Spread mustard along the bottom of the pastry. Spoon ricotta mixture over mustard. Top with asparagus spears (or chunks, if you decided to chop it up).
Drizzle a bit of olive oil, sprinkle some more salt and freshly grated pepper on top.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until pastry is golden and the aspragus is a little browned on top.
Serve with a fresh and sharp green salad on the side for a light lunch. A glass of white wine would also be a nice way to welcome in the spring.
The following entry is not my own story. It is another immigrant’s recollection of how food got her and her family through some of the hardest times imaginable to our generation: the civil wars of the former Yugoslavia. I would like to thank Rose for agreeing to share her beautiful skill, recipe and story.
“I’m the only one in our group of friends who makes this,” Rose says to me simply, but her eyes are glinting with pride. She knows that few people nowadays take the time to make a true Bosnian pita. Few of us have the time or ability to roll out dough, make filling, and assemble one of the most complicated pastries I have ever seen. And yet, back home, this was “everyday food,” even during the turbulent civil wars of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. “Now, it’s for special occasions,” Rose remarks, and I can’t tell if this disappoints her, or makes her even prouder to be one of the last bearers of this skill.
Rose grew up in the former Yugoslavia, in the Bosnian town of Tuzla. She is a slight woman with dark curly hair, big eyes that crinkle at the edges, and a captivating smile. She keeps an immaculate house, full of tasteful personal touches and lots of light. Little Bosnian artifacts are displayed in various corners, bringing a touch of the Middle East to her otherwise modern home. Rose is a little shy, slow to open up at first, but her warmth radiates through her words, breaking down barriers and making one feel welcome at her home and table.
After many years of practice, her Bosnian pita-making technique is flawless. She moves through the kitchen with confidence, gently massaging the dough, tugging at the edges of paper-thin pastry, stretching it to a seemingly impossible size. Yet Rose didn’t start making pita until “The War” started, when she could no longer go to her mom for this traditional pie.
Learning how to make Bosnian pita herself proved to be the perfect solution for days of war, when transport was cut off, supplies were uncertain, and people often had to make due with very little for very long stretches of time. ”You can put anything in a pie. Whatever came from the garden, or whatever comes from humanitarian aid,” Rose says nonchalantly, as though the experience of waiting on Red Cross and UN planes to drop off food and bandages was a regular occurrence for me as well.
On the day we cook together, Rose assembles three fillings: butternut squash, cottage cheese, and apples with cinnamon and brown sugar. They are simple, free of superfluous ingredients and shock-me spices. The resulting flavours are clean, vibrant. But the fillings could really be anything: add some spinach to your cottage cheese, or some raisins or walnuts to your apples. Rose is as resilient today as she was during the war. “Until today, that’s how I cook. Open the fridge, and [I take] whatever is in it, as long as there’s no waste.”
This adaptability is a hard-earned skill, an openness to changing circumstances that is familiar to others who have experienced strife, food shortages, poverty, or uncertainty. Yet not everyone who makes Bosnian pita is that open to improvisation. Not everyone adapted to the war, Rose says. “My mom couldn’t adjust to the limitations. She stopped making it (pita),” she lowers her eyes, her voice getting taut.
When Rose rolls out her dough to make Bosnian pita, she brings this history with her into the kitchen. She brings in the days when the fridge was bare and the garden overflowing with nothing but spinach. And above all, she brings in that sense of resilience, the make-do-out-of-nothing attitude that I recognize from my own grandmothers. I believe it is precisely this that makes this immigrant’s table so welcoming.
5.0 from 1 reviews
Bosnian “pita” (pie) with cottage cheese, apple, and squash
Hand-rolled dough is stretched into a paper-thin, translucent phyllo pastry, stuffed with a variety of fillings, and rolled into a beautiful, traditional Bosnian pie. This pie takes about three to four hours to make. Dough can be frozen to save some time on future occasions, or kept in the fridge for up to a week. You could always use these fillings in store-bought phyllo dough and just use several layers of it, but if you want the real experience, take a few hours and make this dough. You won’t regret it.
