BY SUSAN LaHOUD, SUN CHRONICLE
MANSFIELD – The Shabbat dinner offers food for the body, but also for the soul, says Tzivi Kivman.
A holy day celebrated starting at sunset on Fridays by traditional Jews, Shabbat, or the Sabbath, is a way to enjoy and celebrate families, ensconced in atmosphere and heritage which makes it spiritual, said Kivman, director of the Jewish Women’s Circle who recently held a kosher cuisine class in her Mansfield, MA, home.
The session involving 10 women, including Kivman, included whipping up a Shabbat dinner with traditional Jewish foods such as gefilte fish, matzah balls, kugels and a non-dairy cheesecake in under an hour, sprinkled with the significance and history behind the dishes.
Jewish dietary laws (kashruth) and holiday traditions reflect the availability of certain foods within different international regions.
For example, Jews from eastern Europe relied on potatoes and therefore kugel became a staple. Gefilte fish was plentiful and could be stretched by adding other ingredients. In addition, said Kivman, gefilte fish is “fish that never closes its eyes, like God’s eyes never close” and gefilte fish served at the dinner means “God is with us the entire Shabbat.” Kivman also explained the lighting of the Shabbat candles.
It is tradition at their table, she said, to put some money in a charity box before lighting the candles. After the candles are lit, usually one for each member of the family, the woman then extends her hands and draws them in a circular motion toward herself and covers her eyes.
A prayer is recited and then a private prayer is offered as the woman’s eyes are covered.
The woman uncovers her eyes and greets her family with “Good Shabbos” or “Shabbat Shalom.”
The session stirred up memories for some of the women, including Thema Sirkin of Mansfield, who said her children compare her own matzah balls to hockey pucks. She was going to check out Kivman’s recipe.
Sirkin said with today’s hectic schedules, it’s difficult to devote a whole afternoon to preparing a Shabbat meal. But it’s tradition that keeps her cooking.
“I have memories of my grandmother’s house,” walking in on Fridays to the warmth and smells of food cooking as she prepared soup, chicken and other dishes, she said.
When you grow up with a tradition, Sirkin said, “you pass it along to your children – whether they like it or not,” she said amusedly.
Kivman said the cooking of the Shabbat meal was also a tradition in her home which included nine sisters and two brothers, the girls helping the mother in the kitchen with the making of the meal.
“Six days a week we work like meshuganas,” she said as the women prepared to split up at three different work stations where pre-sliced vegetables and ingredients, along with utensils and appliances were ready. Sunset on Fridays is a time to share a meal, for prayer and reflection and to relax, sharing conversation. Here are some of the recipes the women cooked up for a Shabbat dinner.
Light and Fluffy Matzah Balls
6 large eggs
1/2 cup oil
1 1/2 cup matzah meal
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup of water
Check the eggs – that they are free of blood spots.
Beat eggs. While beating, add salt and oil. Add matzah meal and baking powder. Beat until well mixed. Gradually beat in the water. Chill for at least one hour. Moisten hands and form into balls the size of large walnuts. Drop into simmering salt water or chicken soup and cook for 20 minutes. Reheat in soup for 10 to 15 minutes.
1 chicken, quartered
1/2 can jellied cranberry sauce
4 oz. French dressing
1 tbsp onion soup mix
Preheat oven to 350. Blend together cranberry sauce, French dressing and onion soup mix. Pour over chicken. Cover and bake for 2 hours. Uncover pan and bake until top is browned.
Pareve (non-dairy) Cheesecake
1 chocolate graham cracker pie crust
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp vanilla sugar
Pinch of salt
1 tsp lemon juice
1 container plain tofutti pareve cream cheese
Check the eggs – that they are free of blood spots. Separate the eggs. Whip 2 egg whites with 1/4 cup sugar in a bowl. When the egg whites are beaten, add the tofutti cream cheese, 2 egg yolks, vanilla sugar, lemon juice, salt and the remaining sugar. Mix thoroughly for 5 minutes. Bake for a 1/2 hour at 350 or until lightly brown. Garnish with chocolate syrup and fresh strawberries.