Hard times call for easy Shabbat meals. This is a delicious, simple menu that can be conjured from items that — for now — are still easy to come by: chicken, cauliflower and greens. Combine with a challah and wine, and no one will feel deprived. Just the opposite: the pure flavors and natural ingredients take advantage of the season we’re in, even if we’re spending most of that season inside.
The recipes are below. If you want to see me actually cook them, live, join me at 2:30 p.m. PDT April 24 on the Instagram account of the Forward’s newest food contributor, Elana Horwich. Elana is a cooking teacher, TV presenter and the author of the 2019 book “A Meal and a Spiel.” She’ll be in her kitchen, me in mine, and you, I hope, in yours. Join us at @elanahorwich
Pureed cauliflower is light, simple and pure. It may not replace mashed potatoes or other starch in your Shabbat meal, but it will certainly be close competition. I started making this many years ago, when our daughter went on a ketogenic low-carb diet. Now it doesn’t feel like Shabbat without it.
1 head cauliflower
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, peeled (optional)
ground pepper to taste
Wash the cauliflower. Peel off all the green leaves, but don’t throw them away. Ever. Chopped in rough pieces, roasted in a hot oven with olive oil, salt and garlic—cauliflower leaves are one of nature’s great flavors. (Or use with chicken, below)
So: To a large pot, add cauliflower and garlic. Add water to reach about 1/3 up the the vegetable. Bring to a boil, cover, and let boil until cauliflower is extremely tender, about 25 minutes. You can test it by poking it with a fork, which should slide in easily.
Remove from heat. Drain and reserve the water. If you have an immersion or stick blender, use it to start pureeing the vegetable, adding the olive oil, salt, pepper, and enough reserved water to make a smooth puree. You can transfer everything to a blender and do the same. The key is don’t stop until the olive oil is emulsified and the mixture is silky and airy. Adjust the seasoning and keep warm until serving.
This serves 2-4 people. The recipe is easily doubled, tripled, and so on.
Tough times call for tough greens. Or tender ones. Doesn’t matter. But this basic recipe adds tons of flavor and nutrition, and you can easily use whatever is left in the garden, grocery, Instagram or even sidewalk. That’s right, if you Kindle a book like Pascal Bauder’s “The New Wildcrafted Cuisine,” you’ll see that spring brings many foraging options to cities and suburbia. Wash your pickings well, leave some for others, and add to this recipe.
2-3 pounds greens (kale, dandelion, chard, mallow, purslane, etc.)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
½ t. salt
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1 anchovy filet (optional)
Wash your greens well. In a large pot or skillet, bring enough water to the boil to keep them submerged. Add the greens and boil until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Any tough parts can stay in longer. Drain, but reserve a scoop of water for later. When cool enough to handle, chop the greens roughly.
In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir a few moments until fragrant. Don’t let the garlic burn. Add the anchovy and mash around until it dissolves. (This part is food magic.) Add the chopped greens. Now sauté everything until well mixed, and add a bit of pot water back into the greens to keep things juicy. Serve warm or room temperature with a wedge of lemon.
I make this chicken on a Traeger BBQ, which uses pellets to smoke, rather than grill, the food. It is essentially a smoky oven. The result is chicken that doesn’t get dry, and skin that crisps and puffs out a bit from the dry heat. If you don’t have such a device, use your oven. The smoked paprika gives off a nice, oaky flavor, anyway.
1 whole chicken
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 small lemon, cut in half.
5 cloves garlic, mashed
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
For the oven:
½ cup water or white wine
2 potatoes, washed and sliced thin
1 onion, peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
Rinse and dry the chicken. Preheat your Traeger or oven to 400 degrees.
Mix the oil, paprika, salt, pepper, garlic and the juice of half a lemon into a paste. Rub this inside the chicken, and outside. Your chicken should develop a nice titian glow. Any excess can go into the cavity, along with the other half of lemon and the bay leaves.
In your Traeger place the chicken breast-side down directly on the grates. Cover and cook about 35 minutes. Turn and finish cooking until crisp, about 10 more minutes.
In an oven, place the chicken in a small roasting pan, breast-side down. Add those chopped cauliflower leaves, more garlic, and sliced onions and potatoes to the bottom if you wish, along with a bit of olive oil and some water or white wine. Roast 40 minutes until brown. Turn and finish roasting until brown, about 15 minutes.
In all cases, a meat thermometer inserted into the thigh joint should register 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken, let rest a few minutes. Carve and serve with puree and greens.
Rob Eshman is national editor of the Forward. You can follow his food @foodaism.