Thursday, 29 March 2012

Kabakle

Zaida Sam, "The Young Man"

When Sara was 7 months old, she had her first piece of solid food - a pickle at the Eaton Centre cafeteria.  Mom and I had taken her downtown and I had gotten a pickle (remember - I am a 'salty') with my lunch.  Sara got a hold of it (okay, maybe I handed it to her) and she began gumming it.  And so it was that the love of salt was passed down to the next generation. 

It is no wonder that we love salty foods in our family, especially given the meals we enjoyed at our parents' table.  I was eating sardines in my high chair - the story goes that Mom handed me sardine and I proceeded to use it as a telephone!  I bet it took her a long long time to get that mess out of my baby ear! 

We were always served strong-flavoured foods in my parents' home.  Davie and I both remember the 4 of us piling into the family station wagon many a Sunday morning and heading down to Pasquale Brothers' market on King Street , where we would by a variety of delicacies for brunch that day.  There were olives - green and black, and seasoned artichoke hearts and cheeses.  Mom would set them all out with bagels and rye rolls from Open Window Bakery, along with a plate of sliced cucumbers and tomato wedges.   Occasionally, there was also a plate of herring (not my cup of tea) and/or sardines. 

Voorsht (salami) sandwiches with hot mustard and tomato on rye bread were another family favourite, and a staple for picnic lunches whenever we went on road trips (which was at least once a year).

Thinking back, another favourite for Shabbat and Yom Tov was Kabakle (no idea how it is spelled, or it's language of origin).  Mom always made the best Kabakle.  It was especially delicious spread on challah, and even made matzah appealing. 

Mom has shared the recipe before, and I have made it, but foolishly I never wrote it down.  So you can imagine how happy I was to discover Zaida Sam's recipe among the treasures in My Golden Recipes.

A young Gertie & Sam

A little background on Zaida Sam...he was adored and treasured by all.  He emigrated from Romania in 1900 to flee rampant anti-semitism and pogroms.  He went first to New York City where he was a window dresser, and then moved to Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he met my great-great-grandfather, Isaac Chaliff.  There is a tribute to him in Salute to the Romanian Jews in America and Canada, 1850-2010 By Vladimir Wertsman.  He worked for Isaac Chaliff, managing his rural stores, and met Isaac's beautiful, strong-willed daughter, Gertrude.  The story is that Sam was staying with the Chaliffs, sleeping on their couch.  Gertrude liked Sam but not his moustache and beard, so she began to shave it off while he slept.  My recollection of the story fades at this point but, needless to say, it didn't scare him off. They were married, and moved to Regina, Saskatchewan, where they raised 6 kids (including my Bubbie Lou), were founding members of the Synagogue - Beth Jacob- and opened a successful ladies' wear clothing store - Pearlman's Ladies' Wear.

Memorial Plaque of Zaida Sam
at the Regina Beth Jacob Synagogue

My mother adored Zaida Sam, and he adored her.  Her eyes always lit up when she talked about him, and his untimely death in February 1953, while vacationing in Florida with Bubbie Gertie, devastated a 10-year-old Carol Joy.  Uncle Jim (Mom's brother) recounted what a happy, kind and fun-loving man he was.  How he would play little jokes on the grandkids sitting around his table, and hide their slice of (homemade) strawberry shortcake, gingerly resting the plate on his knee, trying so hard to suppress the giggles.  Eventually, they got the better of him, and turned into full-on laughter, at which point the fluffy white whipped topping landed all over his suit and Bubbie Gertie was not amused.

Bubbie Gertie, Zaida Sam, Uncle Harold and the grandkids
Mom is the taller little girl standing in front of Bubbie Gertie

I feel like I knew him, and I treasure him too.  Mom held onto the few things she had left from him - a child's nightie he had made for her, and a coverlet too.  Each of my girls has one of those treasured items, which they themselves treasure because they belonged to Bubbie Carol.

This is believed to be the last known photo
taken of Zaida Sam and Bubbie Gertie, taken
in Florida in February 1953 - the month he died

And now, from my great-grandfather's kitchen, to my grandmother's, to Mom's and now mine, I hope you enjoy Kabakle as much as I do. 


Whatever you're preparing and whatever you're celebrating, I wish you a wonderful holiday filled with family, fun, friends and fantastic food.  B'Tayavon & Buon Appetito!


Bubbie Lou's Handwritten Recipe


PS - the Passover Seders are now but a memory, and I am proud to share that Davie and Dad said my Kabakle tasted just like Mom's!  The texture is a little smoother than hers, because my immersion blender is unparalleled and liquefies everything! (Oy and vey!!), but otherwise, I did it! Hurray!  I am also happy to be able to share a pictorial step-by-step of the Kabakle prep...here it is!


Preheat oven to 350°. Bake 3 medium eggplants, in their skin,
for 45 minutes (use a lined cookie sheet to reduce mess if
eggplants or pepper [below] leak!)

Also, bake a whole pepper (recipe calls
for green pepper, but red worked too!)

Remove from oven, cool for 15 minutes,
then peel skin from eggplant, keeping seeds!

Peel and seed pepper, adding only the flesh to the mixture

Add 1 finely chopped, raw onion to mixture

Using a blender (Mom and I both use(d) immersion blenders),
puree the eggplant, pepper and onion mixture, then add 2 tbsp
oil (I prefer canola), 2 tbsp white vinegar and 1 tsp salt.  Use
immersion blender to mix, unless you prefer a seedier or chunkier
texture, in which case use a spoon.  Keep seasoning to taste.