Friday Night Dinners Inspired
by a Global Jewish Kitchen
By Bobbie Kitto
Edited & Published by: Linda Kissam
Recipes included in this review: Falafel Pizza with Feta and Herbs & Layered Chicken and Rice Plov
On Friday night at sunset, all over the world Jewish people gather with friends and family to celebrate their faith. With wine, bread, and food they share their spirit (ruach) with their community.
SHABBAT – “For most, Shabbat is a space to celebrate, recharge, and share with those you care for. It is”… a time to look at our relationships with ourselves, with others, and with the world at large” says author Faith Kramer.
In her new book 52 Shabbats Faith writes about Jewish customs and food. She publishes articles on line and in the Jewish news of Northern California. In addition she has contributed articles to kosher.com and foodandwine.com.
To get a sample of how to prepare recipes from this book go to her YouTube Presentation: You’ll see Faith prepare Falafel Pizza with Feta and Herbs & Layered Chicken and Rice Plov. Faith demonstrates how easy it is make a Shabbat worthy meal with a few simple ingredients and a little time. Two other good sounding recipes are Oven-baked Garlic Fries (pg. 157) and homemade Matzo Crackers (pg. 208-209).
The author gives you 52 main courses and 10 mouthwatering desserts, everything from Flourless Chocolate Berry Cake to Turkish Coconut Pudding. In addition there is a chapter called FUNDAMENTALS where you can find the secret to making Chicken Broth, Matzo Balls, and Friday Night Challah. Faith also gives you plenty of notes on how to make each dish ahead of time so that you can enjoy Shabbat with your friends and family and not be rushing at the last minute.
The book is divided into four seasons as the author explains that for each season the Jewish cook makes her selections keeping mind what ingredients are in season and the weather at that time of year. At first glance that may seem strange but as the author explained in winter you would want to serve a more hearty fare than you would in summer.
I enjoyed 52 Shabbats because the author gave me a very personal incite into Jewish cooking and customs. The first part of the book explained what, why, and how to cook in the Jewish tradition. She also gives a brief history of why you will find the Jewish food having components from all over the world and how and why they were incorporated into Jewish cooking.
This 52 Shabbats is a hardbound book which is unique in today’s publishing and has several pictures of the recipes. My only issue with this book was that the type was a bit small for easy reading. I give this book a 4.5 out of 5.
Recipes from the book for you to try out.
FALAFEL PIZZA WITH FETA AND HERBS
Serves 4 as a main course, or 8 as a side dish
This pizza is like an inside-out falafel sandwich, with the chickpea batter made into a baked crust and Served with traditional falafel sauces. Try it for a main course or appetizer. Be sure to give yourself enough time since the dry chickpeas soak for at least 12 hours and don’t over load the pizza with too much sauce. Much of the work can be done in advance.
FOR THE FALAFEL CRUST
11/3 cups dried chickpeas
1 teaspoon olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
11/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
Flour or gluten-free flour as needed
FOR THE PIZZA TOPPINGS
3 cups seeded and diced tomatoes, drained and patted dry
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces drained and crumbled feta
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs (flat-leaf parsley, mint, cilantro and/or dill)
FOR THE PIZZA SAUCES (SELECT 2 OR 3)
2 tablespoons Tahini Sauce or tahini
2 tablespoons amba or Yellow Curry Sauce
2 tablespoons Z’hug thinned with olive oil until pourable
2 tablespoons Garlic Sauce
TO MAKE THE CRUST
Remove any debris from the chickpeas. Rinse the chickpeas, transfer them to a large bowl, and cover with several inches of water. Let soak for 12 hours at room temperature, adding more water if needed to keep them submerged. Place the chickpeas in a colander and rinse them under running water. Pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thoroughly oil the surface of a 12- or 13-inch round pizza pan or line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the paper.
Transfer the chickpeas to a food processor and pulse until they are in about 1/8-inch pieces, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, parsley, salt, cumin, and baking powder. Pulse until evenly mixed, again scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. The mixture should be fairly moist and stick together when compressed into a patty. If it’s too dry, add 1 tablespoon of water at a time and pulse to combine after each addition. If the mixture is too wet, add flour 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing to combine after each addition, until it sticks together but is still moist.
Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan. Use your hand to press the mixture all the way to the edges of the round pizza pan. If using a rectangular baking sheet, press the mixture out into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle. Score the crust into 8 wedges (For a rectangular crust, cut into 8 equal pieces.) Lightly brush the crust with 1 teaspoon of olive oil.
Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the pan in the oven as needed to ensure that the crust browns evenly, until lightly browned and firm. Remove the pan from the oven.
Raise the oven temperature to 450°F. Slide a thin metal spatula under the crust to loosen it but leave it in the pan. Using the edge of the spatula, cut through the scored lines into wedges or pieces.
TO ASSEMBLE THE TOPPINGS
In a medium bowl, toss together the tomatoes, mint, oregano, black pepper, and salt and scatter it over the crust. Top with the feta and green onions. Drizzle with the olive oil.
