Simple recipes allow busy families to enjoy Shabbat dinner

These days, unfortunately, fewer and fewer families gather around the dinner table. So, how lucky we are to have Shabbat! No matter how frantic the week is, Friday-night dinner is our guarantee to come together as a family and visit with our friends with a home-cooked meal.

We eat together, as well as bless together, laugh together, and even argue together. Isn’t this the best way to nourish our bodies and our souls?

This menu takes into consideration that working adults have precious little time or energy, but do want delicious food. It is easy to purchase challah and dessert — tropical fruit sorbet, for instance, served in martini glasses.

For this meal, Braised Chicken with Mushrooms and Potatoes is simple, yet hearty. Pair this with Spinach Salad and you have a wonderful Shabbat meal. If you have more time, you can make the artichoke appetizer spread, or purchase some dips or spreads.

Braised Chicken With Mushrooms and Potatoes | Serves 8

1 oz. dried mushrooms
2 cups warm water
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 small chickens, cut into serving pieces
6 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 small onions, peeled and sliced
4 small potatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 cups white wine
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Soak the dried mushrooms in the warm water for at least 1 hour (they can soak for much longer).

Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the chicken and the onions, tossing together until the chicken begins to brown, around 10 or 12 minutes. Add the fresh mushrooms, dried mushrooms and potatoes to the pot. Add the wine, salt, pepper and thyme, and bring everything to a boil. Reduce heat, cover the pan and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until everything is cooked through. Serve warm.

Warm Spinach Salad | Serves 8

3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. pepper
1 lb. fresh spinach leaves, washed
16 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half

Pour the vinegar into a small pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until it is reduced by half. It should be thick and syrupy.

Heat the olive oil in a pot until very hot. Add 1 Tbs. of the chopped garlic and fry until it is golden brown. Remove from the oil and spread out on a paper towel. Continue frying the garlic, a tablespoon at a time, until all the garlic is fried. Strain the olive oil through a fine strainer.

Mix together the reduced balsamic, strained olive oil, salt, pepper and sugar in a small pot. Place the spinach and tomatoes in a large salad bowl. When ready to serve, bring the dressing to a simmer and toss with the spinach and tomatoes. Sprinkle the salad with the fried garlic. Serve immediately.

Artichoke Spread | Makes about 1 1/2 cups

14 oz. canned artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, through the press
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1/2 cup pitted green olives
4 Tbs. chopped flat leaf parsley

Puree the artichoke hearts with the olive oil in a food processor or blender until very smooth. Mix in the garlic, salt and olives, and process slightly. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve at room temperature.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. She can be reached at [email protected].