Adeena Sussman's new cookbook, "Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours," is an ode to family Shabbat dinners. (Photo of Sussman/Lisa Rich Photography)
Adeena Sussman's new cookbook, "Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours," is an ode to family Shabbat dinners. (Photo of Sussman/Lisa Rich Photography)

In Adeena Sussman’s new cookbook, it’s time for Shabbat dinner — and you’re invited

Adeena Sussman won’t exactly say that Shabbat is trending. After all, observing the day of rest is a tradition that goes back thousands of years.

Still, she can’t help but feel that “it’s something that’s been floating around the zeitgeist waiting to be bottled for a while,” said Sussman, who grew up in Palo Alto. “Based on my own experience in a Jewish-centric home in a non-Jewish place, everyone always wanted in on our Shabbat.”

The Sabbath is the theme of her new cookbook, “Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours,” coming out Sept. 5. But many of the dishes are appropriate for Jewish holidays, too, including Rosh Hashanah.

The Tel Aviv–based author and food writer reminisced about her childhood in an Orthodox family in Palo Alto on a recent call with J.

The home of her parents, Stan and the late Steffi Sussman, was the go-to house for observant Jews passing through who needed a welcoming place to stay, whether they were Nobel Prize winners visiting Stanford, chief rabbis of various countries or women leaving their husbands, unsure of where to go next with their children.

At the Sussman home, they could count on expertly prepared Shabbat meals at the right level of kashrut — all the more notable since her mother didn’t keep kosher growing up, and only learned to do so when she married.

After the success of Sussman’s first solo cookbook, 2019’s “Sababa: Fresh, Sunny Flavors from My Israeli Kitchen,” she is back with a second solo project. She has also co-authored 14 cookbooks, including the three bestsellers with supermodel and TV star Chrissy Teigen.

There was no guarantee Sussman would write a second cookbook on her own, she said, until “Sababa” became a success. It was only then that her publisher, Avery, asked for a second serving. While Sussman knew immediately it would be Jewish in some way, it took her some time to land on Shabbat as her organizing principle.

Sussman had drifted away from living an observant lifestyle in adulthood. She fell in love with an American expat who lived in Israel and, in 2018, made aliyah. She rediscovered Shabbat in Tel Aviv and began to appreciate it in a new way.

While people cook and eat in a more harried style during the week in Israel, Shabbat is a “time when people slow down and really cook,” she said. “It’s almost a national weekly culinary holiday.”

As for herself, she said, “There was a lot to explore in terms of my own life and redefining my own relationship with Shabbat cooking.”

There was a lot to explore in terms of my own life and redefining my own relationship with Shabbat cooking.

(As Sussman was solidifying the idea of a Shabbat cookbook in the early days of the pandemic, she didn’t know that J. columnist Faith Kramer was writing a similar one. Sussman calls Kramer’s “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen,” published in 2021, a “wonderful book.”)

Like in “Sababa,” many of the recipes in “Shabbat” are Sussman’s interpretations of dishes she learned by cooking with others. In “Sababa,” they were more likely to be chefs she had written about over the years. For the new book, she put out feelers, asking for introductions to Israelis of different ethnic backgrounds who were known as excellent home cooks, to learn about their go-to Shabbat dishes. That is, once Covid-19 restrictions had abated.

“People were so generous to open their homes and give me their time,” she said. “In Western culture, people are much more protective of scheduling and private space, and that was something I really benefited from by living here.”

Dishes for Rosh Hashanah have the trademark sweetness often found in Ashkenazi fare symbolizing a sweet New Year. One example, a roast chicken with figs and grapes, appears on the book’s cover.

Another, “Meatballs in Dried Fruit Sauce,” is inspired by a dish her mother used to make for Rosh Hashanah. And a fruit compote is an ode to one of her grandmother’s recipes.

“Steffi’s Brisket” is her mother’s recipe. It’s a pretty standard brisket recipe of its era, with the meat braised in canned tomatoes, red wine and beef broth. While it’s included along with other recipes her mother relied on, Sussman also offers modern interpretations that she developed herself.

One of the modern brisket recipes would be perfect for Rosh Hashanah, she said. It calls for both dried and fresh figs, pomegranate molasses and a garnish of fresh pomegranate seeds. (Kramer, too, has a brisket recipe with pomegranate molasses and seeds.)

Like her childhood home, Sussman’s Tel Aviv apartment is always open to guests, whether invited or unexpected. She entertains often, noting that her mother’s focus on cooking for efficiency has taught her a lot.

