Feeding the Soul: Veggie Cholent

Veggie Cholent

I am interested in the spiritual value of rituals.

When my grandson was born, I said, “We need a ritual!”  Sunday breakfast became that ritual.  Over the years, details have changed, but the basic activity remains. 

Sunday breakfast has layers of meaning, different for each of us.  Some meaning can be expressed in words…some not.  Therein lies the value of ritual as non- or pre-verbal meaning. 

So it is with Cholent (Yiddish) or Hamin (Hebrew), meaning “hot.” Cholent is a stew prepared and put on to cook before the Jewish Sabbath begins on Friday and enjoyed as the midday meal on Saturday.  It is a way to enjoy warm food without violating the prohibition against cooking on the Sabbath.

Cholent has a very special meaning for me.  I am not a multi-tasker, yet I am usually doing at least three things at once.  I am distracted and hardly feeling nurtured. 

When I sit down to eat my cholent with friends and family, though, I am in a different space.  Something miraculous happens while the cholent is left untended — then this gift arrives effortlessly on my table. I am nurtured by it.  Enjoying cholent is a ritual that has layers of meaning beyond its taste and the fact that I eat it on the same day at the same time each week. 

Making cholent has itself become a meaningful ritual activity.  I gather ingredients and put them together.  I anticipate the miracle that will happen overnight in that pot and the pleasure I will experience when I am able to share the miracle with others the next day. 

This year my son gave me the gift of time by helping with some of the cooking in my Cafe.  In return, I gave him the gift of preparing cholent each week.  As I eat it, I can taste the layers of meaning it is taking on for him.  This is “cooking with love,” feeding the soul while feeding the body.  Soul food.

There are many ways to make cholent.  Here is my way:

(Makes 2 Gal. – halve the recipe unless you have a really big crockpot!)

  • 1 TB Garlic
  • 3 TB Ginger
  • 2 TB Cumin
  • 1 TB + 2 TSP Salt
  • 2 Tsp Hot Paprika
  • 1 Lg Spanish Onion cut in 1 in. chunks
  • 2 Lg or 3 Sm Potatoes (Idaho), peeled & cut in 1 in. chunks
  • 2 Lg or 3 Sm Sweet Potatoes
  • 1 LB Dried Beans (Kidney, Pinto, White Pea)
  • 1/2 LB Dried Chickpeas
  • 1 Bunch Cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 Cup Barley
  • 1/2 Cup Whole Wheat Berries
  • 1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 12 Eggs in the shell


  1. Mix all ingredients except eggs in a crockpot bowl.
  2. Add water to an inch above mixture.
  3. Tuck whole uncooked eggs in the shell into the top of the mixture, making certain they are fully submerged.
  4. Wrap foil tightly over top.  Put lid over foil.
  5. Turn pot on medium. Cook 10-12 hours or more.
  6. Remove eggs, rinse and shell.
  7. Arrange peeled eggs on top of cholent.

Here’s to joy-filled, soulful eating!

Red Cabbage Slaw

Red Cabbage Slaw
Red Cabbage Slaw

On Friday evenings, I enjoy the first meal of the Sabbath. I like to prepare a table filled with colorful and delicious salads to tantalize my guests and add to the joy of these occasions. For years I made these salads weekly in my home. Now I offer them daily in my Cafe.






  • 1/2 lg. head red cabbage
  • 1/2 sm. red onion
  • juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 1 tsp. salt (to taste)
  • 2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp. Szeged (Hungarian) hot paprika (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise