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: pie
Butternut squash filling:
1 medium-sized squash, peeled and shredded
a pinch of sugar
½ teaspoon of salt, or more, to taste
Cottage cheese filling:
2 cups cottage cheese, drained
2-3 eggs (depending on egg size)
1 Tb olive oil
¼ cup of feta cheese (optional)
salt, to taste (hold off until the last minute)
4-5 sour apples, shredded (use Granny Smiths, crab apples, or preferably apples from your own apple tree)
1 cup of walnuts, crushed
2-3 Tbs brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 cups of AP flour, unbleached
1 cup of AP flour, reserved for dusting counters, etc
½ tsp salt
2 cups warm water (use a mixture of boiling and cold water)
To make butternut squash filling:
Mix squash, sugar and salt. If you want to add more salt, only do so at the last minute (otherwise, the squash will get soggy and bleed, making the dough too wet).
To make cottage cheese filling:
Mix cottage cheese, eggs, feta cheese and olive oil. Add salt at the last minute, to taste.
To make apple filling:
Mix cinnamon, brown sugar and walnuts in a separate bowl. Keep apart from shredded apples until the last minute (otherwise, the apples will get soggy and bleed, making the dough too wet).
To make dough:
Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl. Add water gradually to it, until dough is soft but not sticky.
Flour work surface generously. Place dough on counter and knead down gently for about 10-15 minutes, until the dough is springy to the touch. Knead in soft motions, almost stroking the dough and transferring it from hand to hand. Do not be too violent.
Divide dough into 4 pieces. Flour surface lightly, and roll each piece into a ball, transferring from hand to hand gently. Then, adding a bit of flour as needed. roll out dough thinly with a rolling pin, like thin pizza dough.
Cover another area with clean kitchen towels, and arrange rolled out dough circles close to each other, edges touching. Drizzle a tiny bit of olive oil on each disc, and spread it out evenly across the surface with your hands. Cover the discs with plastic wrap, and let rest in a warm place for about 30 minutes. Afterwards, dough should be very elastic, like good pizza dough.
Cover a large dining room table with a clean tablecloth. Transfer one dough disc to the table, laying it in the middle. Start spreading the dough very gently, pinching the ends with your fingers (never touch or pull from the centre, only from the edges). Pull the ends towards you gently, going around the table clockwise (or counter-clockwise, just try to go in one direction all the time), spreading the dough into a very thin layer as much as you can. Continue expanding the dough by pulling on the edges gently until the paper-thin dough covers the whole table like a tablecloth, draping over the edges.
Preheat oven to 400F.
Start spreading filling onto the dough with a tablespoon, dropping dollops all over its surface, but leave one line, the width of about 3 inches, empty all across the middle (please see photos for this). Drizzle with a bit of olive oil. Fold the corners of the dough that are draping over the table, making the dough contained on top of the table.
Now, gently raise one edge of the tablecloth, allowing the dough to roll towards the empty part in the middle. Stop when the dough gets to that part. Repeat on the other side. You should now have two long snakes of dough and filling, with a thin layer of dough separating them. Cut that line in half with a sharp knife, separating your two snakes from each other.
Oil a casserole dish. Arrange the rolls in the dish, shaping them into spirals and tight coils, like tightly-wound snakes that are ready to pounce.
Repeat with three other dough discs. You can vary the fillings in each disc (which separates into two rolls), using half of one and half of the other in the same disc (because the coils will be separated from each other, it really doesn’t matter).
Bake for 40 minutes at 400F, until pita is golden brown on top. Serve right away, or eat in room temperature for lunch the next day.
As images of spring continue to pop up all over social media, I can’t help but die inside just a little bit. A quick glance at the coat rack reveals a dark winter parka hanging morosely, abandoned after “someone” just threw it there, not wanting to look at it for another second. A bright mustard-coloured woolen scarf is tucked into the sleeve, its fringes trailing the still-wet floor around the rack. A pair of camel winter boots is hidden under my desk, where they are slumping in on themselves in the middle of a small puddle. Muddy tracks lead the way from the office door to my desk.
