The Weekend Chef by Barbara Witt [best books to read]

  • Full Title : The Weekend Chef: 192 Smart Recipes for Relaxed Cooking Ahead
  • Autor: Barbara Witt
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication Date: July 29, 2003
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743229916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743229913
  • Download File Format: azw3


Explains how to organize a time-efficient cooking schedule by preparing portions of recipes ahead of time, in a collection that includes such options as Garlicky Roasted Tomato Soup, Five Spice Baby Carrots, and 30-Minute Lime Cheesecake. 25,000 first printing.


From Publishers Weekly

People too busy to cook during the week will find some helpful hints for preparing meals on their days off in this new volume by Witt (coauthor of Great Food Without the Fuss and George Foreman’s Big Book of Grilling, Barbecue and Rotisserie). Witt begins by offering guidelines on stocking the pantry, then suggests some websites for those who only have time to shop from the office. Organized into broad categories of food that usually freeze or keep well-soups, ground meat and stuffing, side dishes, sauces-the book includes recipes for Chicken and Vegetable Broth, Garlicky Roasted Tomato Soup and Pumpkin-Pear Soup. For meat dishes, there’s the Chicken with Spicy Sausage, Okra, and Tomatoes (if cooking ahead, Witt recommends keeping the okra separate until the dish is ready to serve), Mexican Meat Loaf, and Pork Meatballs with Orange Plums and Almonds, which is served over egg noodles. Serving size for these often simple if ordinary dishes ranges from between four and six, guaranteeing multiple courses for individuals or a meal for the entire family.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

For those whose work schedules limit the amount of time they have to cook on weeknights, Barbara Witt suggests recipes that lend themselves to preparation some days ahead. The Weekend Chef begins with basics, such as stocks, and then proceeds to more complex soup recipes that lend themselves to few days’ storage in the refrigerator. Because many stews are in essence thick soups, recipes of that sort profit from precooking. Meat loaves are also easily done ahead, and Witt’s varieties include a Mexican-spiced version, a lamb loaf with mint and feta, and a Finnish one baked in pastry. Sauces of all sorts can be made ahead, as can fresh salsas. And, of course, pasta sauces ideally can be cooked ahead and sometimes mellow with age. Witt’s devotion to fresh ingredients raises her book above the typical can-of-soup casserole recipe collection. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved



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handed me several Hebrew language works,

which greatly enhance this volume. Rabbis Mordechai Kuber, Avra-

ham Sutton, and Tuvia Rosen generously shared their voluminous

knowledge and answered my many questions.

Gil Marks’s amazing Encyclopedia of Jewish Food was my go- to book every step of the way. Cookbook authors are a generous breed. I must thank Gil, Mavis Hyman, Sarah Finkel, Arthur Schwartz, and

Marcy Goldman for sharing recipes from their popular cookbooks.

My sister- in- law, Dora Green, shared her Greek Jewish recipes. My

son- in- law, Elchanan Chen, and his mother, Ava Chen, contributed

several wonderful Moroccan recipes. My good friends Ruth Nalick,

Varda Branfman, and Aviva Freifeld shared recipes and advice.

The Rosenblum family gave me every writer’s dream — a room of

my own. Special thanks also to my brother, Steven Green, and my

daughter, Miriam Ungar Chen.

Last but not least, I thank my dear husband, Eugene, and all of my

children for putting up with a wife and mother whose meals always

seemed to be experiments for the cookbook!





. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Shabbat is a taste of the world to come. The Talmud relates that

when Antonius, a Roman nobleman who may have become Emperor

Antoninus Pius, shared a Shabbat meal with his friend Rabbi Judah

Hanasi, he noticed that the food had a better taste than it did during the week. “Why?” he asked. “Because,” said Rabbi Judah, “the Shabbat itself seasons the food.”

Not only do Shabbat foods taste good, but because they have their

roots in the manna, the spiritual food that sustained the Children of Israel in the desert, Shabbat foods are fortified with soul- purifying powers. That is why eating the Shabbat foods can yield more spiritual elevation than fasting.

Jews make a big deal of Shabbat foods. The three Shabbat meals

are multicourse affairs. Some people double up — for instance, two

challot to evoke Friday’s double portion of manna — and some go

all out on this one, serving two kinds of fish, two kinds of meat, two kinds of kugel, two kinds of wine, and so on. This doubling up also

recalls the Sabbath’s double- sided nature: in the Ten Command-

ments the word for Sabbath is prefaced with two verbs, shamor, or

“preserve,” which refers to the halachot, including the proscription on thirty- nine categories of work that scaffold the day, and zachor, or “remember,” which refers to the day’s consciousness of spirituality and joy. Other Jews serve seven courses because Shabbat is the

2 § jewish soul food

seventh day and in some kabbalistic systems there are seven Divine

Emanations ( sefirot). Others count the number of Divine Emanations as ten and serve ten dishes.