  1. Petite dice the cabbage. Here’s how I cut the cabbage when I do it by hand: Cut thin slices of cabbage. Stack three or four at a time. Cut through the stack in thin strips. Cut in a perpendicular direction across the stack of strips. When all the cabbage has been cut this way, it may require a little bit of additional chopping but probably not if you keep your gridwork strips thin enough. Place the cabbage in a bowl.
  2. Petite dice the onion. Here’s how I do that: Cut off the ends of the onion. Remove the outer layer. Cut the onion in half between the cut ends. Place the flat side of one half down on the cutting board. Cut across the onion in narrow strips, holding the onion together as you work. Turn the cut onion 1/4 turn and cut across the onion in narrow strips, forming a gridwork. The shape of the onion itself will leave you with a very small dice. Add the onion to the cabbage in the bowl.
  3. Chop the cilantro, and add to the cabbage and onion in the bowl.
  4. Fold in seasonings and mayonnaise to taste. It will vary with the amount of raw product and your preference. I like my salad to taste slightly tangy from the lemon but not overly tart – and to be zesty (from the hot paprika) but not “hot.” Start with the smaller amount of lemon, salt and hot paprika, and increase until it’s perfect for you. You can always add seasoning, but you can’t reduce it!


For a vegan version, this salad can be made with extra virgin olive oil instead of mayonnaise.  Add 1/2 cup EVOO in place of the mayonnaise and bump up the lemon a bit.


Dill Potato Salad

Dill Potato Salad
Dill Potato Salad

On Friday evenings, I enjoy the first meal of the Sabbath. I like to prepare a table filled with colorful and delicious salads to tantalize my guests and add to the joy of these occasions. For years I made these salads weekly in my home. Now I offer them daily in my Cafe.


  • 12 Idaho potatoes
  • 3 green onions
  • 6 coarsely chopped Middle Eastern pickles in brine
  • 1 red bell pepper, petite diced (the original recipe called for a can of peas & carrots, drained)
  • 1 TB sea salt
  • 1 tsp Szeged (Hungarian) hot paprika
  • 1 cup mayonnaise or to taste
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill


1. Peel potatoes and place them in cold water while working on the rest of the salad.
2. Dice the potatoes into 1/2″-1″ pieces. In the Cafe, I can use a machine for this process. At home, I do it by hand by cutting slices across the potato, stacking the pieces and cutting through the stack in a grid-like pattern. I try to keep the cuts as even as possible. Return the diced pieces to the bowl of water.


3. When all potatoes are diced, bring 2 quarts of water to the boil in a 4 quart pot.
4. Drain and add diced potatoes to the boiling water. Lower heat to simmer until potatoes are tender.
5. When potatoes are tender, place into a colander and drain. Put colander into a larger bowl filled with ice water. When potatoes are cold, drain the water.
6. Place drained potatoes in a bowl. Add all chopped veggies (green onions, fresh dill, pickles, red bell pepper) and sprinkle seasonings across the top.


7. Spread mayonnaise across the top.
8. Gently fold all together. Adjust seasoning.

For a vegan version, see my Lebanese Potato Salad.

No-Meat Loaf

 I started this meal with a recipe from Chow Vegan on Pinterest (Home-style Vegan Meatloaf). I noticed there was a discussion associated with the recipe about a gluten-free version (the original was not gluten-free).  I came up with the following by substituting flaxseed and water for the breadcrumbs and using Tamari wheat free soy sauce. Although I am not personally gluten-free, many of my customers are, and when it’s possible to make something taste just as good without gluten, I try to do it.


  • 2 lg onions
  • 4 stalks celery
  • 8 carrots
  • 4 cups dried chickpeas
  • 1+ cups extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 3 tsp basil
  • 2 tsp sage
  • 2 TB lemon juice
  • 2 TB salt
  • 8 TB Tamari wheat free soy sauce
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 4 cups ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup reserved chickpea liquid
  • Organic catsup


