Who would have imagined in 1968 that a woman who revolutionized the world of kosher cooking in Canada, with the cookbook she compiled for the Mt. Sinai Chapter of B’nai Brith Women, would become a household name for gourmands and chefs throughout the world? “Second Helpings Please,” Norene Gilletz’s first publication, became a household name for many. Almost 50 years later her success has escalated to the extent that she has authored and co-authored many cookbooks; has a podcast, “Norene’s Kitchen Cast”; and has attached her name to many products being sold in Toronto-area kosher establishments.
It is actually her Facebook page that I am excited to share with you today. I was never a Facebook user until I moved to New Jersey and was introduced to it as a means of keeping in touch with new, old and older friends. Within a short time I became a “Norener” and joined “Norene’s Kitchen.” I had no idea of what to expect. The page began in 2011 and now has a whopping 8282 members. People from all over the world comment on the latest food findings and great recipes, assist in questions of how a certain food should be prepared and offer advice to new and budding cooks.
I really want to emphasize the most special aspect of the group: the caring and sharing that happen daily. It is difficult to emphasize enough how this group of strangers has molded into a family of food lovers and caring individuals who are there for each other 24 hours a day. Frequently, parents and grandparents share the arrival of new babies. Sadly, there are those who ask for prayers for a sick loved one. Immediately there are responses from people who are praying and giving tzedakah in honor of a refuah for the ill person. I will never forget a post that came shortly after I joined the group. A woman who lives in Florida wrote desperately that her daughter had suddenly become critically ill. She was on a plane to New York to see her but at that moment did not even know which hospital her daughter was in. I wrote to her and told her that when she had the information she should let me know. Several days later I visited my new “sister” at Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. We only knew each other through this powerful group. Unfortunately, her beloved daughter passed away but she and I have a bond that is to the credit of Norene Gilletz.
Recently members were asked what they derive from being a member of the group. One Norener responded, “It is a combination of things: advice within cooking or prepping; never having to wait more than a few minutes for a response; tips on what to do with leftovers and friendships. I am learning how things are celebrated differently all over the world.” I myself recently wanted to make an old recipe that I love but could not remember which cookbook it was from. I posted on Norene’s site and within 20 minutes had a response and positive answer.
Norene has established a lovely world for all of her 8282 members (and growing). Although she hails from Winnipeg and then Montreal (Norene, I had to say it!), she has been a more than vibrant member of the Toronto community for the past 21 years. She is one of the most special and honorable ladies I know.
Together with Daniella Silver, she has collaborated on several cookbooks recently. I am including two recipes from “The Silver Platter.” I am anxiously awaiting “The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory,” which will be Norene’s next contribution to the cooking world.
Anyone interested in cooking, who wants to be included in a warm and welcoming group, should join “Norene’s Kitchen.” It will not take long for you to feel like family. Thank you, Norene, for creating this page.
Sweet Potato Squash Soup
Pareve, Passover, gluten-free, freezes well, yields 8 servings
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large onion
- 1 butternut squash (about 3 lb/1.4 kg), peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
- 3 Tbsp honey
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 tsp minced fresh thyme leaves
- Additional thyme for garnish
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. A add onion; sauté for 5 minutes or until softened.
Stir in squash, sweet potatoes, honey, salt, pepper, and water. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes or until. Vegetables are tender. Stir occasionally.
Add thyme. Remove soup from heat. Cool slightly.
Using an immersion blender, process soup until smooth. If soup is too thick, add a little water or broth. Adjust seasonings to taste. Garnish with thyme.
Norene’s Notes: to cut squash ito chunks easily, try this easy trick: Slash squash in several places with a sharp knife, then microwave for 5 minutes on high (or bake at 350 F. for 15-20 minutes). Cool slightly. Cut squash into two pieces at the neck. Cut the round bottom part in half. Using a large spoon, scoop out and discard seeds and stringy fiber. Peel squash with a vegetable peeler; cut into chunks.
Rainbow Roasted Roots with Oranges and Pomegranates
Pareve, Passover, gluten-free, do not freeze, yields 8 servings
- 2 bunches red or rainbow beets, scrummed and trimmed (about 6-8 beets)
- 3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1-iunch chunks
- 3 parsnips, peeled, trimmed, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 2 seedless oranges, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
- ½ cup orange juice
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp honey
- ¼ cup chopped fresh basil
Preheat oven to 400 F. cut a large piece of heavy-duty foil; place onto a rimmed baking sheet.
Coat foil with. Non-stick cooking spray. Place beets onto center of foil; wrap tightly, pinching edges together. Roast for about 1 hour, until tender.
Spread sweet potatoes and parsnip in a single layer on parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, uncovered, for 40-45 minutes, or until tender. (You can roast them at the same time as the beets.)
Carefully open foil packet and let beets stand until cool enough to handle. Use paper towels to rub off skins. Discard the skins. Cut beets into 1-inch chunks and place into a large serving bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Add sweet potatoes, parsnips, oranges, and pomegranates.
Add orange juice, oil, honey, and basil. Toss together gently. Serve at room temperature.
Norene’s notes: Variation: instead of sweet potatoes, use squash, carrots, or baby pumpkin, cut into chunks. Instead of parsnips, use 1 lb/500 g baby potatoes, halved… measurements don’t need to be too exact. You just want a variety of different-colored vegetables.
By Nina Glick