A look outside reveals the cause of this disorder. Snow is still piled along the sides of the road, the smallest piles reaching up to my waist. Icy streets glint menacingly in the dying winter sun, threatening to cause an uncomfortable slip, or even an injury. As I was hurrying to the bus this morning, stealing furtive glances at my phone, I fell victim to this treachery, slipped and bruised my knee. Nothing new there; the scar tissue already on my knee is enough to frighten small children.
But the mood, dear reader, the mood! As the days get a little bit longer and the sun no longer sets by 5 p.m., I find myself strangely jubilant, even in the face of this weather. There is hope in the air as people put on their rain boots. Two weeks ago, I even went to work in my fall coat (granted, I was freezing by the time I was walking home at 8 p.m., but still). I have been eating salads and raw vegetables, drinking smoothies and fooling myself into believing that spring really is just around the corner. I even bought the year’s first bundle of lean, green asparagus, its spears standing buoyantly in the face of our still-freezing air.
Unfortunately, I am not always that happy, and the deception doesn’t always work. Some days, the cold air seeps through the doors and windows of our bright and airy apartment. As I pace the long hallway, blowing my nose into a tissue, the frost penetrates my bones and reminds me of its persistent existence. After all, no matter what the calendar says, it’s still -20 degrees celsius in Winnipeg today. And I only have so many blankets at home.
So on days when the cold weather gets the best of us, I turn on the oven and roast a big sheet of green leafy vegetables. The star of the show changes; on this day, it was beautiful organic Swiss chard, its perky stems glistening in bright colours that are non-existent outside our window. The accouterments also vary; I love the bright explosion of charred cherry tomatoes against the crispy leaves, but I am also partial to sweet onion and fragrant cloves of garlic, roasted whole in their shells and then squeezed out onto the chard. A light drizzle of oil thickens with the roasting, a few pinches of chili flakes grace the top, and as the vegetables succumb to the heat and release their juices, they all mingle together into a flavourful, spicy sauce. Heaped on a bed of brown rice, it really is heaven in a bowl on a cold day, when the calendar tells you it should be spring, but the weather report begs to differ.
Beautiful organic Swiss chard is joined by the bright explosion of cherry tomatoes and drizzled with oil and chili, melding together into a flavourful sauce. The stalks of the chard soften, the leaves crisp up into chips, and the juice of the tomatoes brings everything together into a nice topping. Feel free to replace the tomatoes with other vegetables, like more onions, red peppers, or whole cloves of garlic that you will then squeeze onto the chard. Use kale or even beet greens instead of chard (the beet greens may roast more quickly).
Author: Ksenia Prints
Recipe type: Rice
Cuisine: Middle Eastern
1 bunch Swiss chard
1 package of cherry tomatoes
½ purple onion (optional)
2 Tbs Olive oil
½ teaspoon chili powder, or cumin
The juice of ¼ of a lemon
Nutritional yeast, to taste (optional, can be substituted with Parmesan, or omitted)
Cilantro, chopped, to taste
2 cups prepared brown rice (or 1 cup of uncooked rice, cooked w 2 cups of water, ½ teaspoon of salt, and 2 Tbs of olive oil: bring rice to a boil, lower to very low heat, cover and cook for 45-50 minutes. Turn off, leave cover on, and let rest for 10 mins before excluding rice gently with a fork)
Prepare rice. This can be done the day before – I usually make 4 cups of brown rice and eat them with different toppings throughout the week).
Preheat oven to 450F on the grill/ broil setting.
Cover baking sheet with aluminum foil. Chop chard horizontally into strips. chop onion, if using, into chunks. Arrange all vegetables haphazardly on baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil, Sprinkle with chili powder (or cumin) and a couple of pinches of salt. Place in oven and let bake on grill setting for 15 mins. Toss veggies and return for another 12 minutes.
Spread rice on a large platter. Top rice with vegetable topping. Finely chop cilantro, sprinkle on top of rice and vegetables, drizzle with the juice of ¼ of a lemon, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Top off with a sprinkling of nutritional yeast (or Parmesan, if using).