The Shabbat meal begins with wine. That is because wine enhances

joy and Shabbat is a day of great joy. The kiddush ritual also rectifies Eve’s sin. While both Adam and Even ate from the fruit of the

Tree of Knowledge, it was Eve, prodded by the snake, who convinced

Adam. As a result death came into the world: the original plan was

for humankind to live eternally in the Garden of Eden. The Sabbath

has the power to annul death. It’s a well- known teaching that if the Jewish people observe two consecutive Sabbaths, that will usher in

the Messianic era, when death will end. The kiddush, the blessing

recited on grape wine, is called tikun Chava, a rectification for Eve’s sin (“Chava” is Hebrew for “Eve,” and tikun means “fixing,” or “rectification”). The Talmud suggests that the forbidden fruit may have

been a grape, and sanctified use of the grape “corrects” Eve’s willful use. Fixing wrongs is a central Jewish theme. The moment of kiddush

is a time to review one’s behavior during the previous week and figure out ways to fix whatever one has done wrong.

Wine is the first of the famous “sevens” in the Shabbat menu. The

Hebrew word for wine, yayin, adds up to seventy in Hebrew numerology, but since in numerology the zero drops, you’ve got seven. Seven symbolizes completion: on the seventh day G- d reviewed the Creation and decided that it was complete. Seven also represents the spirituality within the physical world. In Jewish mystical lore, the physical world is symbolized by the number six — six days of creation, six directions (up, down, north, west, east, south) — and seven (six plus one), which represents the one G-d, is physical reality infused with holiness.

While most people today buy their wines, it is fairly easy to make

sweet wine at home. All you need is access to a large quantity of

shabbat § 3

grapes, a plastic wine- making vat or barrel, and patience. Don’t expect Château Lafite Rothschild, but this is an interesting at- home

experiment to try.

Homemade Sweet Red Wine

10 pounds Concord grapes

1 ½ pounds granulated sugar

Get hold of a large supply of Concord grapes, one crate or more, de-

pending on how much wine you want to make.

Remove grapes from stems. Note: Do not peel or wash grapes. The bacteria on the grape skins is a fermentation agent — if you wash it off, your grapes won’t ferment.

Put grapes into a clean barrel or plastic vat. When your barrel is

three- quarters full, add sugar. Roughly 10 to 15 percent of the contents of your barrel should be sugar. Cover the barrel. If you’re using a plastic barrel, use the screw- top lid. Store in a shady place and wait.

After about one month (or longer), strain barrel contents. What

remains is your wine. Store in wine bottles, cork, and refrigerate after opening.


Challah is another seven. Not only does challah have seven ingredi-

ents, the word chal ah can be figured to add up to seven in Hebrew numerology. Here’s the math: Het is eight. Lamed is thirty, which drops to three, and hey is five. Eight plus three plus five equals sixteen, right? But sixteen is composed of one and six, which equals


Challah is another “Eve sin fixer.” Because Adam was created from

a doughlike lump of clay, he’s called the “challah of the world.” By enticing him to eat the forbidden fruit, Eve spoiled the “challah of the world.” By performing the challah mitzvah — i.e., separating a

4 § jewish soul food







one- ounce piece of dough from a large (5 pound) amount of dough

and burning it, Eve’s sin is rectified.

The moment when this ritual occurs, which is called the “taking

challah” moment, is spiritually supercharged. If women (and men)

realized its spiritual potential, no one would ever use bakery challah.

shabbat § 5
















Three- Braid Challah

This recipe comes from my son- in- law’s mother, Ava Chen. It’s the

best challah I’ve tasted yet, and the glaze makes it look extra pretty.

The recipe makes a very large amount of dough, enough for six or

seven challot and more than the average stand mixer will tolerate.

For those who are interested, Bosch does make a heavy- duty mixer

that will knead a dough made with 15 cups of flour. I myself divide

6 § jewish soul food

the ingredients (7 ½ cups of flour plus half of everything else) so I can knead in my regular stand mixer. Remember that challot freeze well,

and it’s a great time saver to have a stash in the freezer.

15 cups all- purpose flour

⅔ cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons instant yeast

1 cup vegetable oil

4 ½ cups water (on humid days

(any oil except olive,

use slightly less water — start

which is too strong tasting),

with 4 cups and gradually

plus 1 tablespoon for oiling

add more, 1 tablespoon at a

the dough

time, as needed)

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons salt


3 large egg yolks, beaten together with 2 tablespoons olive oil

Poppy or sesame seeds

Dissolve yeast in water in a very large bowl or in the bowl of a heavy-duty stand mixer (if you wish, you can divide the ingredients in half as described above and use a regular stand mixer). Add sugar, 1 cup

oil, and whole eggs. Add 10 cups flour and the salt. Add remaining

flour slowly, 1 cup at a time. If kneading by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and supple, about 10

minutes; or knead it in the mixer bowl, using the dough hook. Once

the dough forms a smooth ball, it’s time for the “challah mitzvah.”

