Who are we?
Born in 1986 in Yekaterinburg (formerly known as Sverdlovsk), Ksenia is a Food photographer and blogger. When she was 6 years old, she immigrated to Israel with her parents. “Only in Israel did we realize that the dishes that my grandmother cooked for us in Russia, such as chopped liver and gefilte fish, were in fact Jewish,” says Ksenia, who took her first steps in the kitchen with her grandmother. “When I moved to Canada, I missed her food and so I searched the internet for recipes in order to recreate those flavors. This led to the start of my blog: At The Immigrant’s Table
Born in Bogota, Fabian is an engineer by profession. As far as he is concerned, food is sustenance and as such cooking is a simply necessity. Before he met Ksenia – and befitting an engineer – Fabian used to plan his cooking in advance and to great detail so that he only needed to cook once every three weeks, and keep it all in the freezer – even the vegetables. “I had to make him cook me Colombian food,” Ksenia recalls. Fabian says the only topic that causes arguments in the house revolves around food, and Ksenia elaborates: “He asks me what he should prepare, and with all of my special requests – to use this cheese or another, maybe add a little zhug – and please, add fried eggplant – I manage to really annoy him.”
Leo Guerrero Prints
Born in 2019 in Montreal. Despite his young age, Leo’s parents testify that he is particularly fond of eating fish, “especially white- fleshed ones.” He also loves bread and anything sweet. it came as no surprise that the first words he uttered were food related: “yum, yum”, “syr” (cheese, in Russian) and pan (bread, in Spanish). “Leo enjoys opening drawers in the kitchen while calling loudly ‘Cooking, cooking’!” his mother says proudly.
Where Was the Photo Taken?
When at home in Montreal’s neighborhood of Verdun, Ksenia, Fabian and Leo spend most of their time in the open kitchen or the dining area facing the spacious living room. “In Colombia, most of the kitchens are in a separate room, sometimes even outside the house, but for me the kitchen is the heart of the house, where everything happens,” says Ksenia.
Our Family Kitchen
As someone who grew up in Israel, Ksenia often prepares Middle Eastern-Israeli food such as hummus, pizza-malawach and shakshuka. “Between you and me, it’s also just easier to prepare,” Ksenia says with a smile.
But, she adds, it is also important for her and Fabian to expose their toddler son to his roots, while simultaneously preserve the flavors from their childhood. Thus, they prepare both Colombian dishes such as Arepas (fried flat cornmeal cakes) and Ajiaco (chicken soup with rice, avocado, sour cream and capers) as well as Russian-Soviet dishes such as vareniki, pelmeni
(Stuffed dumplings) and Plov (rice with dried fruit). I also make roast chicken just like my grandmother Bertha, smeared with mayonnaise and paprika. We both miss the foods we grew up on,” she admits.
The House Recipe: Eggplant Shakshuka
The Prints- Guerrero’s make this Shakshuka at least once a week. “Grandma Bertha and her sister Sonia would regularly make eggplant in a slightly spicy sweet & sour sauce,” says Ksenia. “When I moved to Canada I found out that no one here knows how to make eggplant, so I added them to the Shakshuka, and ever since then it has become our favorite family dish, that everyone always asks us to bring to any event or trip.”
1 medium-sized eggplant, cut into 1cm/ ½-inch cubes
4 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 large tomatoes or 28-ounce/ 800 grams can of tomatoes, cut into 1cm/ ½-inch cubes
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon salt or more, to taste
½ teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon paprika
½ tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili flakes or ½ fresh jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
½ lemon, juiced
a handful of parsley, to taste
- Place diced eggplant in a colander, sprinkle salt and let it drain for 15 minutes. Rinse lightly and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Heat a large deep skillet over a medium heat , preferably non-stick or enamel-coated. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of oil and the chopped onion and saute for 5 minutes. reduce to medium-low heat and cook for 5 minutes, until golden.
- Add 2 tablespoons of oil and the diced eggplant and fry for several minutes, until all the oil has been soaked up. Make sure they’re not over-crowded in the skillet, which will result in an uneven browning. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and toss the eggplant to coat. Fry until golden brown, occasionally stirring, for about 10 minutes.
- Add the diced tomatoes and cook over medium heat while occasionally stirring, until the tomatoes have broken down into a chunky sauce, 15 – 25 minutes. Add the chopped garlic, salt, sugar and spices and mix well.
- Crack the eggs into a bowl. Using a wooden spoon, create wells for the eggs in the sauce. Pour the eggs, one into each nest (as is or lightly scrambled), cover and cook over medium heat 8- 10 minutes. Test for doneness after 8 minutes: the shakshuka is ready when the egg whites are set and the yolk is still a little jiggly.
- Add the lemon juice, sprinkle chopped parsley and serve immediately along with plain yogurt and crusty bread, to taste. Don’t forget to sop up the sauce when you’re done.
Traditionally, eggs are simply poured into the shakshuka sauce, one egg in each well, but some people, included Ksenia, prefer the eggs scrambled separately, and then lightly mixed with sauce in their little nests. “If you’re unsure of your preference, I recommend trying both methods”, says Ksenia.
For a vegan option, substitute the eggs with extra firm tofu diced into 2½ cm/ 1-inch cubes, then crumbled with a wooden spoon or spatula. Stir the tofu crumbles into the sauce as you would the eggs.
Edited by Ofer Vardi, Photography by Assaf Golan