It’s Saturday morning. OK, let’s be honest, it’s probably already early afternoon. My husband and I drag ourselves out of bed and head straight for the kitchen. It’s our Shabbat ritual — we wake up, spend hours preparing dish after dish and then sit down to a leisurely, luxurious lunch. Eggs of some sort, lots of salads, coffee, baked goods and good bread. Good bread is a must.
This is what we do on weekends. Friday mornings and afternoons are frenetic. The streets of Tel Aviv are full of people, and staying home — or worse, sleeping late — makes you feel left out of the action, like life is passing you by. It doesn’t really matter what you do outside the house — go to the corner hardware store, cram into the health food shop to buy last-minute ingredients for the Shabbat meal (even though enough grocery stores are open 24 hours), or sit at a restaurant, preferably over brunch at an outdoor table — the point is to get out. Sometimes we stay home and clean, but it’s a frenetic cleaning, in the spirit of the city’s energy; through our patio windows, we look out on the traffic jams and packed cafes.
By mid-afternoon, the spirit suddenly shifts. Even in secular Tel Aviv, people bid you Shabbat Shalom as you part ways. Streets start to empty, as do most coffee shops. Where has everyone gone? I don’t really know. The city residents are in their homes, or going to visit parents outside the city for the weekend. Once dusk arrives, the city that never sleeps has begun to nod off.
And then there’s Saturday. Shabbat, the weekend’s final day. The city offers a different set of options. People are out strolling, but the streets are still mostly empty. You can join the crowds in a park, or at a cafe if you want. But the prevailing quiet makes this day a good one to spend at home — our one day together, after a week of work and a Friday of socializing.
If we wanted to see others, we’d leave the house and go to a restaurant for brunch. We’d get something with multiple courses, every dish prepared with careful attention. That’s what you look for in brunch around here, after all. But our Shabbat is a day to spend with each other. So we prepare our own little brunch in the comfort of our home, and enjoy it from the privacy of our patio, overlooking the city.
What does brunch include? It’s limited mostly by our creativity, energy and patience. Salads, either prepared fresh or left over from a previous meal — tossed greens, roasted pepper or cauliflower, grated beets. Freshly made coffee. Cheeses. An egg dish, such as shakshuka or an omelet. Breads — anything from Yemenite pita to French sourdough, generally purchased but sometimes baked at home.
And if we’re in the mood for something particularly cozy and sweet, then waffles or pancakes, a different kind every time, but preferably something whole wheat to make it filling, fresh fruit for flavor, and whole grains like oatmeal so we can even call it a balanced meal.
We finish shortly before dusk falls. The city slowly awakens from her slumber. The roar of buses returns to the streets, and traffic picks up. On Saturday nights, instead of farewell, you say “have a good week.” For the week has begun, and with it the countdown to the next day of rest.
These pancakes are packed with apples, oatmeal and whole wheat, offering both sweetness and nutrition. The quantity of butter is minimal, so the guilt factor is entirely a matter of how much syrup you pour on top.
Makes 15 pancakes
1 large apple (about 180 grams, or enough to make 1 cup once grated) 1/3 cup quick rolled oats
2 tablespoons demarara (light brown) sugar
1 large or extra-large egg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 cup milk
a bit less than 1/4 cup butter (40 grams) for frying the pancakes
1) Core the apple and then grate it (I don’t remove the peel). Mix the grated apple, the oatmeal, the sugar, the egg, the salt, the cinnamon and the baking powder. Gradually mix in the flour and the milk, alternating half a cup of each.
2) Heat a frying pan on a medium flame. Add a slab of butter to the pan – 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons, or enough so that the bottom of the pan is coated in melted butter. Spoon quarter-cups of batter into the pan, and let cook on a medium-low flame. Once a few bubbles start appearing on the top side of the pancakes and the edges begin to appear dry, flip to bake on the other side. Remove to a plate once the bottom is golden brown.
3) Repeat with the rest of the batter, adding more butter for each batch.
Serve with syrup, or as desired.