“Your kitchen smells just like my grandmother’s!”
My neighbor uttered these words with a huge smile on her face. My house, apparently, smells of grandmothers’ kitchens, of childhood homes during the Jewish holidays, of favorite relatives visited long ago: my house smells of home.
It was a Friday, and I was cooking for Shabbat. “I love Shabbat,” my friend exclaimed, “but I have absolutely no time to get ready for it!”
I’ve heard these words too. As beautiful as it is to sit down to a lovingly prepared Shabbat meal on Friday night, all the work to get Shabbat dinner ready can seem daunting.
Through the years, I’ve come up with an array of short cuts. Friday afternoons, my kids and I blitz through the house, tidying up at record speed. (It’s more fun when we all do it together – try playing a CD and racing to finish before your favorite song is done.) I set the table with a white cloth and flowers: my secret to instantly transforming my table from its weekday look into something special for Shabbat.
When it comes to preparing dinner, I rely on slow-cookers, my microwave, and my freezer. (And I never make just one batch of anything; double recipes and freezing the excess means easier prep another week.) I’ve also learned that arranging food artfully on plates – and sprinkling dishes with chopped up herbs like parsley and cilantro - can also enhance a meal and make it look rich and festive.
Rich and Easy Cabbage Soup
I love this recipe, from Jewish cooking maven Susie Fishbein’s healthy cookbook Kosher by Design Lightens Up. It’s healthy and delicious; best of all, take only about half an hour to prepare, and can be cooked ahead and reheated.
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, chopped
- 1 T tomato paste
- 1/8 t red pepper flakes
- 6 cups beef stock (can be made from beef consommé powder dissolved in water)
- ½ t dried basil
- ½ t dried oregano
- ¼ t freshly ground black pepper
- 3 cups fresh green cabbage (roughly ¼ of a small cabbage), thinly sliced
- 1 (14.5 oz) can stewed tomatoes, coarsely chopped, reserve juices
- 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion is translucent; do not allow it to brown. Add the tomato paste and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Pour in the stock. Season with the basil, oregano, and black pepper. Raise the heat nd bring to a simmer. Stir in the cabbage. Simmer until the cabbage wilts, about 10 minutes.
Add the stewed tomatoes with their liquid, and the crushed tomatoes. Stir. Continue to simmer for 10-15 minutes. Serve hot.
Gefilte Fish Provencale
This delicious dish – from The New Complete International Jewish Cookbook by British cookery doyenne Evelyn Rose – is great for busy weeks: it takes less than half an hour to prepare, and can keep in the refrigerator up to three days.
- 1 loaf raw frozen gefilte loaf (available in kosher aisles of grocery stores)
- 5 oz can tomato puree
- 10 oz boiling water
- 2 t olive oil
- 1 t onion salt
- 2 canned sweet red peppers, drained and cut in thin strips (or 1 large red pepper, cut in strips)
- 1T ketchup
- 1 bay leaf
- 10 grinds black pepper
- ½ t dried Italian herbs or Herbes de Provence
- 1 t brown sugar
The night before preparing this dish, place the gefilte fish loaf in the refrigerator to defrost.
Whisk all the sauce ingredients together in a microwave-safe bowl until smooth. Heat the sauce, covered, on high for 3 minutes.
Slice the loaf into 8 patties and place side by side in a casserole dish. Pour over the sauce, and cook covered on high for 6 minutes. Remove the lid, baste the fish with the sauce, then re-cover and cook on medium for a further 5 minutes.
Leave covered for 10 minutes, then uncover and refrigerate until required. Leave at room temperature for 1 hour before serving.
Slow Cooker Chicken in Peanut Sauce
This delicious recipe requires some prep and clean-up first thing in the morning, but then cooks by itself all day long.
- 1 T vegetable or olive oil
- 8 large chicken thighs (about 3 lbs.), skin removed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes (for a spicy version, use tomatoes with green chilies)
- 2 T honey
- 2 t cumin
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1/3 cup peanut butter
- 1 can (14.5) crushed tomatoes
In a non-skin frying pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken in oil about 5 minutes, turning once, until browned.
Place chicken in slow cooker. Whisk together remaining ingredients (except peanut butter), and pour over chicken. Cover and cook on “low” all day – about 8 hours.
Stir in peanut butter until melted and well-mixed before serving. Serve over instant rice or couscous.
One Bowl Chocolate Cake
I made up this cake one Friday when I was experimenting with ways to eliminate oil and make a healthier dessert. The result is a rich chocolaty cake that my kids adore.
- 1 cup apple sauce
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 t vanilla extract
- ¼ t salt
- ¼ t baking soda
- ¾ cup cocoa powder
- 1 cup flour
Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9 x 9 inch baking pan with parchment paper. (Parchment paper doesn’t require greasing, and makes clean-up a breeze.)
Mix all ingredients until well blended, then pour into prepared pan.
Bake for half an hour, until set. Let cool before serving. For a festive presentation, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar before serving.
Share your short cuts for Shabbat preparations in the comment section below.