Joyful, Healthy, and Delicious Plant-Filled Shabbat

by Lisa Apfelberg

When I think about Shabbat, I think of the many beautiful Shabbatot where I’ve observed and celebrated the most frequent, and arguably most important, Jewish holiday of all. I remember being a young adult living in Israel when I was first taught what Shabbat was. In Israel, it was customary to invite strangers into your home. When I was sitting next to an Israeli stranger on a bus and they learned that I was a young woman from America living there for a year, I often received an invitation for Shabbat dinner. I’d never before experienced that kind of openness. Also, the young adults on my program were given adoptive families to go “home” to for Shabbat weekends. Additionally, we spent some weekends learning in the holy cities of Tzfat and Jerusalem. For someone who’d never observed Shabbat before, these experiences are imprinted into my memories and I will never forget what they felt like, sounded like, or tasted like. Upon returning to the United States, I remember longing for the slow-down that happens in Israel. I still find many ways to make Shabbat sweet, joyful, restful and delicious. I enjoy getting together with friends to celebrate. I love cooking plant-based meals for my guests. I view the cooking of delicious healthy plant-based meals as a way of nurturing myself, my family, our guests and the planet.

I think that plant-based eating and Shabbat go well together. During the Sabbath, we are celebrating G-d’s marvelous creation and we are commanded to rest. According to the Torah, animals must also be allowed to rest. The diet most consistent with honoring our planet is one that is plant-based. Diets heavy in animal products are responsible for deforestation, global warming and the extinction of many precious species. We read from the Torah on Shabbat and the Torah contains G-d’s original decree about being vegetarian, as well as commands us to care for our personal health, have compassion for animals and protect our environment. Shabbat has often been described as a preview of the Messianic period, when all will be vegetarian again. Finally, Shabbat is a time where we slow down, leave our busy work week behind, and renew. A diet rich in plant-based foods is very healthful and ties well to those themes. I am excited to share some of my favorite Shabbat recipes here.

We have experimented with so many different versions of egg-free challah. It turns out that many Jewish communities celebrate Shabbat with challah that is already vegan. It is called water challah and is more traditional in Sephardic communities. While it isn’t easy to make bread taste bad – I firmly believe that any time you’re combining flour and yeast with some water, it smells and usually tastes delicious – my family has finally settled on the egg-free challah recipe that we adore. It comes from Jamie Geller’s Vegan Holiday E-Book. Don’t let the ingredient called “aquafaba” worry you. It ends up working out very similarly to egg whites – you’ll be amazed.

I love to make a fancier salad for Shabbat than during the rest of the week, so this one will likely include both Romaine and some fancier Arugula. I’ll throw whatever fresh veggies I have into it, along with chickpeas that are often roasted. To make the salad more special for the Sabbath, throw a cup of walnuts into a pan with a cup of sugar and cook over low heat, stirring regularly so they don’t burn, until all the sugar has melted and started to stick to the nuts. Top the salad with a homemade dressing of oil, vinegar, garlic and some of your favorite spices.

As the weather is turning cooler, a delicious soup is easy to make for a crowd. It’s easy to make a big pot and it’s really healthy. Lentil is my favorite.

Simple Lentil Soup

· Avocado oil – 1 tablespoon (can also use water to water sauté)

· Garlic – 3 cloves minced

· 2 carrots – chopped

· 1 can diced tomatoes

· 2 cups brown lentils – rinsed

· 6 cups veg broth

· 1 cup water

· Cumin – ¼ teaspoon

· Smoked paprika – 1 teaspoon

· Salt – a pinch

· Lemons for juice – slices available to squeeze into soup bowls

· Kale or spinach (optional)

Sauté the carrots and garlic in a large pot over medium heat until the carrots have softened – about 5 minutes. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to mix everything. Bring the pot to a boil and then lower to simmer for about 25 – 35 minutes, until the lentils are tender and the soup thicker. Kale or spinach can be added right as it’s done if wanted. Serve with lemon slices on the table – they add a really nice flavor to the soup.

Kugel is a favorite Jewish recipe and most are cooked with lots of dairy. This plant-based version is delicious and will remind your guests of Rosh Hashanah dinners.

