Shabbat Meals: A Work in Progress
I began sharing Shabbat meals with my husband Jeff when I was 19, while living in the dorms of Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva. Each student apartment was equipped with a small kitchen and, as an aspiring cook and baker from a young age, I was thrilled to have my own cooking space. Each week I would return from the dusty shuk with a wide (and random) variety of produce and no plan whatsoever for to how to turn it into a cohesive menu.
This was during a delightfully naive and unselfconscious phase in my journey as a cook. I cannot remember questioning my culinary ability once during that year and a half in the desert. I chopped, sautéed and boiled our food into dishes that my then boyfriend was quick to declare the best he’d ever tasted. In retrospect, my food was heavy on the beans, potatoes, and cumin (Jeff smelled vaguely like New Delhi after a week of eating my vegetable soups), and my onions had not yet found that happy medium between nearly-raw and somewhat-carbonized. But I felt very adult dishing out my version of vegetarian Shabbat hamin, vegetable soup, and little apple cakes to my future husband, roommates, and anyone else who happened by, and I happily used our two little burners, electric kettle, and small toaster oven to their utmost potential.
As time went by and we experimented with various eating styles, including Macrobiotics, veganism, pan-Asian-Northeast-fusion, meat and potatoes and everything in between, our Shabbat menu always reflected these changes. Our current table is a reflection of our time in Israel, my Spanish-Turkish heritage, my husband’s Southern love of beets and greens, our 11 years in New England, and our life now, back in Jerusalem, where we fill our Shabbats with long walks in the Valley of the Cross or picnics in San Simon Park after Jeff returns from synagogue.
Like so many Jewish tables, ours tells a story. It is unique, of course, with a traditional Turkish red pepper salad sitting proudly beside a bowl of quinoa and plump raisins, or wheat berries with pomegranate seeds glistening next to a humble plate of homemade hummus; but I think its variety also speaks to the typical Jewish experience of finding one’s way in newness — with all the discomfort and awkwardness of being open to life’s adventures — while still carrying much of the past. Thirteen years after our first meals together, I still feel as though we are finding our Shabbat rhythm and I look forward to our meals continuing to change and evolve into something that will become a tradition we can pass on.
Our favorite Shabbat Salads-of-the-Moment
“Salad” is a loose term for the small plates of vegetable spreads, dips and grain salads we eat at the start of the Shabbat meal.
Muhammarah (Turkish red pepper and walnut spread), recipe adapted from Gourmet Today)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
3-4 medium sized red bell peppers
1/3 cup walnuts
2/3 cup fine whole wheat bread crumbs
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons pomegranate molasses (or 1 teaspoon sugar/agave)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Roast the red peppers on the upper rack of the oven at 375°F/200°C, for 15-20 minutes, turning with tongs every 5 minutes, until all sides are somewhat blackened and mottled. Remove them from the oven and place them in a bowl that you can cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Allow the peppers to steam off their skins for 10 minutes, before uncovereing the bowl. When they are cool enough to handle, gently rub off the skins, remove the stem and seeds and set aside.
In a food processor fitted with the blade attachment, process the garlic with the salt until a paste forms. Add the red peppers, bread crumbs, walnuts, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin and red pepper flakes and blend until smooth. Add oil in a slow stream until thoroughly combined. Serve at room temp. This spread keeps for 4 days in the fridge.
Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad This recipe comes from the mother of my boss. Her family is from Morocco and this recipe is always present on their Shabbat table.
4 medium beets, scrubbed and trimmed
2 small oranges, peeled, sectioned, as demonstrated in this excellent video, and then cut into one-inch pieces
handful of chopped fresh mint
fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
Put scrubbed beets in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until beets and tender. The cooking time varies depending on the size of the beets ~45-60 minutes.
Peel under cool water (peels should slip right off). Cut beets into cubes and toss with oranges and mint. Whisk lemon juice, salt and pepper in a bowl and pour over salad. Toss again just before serving.