Bake for 12 to 14 minutes, until heated through and the cheese has begun to soften slightly and is just starting to brown. Scatter the chopped fresh herbs over the top. Choose two or three of the sauces and drizzle them lightly over the top of the crust. Do not overload the slices. Too much sauce will make the pizza soggy.
Serve immediately, cutting again along the scored lines to separate slices if necessary. This pizza is best eaten with a knife and fork.
Makes about 1 cup
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more if desired
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons very cold water, plus more if desired
3/4 cup tahini
1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
In a medium bowl, stir together the garlic, lemon juice, and water. Stir in the tahini paste with a fork. The mixture may thicken and seize, but keep stirring, until smooth and thick but still pourable. Add cold water 1 teaspoon at a time to reach the desired consistency. Taste and add salt and/or lemon juice, if desired. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Makes about 1 cup
1/4 cup peeled garlic cloves
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and purée on high speed until smooth. The sauce can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Bring to room temperature before using.
YELLOW CURRY SAUCE
Makes about 3/4 cup
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon minced lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons milk plus more if needed
In a bowl, mix together the yogurt, lemon zest, lemon juice, curry powder, turmeric, and sugar until smooth. Slowly stir in the milk, adding more, if needed, until the sauce can be drizzled. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days
LAYERED CHICKEN AND RICE PLOV
A plov (sometimes called plof) is the star of Central Asian Jewish cuisine. A show stopper of a rice dish full of subtle flavors and moist chicken, it is served for Shabbat, holidays, and special occasions. It has roots in Central Asia’s Silk Road past, a time when it was a major crossroads of camel caravans and traders from as far away as India.
Central Asia encompasses the countries that are between Afghanistan, Russia, China, and the Caspian Sea. In the twentieth century, these countries (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan) were part of the Soviet Union. In addition to the Bukharan Jews (also known as Bukharian Jews or Bukhari Jews) who have lived in the region for millennia (migrating at the invitation of the Persian king after the fall of Babylon), European Jews fleeing the Holocaust made their homes there, as well as those expelled by Stalin. There was an influx of Persian Jews in the nineteenth century. Many of these Jews have now migrated to Israel or elsewhere.
Plov somewhat resembles Persian, Middle Eastern, and Indian pilafs, pilaus, and biriyanis. The one made by the Bukharan Jews is layered and traditionally ends the Shabbat dinner. I’ve tinkered with tradition here in several ways, making it a one-pot main dish while keeping it a centerpiece for a Friday night dinner.
2 cups white basmati rice
13/4 teaspoons salt, divided
1/4 teaspoon crumbled saffron threads
31/2 cups boiling water
3 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper, divided
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more if needed
4 cups thinly sliced onions
1/2 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch matchsticks
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup finely chopped fresh dill or cilantro, divided
1/2 pound green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups chopped fresh spinach or chard
3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (see note)
Rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Drain. In a large heatproof bowl, Mix together the rice, 1 teaspoon of salt, the saffron, and boiling water. Let soak for at least 1 hour. In a large bowl, toss the chicken with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.
In a 6-quart pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté until the onions begin to soften, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the carrots and sauté until they begin to soften, about 10 minutes, adding another drizzle of oil if the pot seems dry.
Stir in the cinnamon, turmeric, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper, and 1/4 cup of dill and sauté for 1 minute. Add the chicken, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 minutes.
Layer the green beans evenly over the chicken and vegetables. Layer the spinach over the green beans. Carefully pour the rice mixture with the water into the pot. Do not stir or mix in with the other ingredients. Cover and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to medium-low and simmer until all the water is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 45 minutes. (While the rice is cooking, open the lid as little as possible but check periodically to make sure the pot has not dried out. Add water, a little at a time, as needed.) Turn off the heat and let the pot sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
Uncover, place a rimmed platter on top of the pot and carefully flip over the pot onto the platter. The plov should turn out with the vegetables and chicken on top. Use a spatula to smooth it back into shape if needed. Serve the plov on the platter, garnished with the remaining 1/4 cup of dill, and drizzled with pomegranate molasses.
MAKE IT IN ADVANCE: Make the plov in a Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot up to 3 days in advance and keep it in the pot (or alternatively, transfer it to a large casserole or baking pan). Cover and refrigerate. To serve, sprinkle the top with a little water. Cover and reheat in a 350°F oven for 30 to 40 minutes (from room temperature), or until it’s warmed through. Invert the pot onto a serving platter and garnish as instructed above
Note: Pomegranate molasses is available in some supermarkets as well as in Middle Eastern, kosher, specialty, and on-line stores.
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52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen
by Faith Kramer and Clara Rice
Dec 14, 2021
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Note: Roberta (Bobbie) Kitto is a freelance writer based out of Laughlin, NV. Her interests include travel, culinary pursuits and gardening. No fee was paid for this article, but she did receive a copy of the book to review. Her opinions are her own.
To make the best of each recipe, use quality ingredients! Bobbie highly recommends products from Melissa’s Produce, available at many markets.