Creamy Vegan Apple Kugel

· 13 oz egg-free pasta

· 8 oz vegan sour cream

· 8 oz vegan cream cheese

· 1 cup cubed apples (I leave the skin on)

· 1.5 tsp cinnamon

· 2 tbsp apple sauce

· 1 tsp vanilla

· 1/4 cup sugar

· Pinch of salt

Boil your pasta as the box directs until cooked al dente. Preheat the oven to 350℉ and grease an 8/12-inch casserole. Combine all ingredients into a large bowl and mix well. Add cooked noodles after you've drained them and mix until they are coated. Bake for 45 mins. Serve warm.

I love to bring in multiple ethnicities when making a delicious filling meal and our family really enjoys flavors from Asian cuisines. This delicious Asian roasted broccoli recipe will be a hit with your guests.

Roasted Asian Broccoli

· 2 heads broccoli cut into florets

· 2 tbsp avocado oil

· 1 tbsp sesame oil

· Pinch of ginger powder

· 2 tbsp soy or tamari sauce

· Salt and pepper to taste

· Sprinkle of sesame seeds

Mix all of the ingredients for the sauce together with the sesame seeds in a large bowl. Put the broccoli florets into the bowl and mix until it is all covered. Put the covered broccoli onto a sheet pan with a non-stick sheet or parchment and bake at 425℉ for 20 minutes, mixing the broccoli (or flipping it) about halfway through.

As a plant-based eater, there are many things that I’ve never eaten. The same is true for people who observe kosher laws. When I heard about a mushroom that could be used in place of non-kosher scallops, I was intrigued. Our family really enjoyed eating deliciously cooked king oyster mushroom “scallops” and you will too!

Vegan Scallops

· 8 large King Oyster Mushrooms

· 3 tbsp avocado oil

· 6 garlic cloves minced

· 1 tsp dry basil

· Juice of two lemons

· 2 tbsp vegan butter

· Salt and pepper to taste

Wash each mushroom. Dry them and cut them into 3 or 4 pieces apiece. They should be about 1-inch high. Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the mushrooms. Let them cook for about 6 to 8 minutes on each side until they turn golden. Once they are cooked, take them off the heat and put the butter into the pan. Once it’s melted, add the garlic and the basil and cook until the garlic gets lightly browned. Turn the heat to low and add the lemon juice and salt and pepper and stir for about a minute. Add the mushrooms back in and stir with the sauce for another minute. Serve immediately. I would round out the main course of this meal with roasted potatoes.

This is one of the best cakes I’ve ever made. It is so soft and delicious and tangy. In the fall, we had a lot of lemons and I tried about five different recipes to come up with this one, which will forever be a family favorite.

Vegan Lemon Bundt Cake

· 3.5 cups flour

· ¼ cup cornstarch

· 2.5 tbsp aluminum-free baking powder

· ¼ tsp turmeric powder

· ½ tsp salt

· 3 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest

· ¼ cup lemon juice

· 1.25 cup granulated sugar

· 1 2/3 cup non-dairy milk

· 1 tbsp apple sauce

· 2/3 cup canola oil

· 1 tsp vanilla extract

· 1 tsp lemon extract

In a large bowl, whisk the dry ingredients together with the lemon zest. In a second bowl, whisk the wet ingredients together. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and whisk until everything is just combined. Grease a large bundt pan and pour the ingredients in. Bake at 350℉ for 50 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Once it’s baked, let it cool in the pan for about 10 to 12 minutes and then put it on a rack to cool. Once it’s cool, sprinkle with powdered sugar, slice and serve.

This seems like a large meal, but we do like to make Shabbat dinners large and festive. It’s also fun to do it potluck and some of these could be assigned to your guests. I’d likely serve it in three courses, with the first course being the challah, soup, salad and kugel, and the main being the broccoli, mushrooms and roasted potatoes. Finish up with cake! This meal is both healthy – with all of the vegetables and beans used – and also delicious and decadent.

Shabbat Shalom!

Lisa Apfelberg

Lisa Apfelberg, director, Shamayim: Jewish Animal Advocacy

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