Top Ten: Your Summertime Shabbat Guide
From cold soups to stone fruit, a roundup of the season's yummy, speedy and easy.
It can be hard to escape the heat when you're preparing for Shabbat. Come summer, that fabulous Friday night roasted chicken or cholent lunch seems heavy and labor-intensive. So with a little help from my friends, we’re here with ten fast, fuss-free Shabbat summer meals.
1. Salmon. Fish cooks quickly and by almost every cooking method, but salmon is particularly versatile. It’s good hot, cold or at room temperature; it lends itself to all sorts of seasonings from mustard to crushed pistachios to fresh thyme to Sriracha; it’s filling enough as an entrée, useful for leftovers and pretty enough to be the centerpiece of an important dinner. This recipe for Pistachio Crusted Salmon (from my book, “Hip Kosher”) takes 5 minutes to prepare, 15 minutes to cook.
2. Whole-meal salads. Using grains, beans, meat or fish, cooked vegetables, cheese and so on, you can produce satisfying entrees that are colorful, festive and filling. Sarah Klinkowitz likes Lemon-Sesame-Salmon-Rice Salad because you can assemble every part ahead, then serve it at room temperature as a starter on Shabbat or as a main course on Saturday.
3. The change-up. Make dishes that are so versatile you can swap ingredients depending on what you have in the house, like this Spinach and Beet Salad with Goat Cheese from Hindy Garfinkel. She roasts the beets well ahead and uses both red and golden beets to give the dish a lovely, cheerful color, but butternut squash would work well too. Any soft-ish, tangy cheese will do (feta, chevre) and if you don’t like walnuts, substitute pecans, almonds or any other favorite. The dressing is also subject to infinite variation – use thyme or oregano instead of basil, for example. Using what’s on hand saves you shopping time as well as cooking time.
4. See the light. Make foods that are refreshing, with in-season ingredients that are meant to serve you body and soul in the heat, like this recipe for tabouleh from Vicky Cohen and Ruth Fox. Seasonal ingredients have more flavor, are readily available and usually cost less than produce transported from afar. Tabouleh is also the kind of one-pot dish that packs well, so if you like eating outdoors, picnic style or otherwise, this one’s a perfect choice. And there’s one more bonus – you can even dress this salad ahead because the longer it sits, the more the flavors develop.
5. Cold soups. These are always prepared ahead and are easy to transport. They are also refreshing, a good starter for dinner but also a nice midday Shabbat meal when served with a big hunk of challah or crusty bread. Gazpacho. Vichyssoise. Fruit soup. Cream of any kind of vegetable soup.
6. Eggs. Packed with nutrition, eggs are also amazingly cheap for what they offer. You don’t have to be satisfied with plain old eggs for lunch or supper, although there’s no harm in that. Eggs are at the heart of dozens of other make-it-easy-on-yourself summer dishes: frittatas, which you can serve hot or cold; ditto, omelets; quiche too, and of course, shakshuka (which is best when hot but delicious at room temperature too).
7. Cutlets. Paillards. Escallopes. Whatever you want to call them. These thin slices of boneless meat (chicken, veal, turkey, beef and even lamb) cook in a flash on the grill or in a sauté pan. Marinate them for more flavor (you can use a simple, herb-infused vinaigrette), and use them as is with vegetables and/or salad for a lovely, simple summer dinner or stuff them into a sandwich or slice them into a salad for Shabbat lunch.
8. Fresh herbs. Take advantage of summer’s bounty to liven up even the simplest recipes and give them a flavor-load that makes it taste as if you fussed when you didn’t. For example, this easy Pasta with Basil-Mint-Spinach and Ricotta Sauce from Tami Weiser, which has the advantage of being perfectly wonderful whether you serve it hot or at room temperature.
9. Packaged products. Even the most particular home cooks know it is more than acceptable to use ingredients such as frozen peas, canned beans, coconut milk, dried pasta and such to cut down on food prep time. It isn’t necessary to make everything from scratch. Shoshana Ohriner makes this easy – it takes 10 minutes to get together – in a beautiful chicken dish that includes frozen artichoke bottoms.
10. Fruit for dessert. Keep dessert simple because sugar-loaded confections weigh you down and make you feel the heat and humidity more. Fresh, local peaches, nectarines, plums and berries are seasonal only briefly and taste like a different species than the ones you can buy year round. Fruit can be dressed up very easily with a sprinkle of sugar and a few drops of orange-favored brandy. Or with a “sauce” that you can make by crushing raspberries. For a fancier, yet fast-and-easy dessert, cut slices of pineapple or halve stone fruits, brush them with melted butter or coconut oil, sprinkle with sugar and grill (or broil) the pieces for a couple of minutes per side, until the surfaces caramelize. It’s the perfect finale to summer Shabbat dinner.
Ronnie Fein is a cookbook author and cooking teacher in Stamford. Her latest book is Hip Kosher. Visit her food blog, Kitchen Vignettes, and follow on Twitter at @RonnieVFein.