How I make Shabbos

By | February 25, 2014

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A bunch of you have asked recently what we eat on Shabbos. Did you know that making Shabbos is one of my favorite things to talk about? You’ve been warned.

For the last three years and some change, I’ve been trying to figure out how exactly to do this Shabbos thing. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s a lifelong project since life itself changes all the time. The kind of Shabbos I made in the very beginning of our marriage was different from the kind of Shabbos I made when I was pregnant with our son. And the kind of Shabbos I make when I’ve got a ton of work is different than the kind I make when I have the time and headspace to putter and patchke.

When we were first married, I felt it was important to have a full/fancy Shabbos every week — the kind of meals that, if we had been having guests, I would have made exactly the same thing. I figured that if I pulled this off, I would prove to myself that I was cooking l’chvod Shabbos and not to impress people. It sounds great in theory. In practice, it wasn’t so easy. Even while working part-time, even without kids, and even without one on the way, making Shabbos turned me into a stressed-out mess. Folding napkins was kind of calming, though.

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A Friday night menu from January 2011 (so we’re talking 2 months after our wedding) included:

  • Hamotzi: whole wheat challah and olive dip
  • Fish: herbed gefilte fish, plated with a dollop each of mustard, homemade tomato sauce, and olive dip, and garnished with fresh parsley and a halved cherry tomato
  • Soup: lentil barley soup
  • Main course: vegetarian shepherd’s pie and garlic-roasted carrots
  • Dessert: cookies & crunch ice cream pie

I found that in an old email to myself. Just call me Garnish Girl!

I think I knocked out the fish course entirely by the time of our first anniversary, but the basic formula of challah + 1-2 dips, followed by soup (for night meals), followed by a main dish + 1-2 sides, followed by dessert stuck around for ages. Obviously, that formula in and of itself isn’t a problem. You can go simple or complicated with it, and you can use one pot or ten. Somehow, I was always using ten.

Finally, I couldn’t keep up anymore. Major change time. My new basic formula (as of six weeks ago) is challah + 1 dip, soup, and dessert on Friday nights, and challah + the same dip, a big salad, rice, and the same dessert for Shabbos lunch. Is it sacrilegious to sacrifice the main course? I’ve decided it isn’t.

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Here’s what I love about my low-key Shabbos menus:

* Less prep = less stress. Since I started simplifying, I’ve had room to breathe on Fridays. The mad rush, which was typical in our house, is pretty much gone. Instead of being a tense zombie, I’m strikingly normal. My husband commented the other day that I’ve been so calm on Fridays lately (and I bet my son has noticed, too).

* I enjoy the food more. I used to have just a little of everything that I’d prepared so that I could save room for the next course. But with fewer dishes on the menu, I can have bigger portions of everything, and for me, that’s far more enjoyable. Plus, I actually have an appetite for dessert! So yes, less is more.

* I don’t feel too full after a big meal. How many times have you been at a Shabbos table where people start talking about how full they are after the soup? But everyone keeps eating, right? It’s crazy. I feel so much better after a normally sized meal, something like what I’d have on a weekday. Shabbos doesn’t need to be about excess.

Wondering if my husband is on board? You bet he is. Obviously, he’s glad I don’t feel stressed over cooking, but he’s also completely satisfied with the reduced number of dishes. A couple bowls of soup, especially a hearty one, definitely stands in for a main. And he likes having room for dessert, too.

As an example, here’s what’s on the menu for this Friday night:

  • Hamotzi: whole wheat challah and dairy spinach dip
  • Soup: matzah ball soup with flavored matzah balls, carrots, celery, and thin noodles
  • Dessert: chocolate macaroons

And Shabbos lunch:

  • Hamotzi: whole wheat challah and dairy spinach dip
  • Salad: lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes, and kohlrabi with all-purpose dressing
  • Rice: jasmine rice with garlic and peas
  • Dessert: chocolate macaroons

I make the salad on Shabbos morning and try to make the dessert on Thursday, so all that’s left for Friday (assuming there’s challah in the freezer) is the dip, soup, and rice. I feel relaxed just typing that. I mean, I might as well be at the spa.

I don’t know how long we’ll keep it this way, but right now, making Shabbos has never gone more smoothly — and that’s worth a lot.

What about you? What are your Shabbos-making secrets? How much food do you make, and when do you make it?


11 Comments

Sara on February 25, 2014 at 1:55 pm.

