Rabbi Hecht’s Cholent (Photo/Faith Kramer)
Rabbi Hecht’s Cholent (Photo/Faith Kramer)

Vegetarian cholent and kishke — with a side of Shabbat mysticism

Have you heard the one about the Roman leader who ate Shabbat lunch at the rabbi’s house, enjoyed one particular dish and wanted his chef to replicate it? The cook couldn’t do it. The rabbi was asked for the special ingredient. His answer: “The taste of Shabbat.”

the cover of "Kabbalah of Food" by Rabbi Hanoch HechtThis is one of the 39 tales Rabbi Hanoch Hecht shares in “A Kabbalah of Food: Stories, Teachings, Recipes.” These stories from the Hasidic tradition all include food or drink. After each, Hecht offers an interpretation of its meaning. In the case of the Shabbat lunch, it is the manifestation of the spiritual world in the physical one.

Hecht learned his first recipes from his yeshiva’s chef, so food and learning became intertwined. The book also includes Shabbat and holiday recipes.

Below are adaptations of his spicy, vegetarian, slow-cooker cholent (bean stew) and oven-baked kishke (flour and vegetable dumpling), two Ashkenazi Shabbat luncheon favorites. Note: The beans soak overnight.

Rabbi Hecht’s Cholent

Serves 6-8

Adapted from “A Kabbalah of Food”

  • 2 cups dried beans (combo of red kidney beans, white beans, and black-eyed peas)
  • ½ cup uncooked pearled barley
  • ¼ large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 1 large red potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch slices
  • 2 Tbs. hot (sharp) paprika (see notes)
  • 1 Tbs. sweet (regular) paprika
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbs. kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs. ketchup or barbecue sauce
  • 1 Tbs. honey
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 8 large raw eggs in the shell
  • Browned onion topping (see below)

Soak beans overnight. Drain. Put in 5-quart or larger slow cooker. Add barley, sweet potato, red potato, hot paprika, sweet paprika, turmeric, black pepper, salt, ketchup, honey and oil. Stir. Add water to cover ingredients by 2-3 inches. Cook on high for 3 hours. Bury eggs in beans. Add water to cover by 2-3 inches again. Cook on low for 9 hours (may be cooked longer if necessary), adding water whenever cholent appears to be drying out. To serve, top each portion with onions and peeled egg.

Browned onion topping: In a large frying pan, heat 2 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat. Add 3-4 cups thinly sliced onions. Sauté until softened. Add ½ tsp. salt and ½ tsp. ground black pepper. Sauté until well browned.

Notes: For milder cholent, use 1-2 tsp. of hot paprika. For Hecht’s recipe, omit oil, eggs and onion topping.

Rabbi Hecht’s Kishke

Makes 8 slices

Adapted from “A Kabbalah of Food”

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 medium carrot
  • 1 stalk of celery
  • ½ large sweet potato, peeled
  • ¼ cup oil
  • ½ Tbs. salt (see notes)
  • 1 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sweet (regular) paprika
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • ½ tsp. hot (sharp) paprika (see notes)
  • 1½ cups flour

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Have ready a rimmed baking tray and a 12-by-18-inch sheet of parchment paper.

Grate onion, carrot, celery and sweet potato in food processor with fine grater blade. Change to steel blade. Finely chop vegetables with oil, scraping down bowl as needed. Add salt, pepper, sweet paprika, garlic, onion and hot paprika. Pulse to mix. Add flour. Process until wet, loose and thick kishke dough forms.

Scrape out onto the parchment paper, a few inches from the long edge. With wet hands, pat into a 10-inch long by 2-inch wide rectangle or log. Roll kishke in paper, pressing firmly while rolling. Place seam side down on baking tray. Fold ends under. Bake 45 minutes. If kishke is firm but still springy to the touch, remove from oven. If not, flip seam side up. Bake 15-20 minutes. Let cool. Unwrap. Cut into 8 slices. Serve on top of cholent.

Notes: For Hecht’s original recipe, use 1 Tbs. salt and 1 tsp. hot paprika.

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].