For example, Sussman is a big fan of dishes that can be served at room temperature. While this partially came from the prohibition against reheating food on Shabbat, she said, now it’s more so she can be part of the meal and conversation, rather than stuck in the kitchen.

Her poached salmon with tomato jam is a great example. Both the salmon and jam can be made in advance and served at room temperature. It’s one of her favorites for this time of year, she said, because tomatoes are at their peak in September and because the tomato jam’s sweetness is an alternate take on something sweet for the New Year.

“I like serving one large-format, star dish, and then you can supplement it with a lot of salads and smaller dishes,” she said.

Fig & Pomegranate Brisket

Serves 8 to 10

From “Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours”

Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time (including chilling time): 13 hours

Sussman's brisket with figs and pomegranate can be the centerpiece of a Rosh Hashanah meal. (Photo/Courtesy)
Sussman’s brisket with figs and pomegranate can be the centerpiece of a Rosh Hashanah meal. (Photo/Courtesy Avery Publishing)

From Sussman: “Considered one of the crown jewels of Shabbat and holiday cooking, brisket has decidedly humble beginnings. Inexpensive due to its toughness and originally considered a throwaway cut, brisket became a staple of cold-weather Eastern European Jewish cooking when farmers realized it was less expensive to butcher a cow than to feed it all winter long. Home cooks became experts at slow-cooking brisket to tender perfection, adding onions and often a tomato-based liquid to coax out the meat’s flavor and ideal texture.

“Aside from my mother’s recipe … this is the version I find myself making the most. Tons of garlic and onions, white wine, and two types each of figs (fresh and dried) and pomegranate (molasses and fresh seeds) come together for a finished brisket that is simultaneously homey and elegant. Brisket is always better served the next day; if you have time, cool the whole cut in its braising liquid, then slice it against the grain and re-warm gently in the sauce.”

  • 5-lb. brisket with a good amount of fat
  • 1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
  • 1½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, divided, plus more for seasoning
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large onions, thinly sliced (6 cups)
  • 2 Tbs. all‑purpose or gluten-free flour
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1½ cups beef or chicken broth
  • ⅓ cup pomegranate molasses
  • 4 dried figs, chopped
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 1½ tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. dried red pepper flakes
  • 6 fresh figs, quartered (see note)
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • Mint leaves, for garnish

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Arrange brisket on large plate and season it generously on all sides with 1 Tbs. of the salt and 1 tsp. of the pepper. In large, heavy Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the brisket (fattier side down, if there is one) and sear until deeply browned and crisped in parts, 6 to 7 minutes. Carefully flip brisket and sear for another 6 minutes. Then, if they’re thick enough, sear each of the narrow sides, standing up brisket, if possible, 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, leaving any fat and juices in the pan.

Add the onions and flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flour is absorbed, 1 minute, then add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until onions begin to soften, five minutes. Add wine, raise heat to high, bring to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer until the wine reduces by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Add broth, pomegranate molasses, dried figs, honey, vinegar, cumin, red pepper flakes, and remaining 1 tsp. salt and ½ tsp. black pepper.

Bring to boil over high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer and gently lower brisket back into roasting pan, spooning some of sauce and onions over brisket. Cover brisket with a piece of parchment paper. (This will prevent the acid in the sauce from interacting with the foil.) Seal roasting pan tightly with foil and cook in oven until brisket is tender, 4 to 5½ hours. Remove from oven, unseal slightly, then let brisket come to room temperature, about 1 hour.

If you have time, refrigerate brisket overnight, then uncover it and remove and discard congealed fat. Remove brisket from sauce and slice it against the grain into ¼-inch-thick slices. Heat sauce in roasting pan or another pot over medium-high heat, until boiling. Lower heat and simmer until sauce thickens to your liking, 10 to 15 minutes. Nestle the sliced brisket back in sauce, cover with foil and warm gently in a 200-degree oven until everything is heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

To serve, transfer brisket and sauce to a platter, season with salt and pepper and garnish with fresh figs, pomegranate seeds and mint leaves.

Note: If you can’t find fresh figs, garnish with more pomegranate seeds.

“Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours” by Adeena Sussman (Avery, 384 pages). Sussman will speak with Rabbi Sydney Mintz of Congregation Emanu-El at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum as part of CJM’s Shabbat at the Jewseum program. $40 (with book included). Sussman will also speak with podcaster Guy Raz at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 27, at the JCC of San Francisco.

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."