  1. Wash and dice the onions and celery and saute in extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Wash and chunk the carrots and process with the garlic until they are in small pieces (not pureed).  Add the carrots and garlic to the onions and celery and continue to saute.
  3. Add seasonings to mixture in the pan.
  4. Cook the chickpeas until al dente (fairly soft).  Drain (reserving liquid) and pulse in the processor until they are a rough chop. Place in a bowl.
  5. Stir the veggie and seasoning mix into the processed chickpeas and mix well.
  6. Add flaxseed to veggies, seasoning and chickpeas and mix well.
  7. Add reserved chickpea liquid and salt and mix well (you can start with a reduced amount of salt and bring it up to your taste).
  8. Form into loaves and coat with a good, organic catsup.
  9. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 475 degrees for 30 minutes.
  10. Remove from oven.  Place about 2 tsp catsup on top of each loaf and spread over top and sides.
  11. Remove each loaf carefully from the baking sheet with a spatula and turn to the opposite side.  Place about 2 tsp catsup on top of each loaf again and spread over top and sides.
  12. Return loaves to the oven to bake another 15 minutes or until the catsup has darkened some.
  13. Remove the loaves from the oven and, using a spatula, from the pan to a serving platter.
  14. The loaves are most attractive when they are cut.  They will cut more easily with a serrated knife when somewhat cooled – best if cold. They can be served cold or warm.


This recipe yields 28 1/2 cup mini-loaves.  Extra loaves can be frozen for another occasion, or the recipe can be reduced to 1/4 quantities for a family meal.

Chermoula Eggplant ala Yotam Ottolenghi


In Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi, this dish is called, “Chermoula Eggplant with Bulgur and Yogurt.” The book is filled with exquisite photographs, and this dish is an example of food that is not only beautiful and delicious but easy to make and healthy.  On our vegan days in the Cafe, we substitute Tahini Sauce for the yogurt.

Sauce Ingredients

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (I used 1 tsp hot paprika)
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 TB finely chopped preserved lemon peel (I used the same amount of fresh lemon peel – another time a whole preserved lemon, chopped)
  • 2/3 cups extra virgin olive oil

Bulgur “Filling” Ingredients

  • 1 cup fine bulgur (#1 cracked wheat)
  • 2/3 cups boiling water
  • 1/3 cup golden raisins
  • 3.5 TB warm water
  • 1/3 oz. (2 tsp) cilantro, chopped, plus extra to finish
  • 1/3 oz. (2 tsp) mint, chopped
  • 1/3 cup sliced pitted green olives*
  • 1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 3 green onions, chopped
  • 1.5 TB freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup Labne (Middle Eastern yogurt) or Tahina
  • Salt

2 medium eggplants (I used 6 of the narrower Japanese eggplants)



  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Crush the garlic and mix with the other ingredients for the Chermoula, or blend all in a Vitamix.
  3. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Score the flesh of each half with deep, diagonal crisscross cuts, making sure not to pierce the skin. Spoon the Chermoula over each half, spreading it evenly, and place the eggplant halves on a baking sheet, cut side up. Put in the oven and roast for 40 minutes or until the eggplants are completely soft. Time may vary considerably depending on the size of the eggplants. Watch that sauce doesn’t burn.
  4. Meanwhile, place the bulgur in a large bowl and cover with boiling water.
  5. Soak the raisins in the warm water. After 10 minutes, drain the raisins and add them to the bulgur along with the remaining oil. Add the herbs, olives, almonds, green onions, lemon juice and a pinch of salt and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.
  6. Serve the eggplants warm or at room temperature. Place 1/2 eggplant, cut side up, on each individual plate. Spoon the bulgur on top, allowing some to fall from both sides. Spoon over some yogurt (or Tahina), sprinkle with cilantro and finish with a drizzle of oil.

*Middle Eastern olives have a different flavor from American olives, and I prefer them.  They also tend to be made without chemicals and preservatives.  

Tea with Nana (Mint)

The Japanese Tea Ceremony or “The Way of Tea” is a well-known ritual.  Not so well-known are the requirements for preparing tea on the Sabbath if you are an observant Jew.  Even when it is not the Sabbath, preparing Tea with Nana can be a beautiful ritual, and drinking the tea is only one part of it.

Select beautiful, fresh mint with stems that have not turned woody, preferably from an area that has not been subjected to pesticide sprays.  Immerse in cold water to remove any sand or debris.  Remove from the water and allow to drain in a sieve for a few moments.  If not using right away, wrap the mint loosely in paper towel, bag and store in the vegetable bin of the refrigerator.

