Shab­bat: Recipes and Rit­u­als from My Table to Yours

  • Review
By – September 4, 2023

Cap­tur­ing Shab­bat in a cook­book from a sec­u­lar pub­lish­er is no sim­ple task. For starters, nam­ing a book after the cor­ner­stone of the Jew­ish week requires some expla­na­tion of the Jew­ish legal code gov­ern­ing the day. And even when dis­cussing the most basic prin­ci­ples of Shab­bat, it is near­ly impos­si­ble to avoid one crit­i­cal law in the tra­di­tion­al obser­vance of Shab­bat: cook­ing, and many kinds of food prepa­ra­tion, are strict­ly for­bid­den dur­ing the twen­ty-five-hour Shab­bat peri­od. Assum­ing you can suc­cess­ful­ly nav­i­gate the halachic bounds of Shab­bat, your next task will be to pro­vide a frame­work for read­ers to under­stand the extreme­ly diverse spec­trum of Jew­ish obser­vance and Shab­bat prac­tice. If that seems doable, good luck com­ing up with fresh takes on Mid­dle East­ern fla­vors in a world deeply over­sat­u­rat­ed with tahi­ni and egg­plant (beloved though they may be). It is a daunt­ing assign­ment, no doubt. Luck­i­ly for us, we have the exceed­ing­ly deft and thought­ful Adeena Suss­man — who lives in Tel Aviv but writes pri­mar­i­ly for a North Amer­i­can audi­ence — to take on the job as she wel­comes us into her newest cook­book, Shab­bat: Recipes and Rit­u­als from my Table to Yours. 

Shab­bat is large­ly made up of recipes from Sussman’s own Shab­bat table, inter­spersed with fla­vors and dish­es that grace the Shab­bat tables of those clos­est to her. She explains ear­ly on that, for her, Shab­bat obser­vance is less about adher­ing strict­ly to Jew­ish law and more about spend­ing time with fam­i­ly and friends and open­ing up her home. The chap­ter on breads includes a whop­ping five recipes for chal­lah, one of which is veg­an. This chap­ter also includes a recipe for dabo—a tra­di­tion­al Ethiopi­an bread eat­en on Shab­bat — brought to Suss­man by her friend Fan­ta Pra­da, own­er of the pop­u­lar Tel Aviv restau­rant Bal­in­jera. The cook­book is divid­ed into sec­tions that guide read­ers through a Suss­man-style Shab­bat: begin the morn­ing with a lie-in fol­lowed by a sim­ply pre­pared yet extrav­a­gant egg­plant-and-goat cheese tart; per­haps after that, enjoy a course of dips and sal­ads (pick­led, creamy, and piquant, cart­wheel­ing through a vast range of bright and sun­ny fla­vors); then try grains bejew­eled with nuts and pome­gran­ate seeds, main course options, and a selec­tion of Shab­bat stews. Final­ly, Sussman’s sec­tion on desserts fea­tures a range of sweets, the major­i­ty of which are pareve (dairy-free) by nature. 

Like Sussman’s first cook­book, Saba­ba: Fresh, Sun­ny Fla­vors from My Israeli Kitchen, Shab­bat brims with the punchy cit­rus fin­ish­es, unc­tu­ous driz­zles of olive oil, and ver­dant piles of herbs that have become syn­ony­mous with Israeli cui­sine. In a sin­gle dish, Suss­man often pairs ingre­di­ents that grow togeth­er — and thus appear at the same time in the shuk (mar­ket) — effec­tive­ly bring­ing the sea­son­al­i­ty of Israeli har­vest­ing to the plate. Her abil­i­ty to enable the cook liv­ing out­side of Israel to cap­ture the neshama (soul) of Israeli food, by what­ev­er means avail­able to him or her, is con­tin­u­al­ly, mouth-water­ing­ly reward­ing. This is what pro­pelled Saba­ba into mul­ti­ple Best of 2020 lists, and it is sure to launch Shab­bat there as well. 

Han­nah Kres­sel is a cur­rent fel­low at the Pardes Insti­tute of Jew­ish Stud­ies in Jerusalem. She holds a Mas­ters in Art His­to­ry from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Oxford and a Bach­e­lors in Art His­to­ry and Stu­dio Art from Bran­deis Uni­ver­si­ty. Her research exam­ines the inter­sec­tion of con­tem­po­rary art, food, and reli­gion. She is an avid bak­er and cook.

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