What I Cooked Last Friday

In the first edition of "What I Cooked Last Friday (for Shabbat)" I will share pictures of the food I prepared for my family for Friday and Saturday. Orthodox Jews who observe the Shabbat prepare the food on Friday to be eaten Friday evening and all day Saturday. This is part of observing the positive commandment to "keep the Shabbat holy" by refraining from creative work including cooking, using fire/electricity, and any sort of artistic creation. That being said, Friday preparation can be extensive and Friday is often a very hectic day for most families. But in that chaos, I love creating beautiful, delicious food that will nourish my family and elevate the holiness of Shabbat. Shabbat menus are never something I skimp on, I (and my mother-in-law) ensure that the family eats a royal banquet for every Shabbat meal. Shabbat food would just be another dish on a plate if it weren't for the holiness and the spiritual connection between ourselves and HaShem through the other Shabbat observances.

Our Friday evenings begin with mystical poetry, the Songs of Shlomo (Solomon), usually sung in the synagogue but during these strange times they are sung by my husband and father-in-law in my living room. Dressed in modest finery, my family is beautiful in the brilliance of Shabbat. The Shabbat table is also dressed in beautiful cloth and adorned with shining cutlery and glass plates.

Kiddush is recited over the wine as we stand as witnesses to G-d's revelation to the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, as we drink we accept His commandments for ourselves again each Friday as we did at Mount Sinai. Our hands are washed, thrice on the right, thrice on the left. Hamotzi is said over the challah bread and we eat portion with salt as the temple showbread was eaten by the priests when the temple stood in Jerusalem. And then we eat!


Sparkling water and lemon mint water are served first as the variety of salatim (small cooked or fresh salads prepared in various traditional ways) are brought to the table. The first course of salatim is eaten with the homemade challah bread baked brown with crunchy sesame seeds and or za'atar spice and an egg glaze.


Before we devour all the salatim and challah, the fish course is served. Usually denise fish cooked in a Moroccan sauce of peppers and chickpeas or a whole fillet of salmon with minced cilantro and garlic.

In Ashkenaz tradition, liquor is usually served between the fish and meat course to clear the mouth and palate of fish as it is forbidden to eat fish and meat together. Sephardim usually drink water or a soft beverage of their choice, but I serve a red wine between the fish and meat course, usually a local cabernet grown in the nearby Yatir forest.


Though once a confirmed pescetarian of several years, I have since started eating meat again on Shabbat as one of the many ways we show that Shabbat is not a day of mourning but a day of joy and celebration when wine and meat are consumed. The meat course varies weekly: tangine chicken with fennel, brisket cut with chestnuts and mushrooms, Tunisian red meatballs with eggplant, or layered Spanish pastel with lemon mashed potatoes...


So what did I cook last Friday?


Four za'atar challot




Hummus with 'chuma sauce and ground turmeric

Tomato matbucha cooked to a jam with spicy peppers and garlic

Fire-roast eggplant Babaganoush with mayonnaise, garlic, and fresh lemon

Shredded carrot salad with vinegar and parsley from my garden

Fire-roasted Anaheim peppers with fire-roasted garlic and olive oil

Whole sesame tahini sauce with minced cilantro and lemon juice

Sliced boiled beets with salt pepper and lemon



Whole salmon fillet marinated in minced cilantro and garlic (s&p to taste)

Sauteed green peas with onion and mushrooms

Oven-roasted sweet potatoes in oil and s&p



At this point there isn't usually another course on Friday nights (because how much can one person eat at 8pm?) and the meat course is served for lunch on Shabbat.


More sparkling water and lemon mint water were passed around, birkat hamazon was recited, and dishes were washed as everyone retired to the living room for the weekly family discussion turned argument turned storytime when cake and tea are passed around until at least half the company falls asleep on the couchs.


An apple and mixed nut cake was served with a pot of green tea and lemon verbena from my garden, because the meat course wasn't eaten, the cheesecake with whipped cream doesn't have to wait until Shabbat morning with coffee and more green tea.


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In the morning, after a generous slice of cheesecake with a choice of green tea or coffee, usually, the men would go to synagogue, but instead, a small shacharit service is done in the living room. Then there is lunch followed by mincha and arvit in the late afternoon/evening as the Shabbat queen begins to depart from us


When lunch is served two more za'atar challot are blessed with the wine and our hands are washed. Last Shabbat I served:


Kerem Yatir Cabernet Sauvignon


Hummus with 'chuma sauce and ground turmeric

Tomato matbucha cooked to a jam with spicy peppers and garlic

Fire roast eggplant Babaganoush with mayonnaise, garlic, and fresh lemon

Shredded carrot salad with vinegar and parsley from my garden

Fire-roasted Anaheim peppers with fire-roasted garlic and olive oil

Whole sesame tahini sauce with minced cilantro and lemon juice

Sliced boiled beets with salt pepper and lemon


Fresh green salad with sliced mushrooms, celery, and fennel


Brisket cut stewed in red wine, chestnuts, mushrooms, and bay leaves

Rice pilaf with carrots, onion, and parsley


Birkat hamazon is recited and most everyone retires to the living room for more stories and arguments until we all feel we have a bit of room for apple and mixed nut cake with green tea.



We spent the rest of the Shabbat afternoon playing my in-laws' vintage ivory tile Rummikub in French (Un bleu, quatre jaune, huit noir, cinq rouje...) outside in the sunshine so I could practice the little French I've taught myself this last year "Je ne veux pas...", "Je vais te donner...". My Moroccan mother-in-law humors me and my poor accent.

There is not a single Shabbat that ends without a small sense of sadness, which is why we comfort ourselves with the havdala ceremony over wine, a candle, and spices or another enjoyable fragrance. With song, light, and spirit we end the holiday of rest fortified for the week ahead, until next Shabbat.


P.S.

Not all the food that was prepared was photographed (who has time for that on Fridays??) ; )


Avigail


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