When you’re ready to make the tea, choose a clean glass that is an appropriate tea size.   Some websites display beautiful Moroccan style tea glasses, lightly colored with ornamentation.   Remove a bunch of mint from what you have prepared, leaving the leaves attached to the stem but removing any unsightly stem pieces.  Fill your glass with the mint, stems down.

Bring a pot of water to a full boil.  Pour the water into the glass over the mint leaves and allow to steep.  

The water will turn light green as the mint steeps, and you will be able to enjoy the beautiful aroma of fresh mint.

You can drink the tea just like this or drop a tea bag into the water briefly to steep until the tea is the strength you enjoy.

Tea - Nana (Mint) with Tea Bag Added

This simple tea when made correctly will be clear and beautiful with a wonderful aroma.  It is delightful to sip at any time of year, alone or with friends.

Tea or Coffee?

Tea with Nana (Mint)

The Japanese Tea Ceremony or “Way of Tea” is a well-known ritual.  Not so well-known are the requirements for preparing tea and coffee on the Sabbath if you are an Orthodox Jew.

A number of years ago I lived in an Orthodox Jewish community.  I often had people to my home for Sabbath dinners on Friday evening or lunches on Saturday afternoon after synagogue.

The food for these meals all had to be prepared before the Sabbath began since cooking is prohibited on the Sabbath.  Hot drinks such as tea must be prepared according to the following:

“One may not pour the hot water from the kettle directly onto an uncooked solid or liquid since this would be considered cooking. Coffee, tea, and cocoa fall into this category. Therefore, to make tea or coffee on Shabbat, use the following method:

  • pour the hot water from the kettle into a clean, dry cup;
  • pour the water from this cup into another cup; and
  • then add teabag, tea essence, coffee, sugar or milk. If using a teabag, do not squeeze it.
  • If using a teabag, do not remove the bag from the drink.

“Some authorities recommend that instead of using teabags, a special concentrated “tea essence” be prepared before Shabbat. One cup of tea essence is prepared by allowing six teabags to steep in a cup of boiling water. Use one tablespoon of this concentrate to make a cup of tea.” – http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/95914/jewish/Food-Preparation-on-Shabbat.htm

At first glance, it appears that the simple act of brewing a cup of tea has been made complicated.  Still, hot tea is a possibility, and observant Jews regularly enjoy it on the Sabbath.  

Coffee always seemed a little different . . . until the advent of coffee bags.  Generally coffee is brewed in advance of the Sabbath and held warm in an urn.   An alternative is instant coffee with water heated in advance of the Sabbath and held warm.  Some of my friends prepared a coffee essence and diluted it with pre-heated water.  As coffee lovers can imagine, these techniques don’t result in the best coffee.

And then one day, much to my delight, I discovered coffee bags in the store, which worked just like teabags.  At one of my luncheons after synagogue when the time came for us to enjoy our tea, I brought out the coffee bags as well.  I asked if they could be used in the same way as tea bags on the Sabbath.

An hour later we were still debating the possibility of making coffee with bags on the Sabbath just the way we made our tea — and the techniques that would make it allowable!  I confess I experienced some impatience.  I now realize that my impatience closed the window on an opportunity for a profound spiritual experience.

It occurs to me that this particular way of engaging in a joyful activity, drinking tea (or coffee) with friends on the Sabbath while paying attention to the rules and regulations that shape the Sabbath, is a ritual event.  Considering in detail how to conduct the ritual, as my friends were doing that day, centered consciousness.

Ritual is a way of sanctifying the mundane, of setting a moment apart from all other moments and calling upon us to stop and be aware.  Only awareness and intentionality separate ritual from routine and habit.

The choice to enjoy tea and coffee with friends in this place, in this time and in this way was fully intentional.  The ritual of  tea and coffee drinking on the Sabbath in a particular way made a mundane act into a sacred event, offering an opportunity for full awareness in the moment.

Although I love good coffee, I still prefer Tea with Nana (mint) in these special moments.  Be sure to check out my recipe!