Every truly Jewish mother could use a few timesavers

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Here’s a passage from Rabbi S. Gershon Levi’s introduction to “A Guide for the Jewish Homemaker” in 1965: “A Jewish homemaker must be wife, nurse, mother, cook, confidante, teacher, diplomat, economist, companion, interior decorator, hostess. In the truly Jewish home, creative homemaking calls for special skill, special knowledge. For Judaism is a home-centered way of life. In Jewish tradition, the home is called mikdash me’at, a miniature sanctuary; the family table is designated an alter.”

Flash ahead 35 years to the reality of today. How do we as working mothers — and every Jewish mother is a working mother — prepare easy meals, and still preserve the sanctity of our tables?

First and foremost, we say the Motzi. This is a 10-second break from the outside world, when the family sits together reconnects. It puts a little perspective and sanity into our busy lives. Of course, from that point on, it’s back to chaos.

To help alleviate the chaos, there are plenty of timesavers these days, from pre-washed vegetables and greens (which I still give a quick rinse) to meals that can be prepared in less than 30 minutes to meals that freeze well.

Then there are those like my dear friend Karen, who serves her family hummus for a quick, vegetarian meal full of protein. Combining the hummus with whole-wheat pita forms a complete protein, and her children love to stuff their own pocket sandwiches or dip vegetables.

Fresh Spinach Soup

Serves 8

2 pounds spinach, large stems removed and well washed

4 Tbs. unsalted butter

2 cups vegetable stock

2 cups milk

1⁄4 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg

2 oz. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. pepper

Cook spinach in the water that clings to the leaves. Squeeze dry and chop coarsely. Heat butter in a soup pot, add chopped spinach and sauté for 1 minute. Add vegetable stock, milk and nutmeg. Add Parmesan and cook for 1 more minute. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Serve hot with warm buttered toast.

Grandma’s Jewish Meatballs with Rice

Serves 8

Meatballs:

1 lb. ground beef

1⁄2 cup bread crumbs

2 Tbs. chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, through the press

1 Tbs. tomato paste

1 egg

1 tsp. salt

1⁄2 tsp. pepper

Sauce:

4 Tbs. olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 can (28 oz.) chopped tomatoes

1 Tbs. sugar

1 Tbs. salt

Meatballs: Mix together all ingredients. Form into 2-inch balls. Sauce: Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add onions, and sauté until soft. Add the meatballs and brown on all sides. Add tomatoes, sugar and salt, and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

Karen’s Quick Hummus

2 cans unsalted garbanzo beans, drained

juice of 1 lemon

4 Tbs. tahini

2 cloves garlic

6 Tbs. olive oil

1⁄2 tsp. sweet paprika

1⁄2 tsp. salt

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, alfalfa sprouts, carrots or celery — either for dipping or stuffing into pita.

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