Of all the Jewish holy days, the Sabbath is the oldest and the only one specifically referred to in the Ten Commandments. From the Hebrew word Shabbat -- "to rest" -- the Sabbath is a time to spend with the family in peace, celebration and festivity.
It begins at sundown on Friday with the lighting of the candles and blessing of the braided challah, traditionally covered with an embroidered cloth, and ends at sundown Saturday with the Havdalah, or separation of the Sabbath from the rest of the week. The fragrance of mixed spices, including cloves and nutmeg, represents the hope for a sweet week ahead.
A custom perhaps as old as the Sabbath itself calls for inviting an oyreah, or "stranger," to dinner to share the meal with the family so that no one is left alone on this warm and welcoming occasion. Shabbat Shalom -- "a peaceful Sabbath" -- is the greeting of the day.
Except for challah, Sabbath foods vary according to nationality and tradition; this menu, like the Sabbath, welcomes a variety of influences.
Top off this meat meal with a basket of fresh fruit, and tea with lemon, honey or mint leaves.
Tomato-and-Onion Braised Brisket
This is a hearty and delicious, make-ahead feast-in-a-pot, and a wonderfully warming focal point for the Sabbath meal.
1 piece of brisket (4 to 5 lbs.)
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup olive oil
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 large coarsely chopped tomatoes
Trim almost all of the excess fat from the brisket, and sprinkle it with salt and pepper.
Make a paste of the oregano, thyme, garlic and olive oil.
Spread over both sides of the brisket. Let the meat stand at room temperature for 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Place the brisket in a roasting pan. Cover with onions, and then with the tomatoes. Cover pan tightly with foil. Bake 31/2 to 4 hours, basting every hour with accumulated juices.
Remove the brisket and tomato mixture to a platter. Degrease pan juices and pour over meat. Refrigerate overnight for easy slicing.
Slice and reheat with tomato mixture and pan juices.
Roasted Garlic Potato Wedges
Most potato dishes garner a universal audience, but these start attracting fans as soon as their garlicky fragrance begins escaping from the oven.
6 baking potatoes, scrubbed
3 Tbsps. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. Hungarian sweet paprika
Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Cut each potato lengthwise into six wedges. Place potatoes in a bowl.
Combine oil, garlic, salt and paprika; toss with potatoes, coating them thoroughly with the mixture.
Place potatoes in a single layer on a greased baking sheet.
Bake until potatoes are golden-brown and tender, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Sugar Snap Peas and Honeyed Carrots
This bright mix of color and taste can serve as a vegetable dish or appetite-provoking first course.
4 large carrots, cut into matchsticks
1/2 cup kosher chicken broth or water
1/8 tsp. cayenne
1/2 lb. sugar snap peas, cut into strips
2 Tbsps. honey
2 Tbsps. fresh orange juice
2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped chives
In a large skillet, bring carrots and broth to a boil. Cover and cook for 1 minute.
Remove the cover, and add the cayenne and peas. Cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the honey, orange juice and lemon juice. Cook for another 3 minutes.
Taste for salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with chives.
Apricot-Almond Chocolate Balls
These sugar-dusted chocolates can be served either as candy or cookies, at teatime, or as an after-dinner or late-night snack. Children especially enjoy rolling up the dough into little balls, which need no cooking once assembled.
1/2 lb. dried apricots
1/2 lb. almonds, toasted
2 oz. bittersweet pareve chocolate, cut into small pieces
1 cup sugar
8 Tbsps. water
Place apricots, almonds and chocolate in a food processor, and process until very finely chopped.
In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, cook sugar and water until a soft ball stage, about 240 degrees on a candy thermometer, about 10 minutes
Stir in apricot mixture and let cool.
Squeeze the mixture together with hands to make a firm ball.
Pinch off about 1 tablespoon of mixture at a time, form it into 1-inch balls, and roll in powdered sugar.
Place in paper candy cups.
Makes 48 balls.
Recipes and text comes courtesy of Jewish Holiday Feasts by Louise Fiszer and Jeannette Ferrary.