Most of the best — and best-known — dishes in the Eastern European Jewish cannon are heavy, rib-sticking things. They are delicious, to be sure, but not exactly foods you want to eat on a sweltering Friday night. This summer, break out of the traditional Shabbat dinner mold by swapping the classics with fresher, lighter fare that keeps the spirit of the holiday without weighing you down.
5 Swaps for a Lighter Summer Shabbat Menu
Here are a few suggestions pulled from my new book, Modern Jewish Cooking.
1. Instead of Roast Chicken or Brisket…
Serve: Chicken with summer flavors, such as Moroccan Chicken with Preserved Lemon
Brighten up the typical Shabbat dinner main course with a Moroccan-inspired chicken dish filled with briny olives and preserved lemon.
2. Instead of Stuffed Cabbage…
Serve: Summery stuffed peppers, such as my Porcini, Tomato, and Kale Stuffed Peppers
In the autumn, there is nothing quite like stuffed cabbage, with its hearty filling and sweet-tart sauce. During the warmer months, keep the stuffed theme but replace the meat with savory porcini mushrooms and lots of summery tomatoes and kale.
3. Instead of Potato Kugel…
Serve: A grain or couscous salad, such as Pine Nut and Scallion Couscous
Put aside the classic kugel trio of potatoes, eggs, and oil — until September, anyway. A light and quick-to-make dish of couscous with peppery scallions, buttery toasted pine nuts, and sweet golden raisins is perfectly suited for a summer Shabbat dinner.
4. Instead of Roasted Vegetables…
Serve: Marinated or pickled vegetables, such as Concia (Garlic Marinated Zucchini)
Roasted autumn vegetables have no business on a summer dinner table — not when there are so many other fresh veggies to enjoy! During the summer, make use of that bumper crop of zucchini overflowing from your garden or at the farmers market with this ancient Roman Jewish dish.
5. Instead of Tzimmes (fruit compote)…
Serve: Fresh carrot salad, such as Carrot Salad with Mint and Dates
Tzimmes is a syrupy fruit compote made with carrots, sweet potatoes, prunes, and other wintry vegetables (sometimes stew meat is also included). For the summer months, swap in a fresh salad made with shredded carrots, fresh mint, chopped dates, and toasted hazelnuts.