A French feast for Shabbat Mais oui!

Oneg Shabbat literally means the enjoyment of Shabbat. To most American Jews it means a little nosh after Shabbat services — maybe some bagels, cookies or fruit. The purpose of the food is to provide people with a reason to stay around and shmooze.

French Jews, however, define oneg as délice, or delicacy, the concept that applies to the relaxation of Shabbat. Another French word used to define oneg is conviviality, the act of enjoying the company of friends and family around food.

On a recent visit to Paris (to celebrate a family birthday with an outstanding meal and phenomenal wine), I was reminded again how much the French enjoy gathering around a table with friends and family. Here are some fabulous, traditional French dishes that can be enjoyed for a delightful summertime Shabbat, accompanied by challah and baguette. The recipes rely on top-quality ingredients for success.

Velouté de Tomates à la Provençale
(Summer Tomato Soup)

Serves 8

4 Tbs. olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
2 leeks, white parts only, cleaned and chopped
2 1/2 lbs. chopped tomatoes
1 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
heart of a small Savoy cabbage, finely chopped
1 Tbs. chopped basil
1/2 tsp. chopped thyme
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 cup cooked white rice
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pot and add the onions and leeks. Sauté gently for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, half of the wine and all of the stock. Add the cabbage, basil, thyme, and sugar, and simmer gently, partially uncovered for about 40 minutes.
Add the rice and garlic, mix well, and purée briefly so that the soup does not become too smooth. Add the remainder of the wine and simmer gently, covered, for 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (If soup is not thick enough, simmer uncovered until it is reduced.)

Turbot à la Marseillaise
(Fish with Herbs and Olives)

Serves 8

3 lbs. halibut
4 Tbs. French olive oil
3 sprigs chervil
1 bay leaf
zest from 1 lemon
4 cloves garlic, through the press
1 medium onion, chopped
4 Tbs. chopped savory
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
3 Tbs. capers
20 herb-cured black olives, pitted and chopped
Place the fish in a shallow non-metallic dish and sprinkle it with the olive oil, savory sprigs, bay leaf, lemon zest, garlic and onions, salt, pepper, capers and olives.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Roast the fish for about 15 minutes, or until your desired degree of doneness. (I prefer the fish à point, slightly undercooked.) Serve immediately.

Salade aux Noix
(Salad with Sherry Dressing and Toasted Walnuts)

Serves 8

4 Tbs. toasted walnut oil
1 Tbs. sherry
4 Tbs. sherry vinegar
1 Tbs. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. fine sea salt
1 hard cooked egg, chopped
4 oz. crumbled chèvre (goat cheese)
20 oz. mixed salad greens
2 oz. walnut halves, toasted
Combine the walnut oil, sherry, vinegar, mustard and seasonings to make a vinaigrette.
Before serving, toss the salad with the egg and chèvre and the vinaigrette. Arrange the salad on each plate, and garnish with the toasted walnuts.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at www.GoRebecca.com. She can be reached at [email protected].