Hi, I really enjoying reading and following your blog! And I can totally relate to your most recent post. Just out of curiosity, where do you add a protein in? Or do you find that your really don’t need it to be satisfied? Thanks so much!

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Tali Simon on February 25, 2014 at 3:23 pm.

Unless we’re having chummus as the dip and you count the chickpeas there as a protein, you’re right, my new Shabbos menu is protein-less! We generally have fish once a week and other proteins scattered throughout (lentils, split peas, beans, eggs, etc.) so I don’t feel bad about it. We’re totally satisfied, but it’s an interesting point. I hadn’t even noticed it.

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Shaindy on February 25, 2014 at 3:20 pm.

Glad to see I’m not the only one posting simple Shabbos menus! It makes Shabbos much more enjoyable!

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Alex on February 25, 2014 at 4:52 pm.

Some of my favorite shabbat lunches were pretty simple. Challah with a few different flavors of hummus, fried eggplant, and a variety of green salads. Other than frying the eggplant, this could easily be prepped almost entirely on shabbat morning if the challah and hummus were purchased instead of homemade. Also, there’s something about meals that are centered around nibbles that makes everything feel a bit more relaxed and people tend to slow down, which I think is fantastic.

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Eva on February 25, 2014 at 5:07 pm.

Thanks so much for this post, Tali, I really enjoyed it! Can I come to yours for Shabbos some time, please? ; )

As my sister is vegan and I’m nearly-vegan, I always make a vegan meal for Shabbos so everyone can eat it (and the non-veggies in the family are totally okay with that!) and what I like to do is bulk cook so I’m making several meals at once for only a few extra minutes work. Two weeks ago I made an Aduki Bean and Kale Stew with onion gravy, and last week I made a Butter Bean and Haricot Bean Hotpot – both utterly delicious and healthy and vegan! Making huge amounts at once and freezing it allows me to have a freezer of home-cooked food, means I have less work to do erev-Shabbos most weeks (unless it’s a cooking week) and therefore less stress. Tick, tick, tick!

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Leah on February 25, 2014 at 5:26 pm.

I love reading about how other vegetarians do shabbos! When I don’t have guests over we also have very similar meals to you. Friday night- challah, chumous, guacamole and soup, something sweet for dessert. Shabbat lunch- challah, chumous, salad and a big vegetarian chulent (i’ve perfected it!) People are always amazed how little food it is, but I can throw both meals together in under 45 mins, and it’s always delicious and satisfying!

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Tali Simon on March 2, 2014 at 3:09 pm.

Impressed that it only takes 45 minutes! I haven’t gotten there yet. :)

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Chrik on February 26, 2014 at 6:48 am.

Personally I like leaving everything to Friday-except for Challah dough, which I leave in the freezer overnight. Right now I have 2 kids, including a two month old. When I started making Shabbos again with the newborn I thought I’d cut out Challah, that it would take too long, but then I noticed that whatever I was planning to make usually got done, and I had about the same amount of time to get ready for Shabbos each week no matter what. I make Challah, some kind of fish (usually salmon marinated in wtvr I find that looks interesting and broiled), chicken soup, 4/5 dips, cholent wi cholent eggs, potato kugel, and some random dessert. My husband sets the table and bathes the kids, which is a huge help.

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Keshet Starr on March 3, 2014 at 8:26 pm.

I’m behind in my blog reading so just got to this, but can I just tell you how much I LOVE this post!! Sometimes I feel like everyone else is pulling off these 10 course meals, no problem, where I find it stressful! I love preparing (and eating!) my Shabbos meals, but I also have been trying to keep them simpler and healthy because that’s what I like! My question is, do you feel anxious when you have guests over that your Shabbos fare isn’t the typical? I find that to be the hardest part for me, since I make more vegetables and less kugels, etc.

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Tali Simon on March 3, 2014 at 8:41 pm.

As a vegetarian, I have an especially big complex over my food not being typical! We actually have not had guests since I simplified the menu, though I think we’ll start up again soon. I think I would add another dish (like quiche) to lunch but cap it at that. For the night meal, I’d probably just make sure it was a fairly hearty soup. And I would definitely let everyone know what to expect before we start eating. :)

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Sylvia on March 12, 2014 at 11:01 pm.

Love this!
When we don’t have guests, I like to cook a small meal also. We don’t always have soup, but if we do, I skip the main. After soup we’re never hungry for a large meal!
I also love making enough to have for Sunday night dinner.

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