Mediterranean Diet Family Treasures
I just spent an amazing three days in Montreal with my sister visiting my 97-year-old grandfather and 89-year-old grandmother. The are Eastern-European born, and were raised in Israel. They have been in Montreal for over 60 years, but still have a Middle Eastern accent and live like they are still living by the Mediterranean Sea. When my sister and I arrived, my grandma (Sapta in Hebrew) had some of her food staples waiting for us: vegetarian chopped liver, roasted almonds, and kasha (buckwheat) with sautéed onions. A fresh green salad was on the table as well, as it is at every meal. We each had a small glass of red wine (probably 3 oz each), and for dessert we were offered fresh cherries and fresh sliced peaches. Once we were finished eating, we went for a “short” 20-minute walk downtown. When there was a choice between an elevator or stairs, the stairs won.
This is their way of life. They would be considered to be in good health for middle-age standards, let alone 2 years away from being a centurion. My grandfather still works, and my grandmother still cooks, cleans, and tells jokes in a way that puts my almost-forty self to shame.
It was a bittersweet trip. As amazing as it was to spend time with them and visit my favorite city in the universe, I can’t help but wonder how many more opportunities will arise where I can be with them. For this reason, I sat my Sapta down and made her spill her recipes for some of her staple-dishes. Like most women her age, she doesn’t have a recipe written down, and told me her steps from memory. I am excited to share them and hope some people will incorporate some of these ideas into their daily lifestyle.
I love this dish because it is one that can be prepped in advance. It is a fish dish that is served cold and doesn’t involve any added fat or salt.
2-3 pounds Salmon filets
½ cup sugar
1 Spanish onion-sliced
1 Tbsp pickling spices
1 cup water
2 Bay leaves
2 cups water
In a large pot, combine the sugar, water, pickling spices, onion, and bay leaves and boil until sugar dissolves and onion is soft. Bring water down to a light simmer and add the salmon (skin down). Cover and let it simmer for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, let it cool and GENTLY remove the salmon from the pot. Strain the remaining pickling liquid from the pot and pour over the salmon, cover, and chill until ready to eat.
Vegetarian Chopped Liver
I love bringing this to parties and tricking carnivores into eating this. It does not contain liver, but has the consistency and similar taste (so I’m told) of traditional chopped liver.
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup Walnuts
1 hard-boiled egg
1 can sweet baby peas-drained
1 cube vegetable bouillon
1 tsp chopped garlic
Heat oil in a pan on medium-high heat and add onion, bouillon cube, and garlic. Sauté until onions are caramelized. Let the onions cool. In a food processor, add the walnuts and pulverize. Add cooled onion mixture, egg, and peas and pulverize until the consistency is similar to chopped liver. Transfer to a container, cover, and chill until ready to eat. Great served with crackers, carrots, or used as a shmear.
Kasha and Bowties
Another meatless dish that provides a bulk of protein and fiber. It is highly satisfying, and I don’t even miss the meat!
One package Kasha (bulgur wheat-medium grain). buy it here (AF): https://amzn.to/2uYzkVI
One egg, beaten
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp chopped garlic
1 Spanish onion, chopped
¼ box bowtie noodles, cooked (optional)
2 cups boiling water
Mix raw buckwheat with beaten egg until kernels are covered. Heat pot on medium-high heat and put buckwheat directly on the pan and cook until toasted. Let cool and dry. In a pan, heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and garlic until caramelized. Cover the toasted buckwheat with boiling water (may be less than the 2 cups) and let simmer on low heat until water is absorbed. Mix the onions with the buckwheat and add bowtie noodles if desired.
This is the most basic recipe that I don’t even know if I can call it a recipe. Almonds are always a staple at my grandparent’s house and always available for a nosh. They taste great raw, but taste even better freshly roasted and slightly warm. All my grandmother does is preheat the toaster oven to 400 degrees, puts a bunch of almonds on a small baking sheet, and put them in the oven until roasted. These go great on salads, mixed into yogurt, or even crushed and sprinkled on top of ice cream.