This is done by cutting off a 1- ounce piece of dough (about the size of a Ping- Pong ball), and reciting the following blessing:

Boruch atah Hashem Elokeinu Melech Haolam asher kidishanu

bemitzvotav vetzivanu lahafrish chal ah min haeesa. (Blessed art thou G- d, who sanctified us with His commandments and

commanded us to separate the “challah” portion from the


Then discard the dough, respectfully, by wrapping it in foil and

leaving it to burn on the stove top, or by double wrapping it (in two baggies or any other wrapping) and putting it in the trash.

shabbat § 7

Place the remaining dough back in the bowl and oil it. You do

this by pouring the 1 tablespoon of oil on the dough’s surface and

rotating the ball of dough so it is completely coated by a thin film of oil (this prevents dough from drying out while rising).

Cover bowl with a dampened kitchen towel or plastic wrap and

leave to rise in a warm place until dough doubles in bulk (1 ½ to 2

hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen). Punch dough

down. Cut dough into equal pieces. This amount of dough is enough

for 7 medium- size challot. If you want each loaf to have 3 braids, cut into 21 pieces.

Let pieces rest, covered, for 15 minutes. The resting period makes

the braiding much easier. For each challah, roll each of three pieces into a long strip (for a medium- size challah, 14 inches is a good

length) Lay the strips next to each other and pinch together the ends farthest away from you. Braid just as you would hair and finish the

braid by pinching the opposite ends together. Carefully place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment. (If you wish, you may braid

the challah directly on the baking sheet). Cover with a dampened

kitchen towel and let rise for 30 minutes. Proceed to shape the next challah (because you are baking so many, you will have to stagger the shaping, rising, and baking.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Just before you are ready to bake, apply glaze, using a pastry brush to paint it over each challah. Sprinkle with poppy and/or sesame


Bake for 40 minutes at 350ºF until golden brown.

Challot freeze well. After they cool, wrap each in foil or plastic

wrap and freeze.

Makes 7 chal ot

8 § jewish soul food

Single Challah

If you don’t have a huge crowd to feed, one challah might be enough.

If you do only want to bake one, here’s the recipe cut down to size.

This recipe produces one large loaf, enough to serve 8 to 10 dinner


½ tablespoon (1 ½ teaspoons)

3 ½ cups flour (all- purpose white

instant yeast

or whole- wheat pastry flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

is fine; you can also combine

1 ¼ cups tepid water, or more


as needed

1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons neutral- tasting

2 tablespoons poppy and/or

vegetable oil

sesame seeds

2 large egg yolks (one for the

dough, the second for glaze)

In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough

hook, combine the yeast, sugar, 1 ¼ cups water, 3 tablespoons of the oil, and one of the egg yolks. Beat well to mix, either with the dough hook or a wooden spoon. Stir or beat in the flour, a cup at a time.

Knead the dough either on a floured board until smooth and supple

or in the mixer until the dough forms a ball.

Return hand- kneaded dough to the cleaned- out bowl. Using the

remaining tablespoon of oil, lightly oil surface of the dough and then cover with a dampened kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set in a

warm place to rise until doubled in bulk (this can take between 1

and 2 hours, depending on how warm your house is. If you are in a

rush, you can make the dough the night before, cover with plastic

wrap, leave it in the refrigerator to rise, and then shape and bake the following day).

Punch dough down. Let rest, covered, for 15 minutes, and then

shape on a parchment- lined baking sheet as desired (see, for example, the Six- Braid Challah recipe that follows, or any of the other challah recipes in the book).

shabbat § 9

After shaping, let challah rise, covered with a kitchen towel, for

30 to 45 minutes until puffed. (You’ll know that it’s ready to bake if when you poke a dimple into it, the dimple remains.)

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Glaze challah with remaining beaten egg yolk, sprinkle with

poppy or sesame seeds, and bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown.

Serves 8 to 10

Six- Braid Challah

Jewish macramé! Though nobody knows for certain whether

Mother Sarah braided six- stranded challahs in her tent, these lovely edible macramés have been featured on Ashkenazi Shabbat tables for

centuries, maybe even longer.

The number six is no accident. On the Shabbat table there are two

loaves. The two loaves are called lechem mishneh, or “double portion,” to recall the double portion of manna that fell on Friday for the Sabbath and the twelve loaves of Temple Showbread, which were

set in two rows on the golden table in the Tabernacle and later in the Holy Temple. That means that if each loaf is made from six strands,

it is a mini replica of the Showbread. Each strand of dough represents one of the twelve loaves and each strand represents one of the twelve Tribes of Israel. That’s the whole Jewish nation in two challot!

Use ingredients for dough as listed in Single Challah recipe on page 8 and prepare dough the same way, through rising, punching down,

and resting.

Using a sharp knife, cut dough into six equal pieces and roll into

six strands of equal length and width.

Pinch strands together at the ends farthest from you, leaving space

between the strands.

Move second- to- right strand to the far left.

Move far- right strand to middle.

Move second- to- left strand to far right.

Move far- left strand to middle.

10 § jewish soul food




































Repeat until the loaf is fully braided — it should look like a hav-

dalah candle — then pinch open ends together, glaze with beaten egg

yolk, and sprinkle generously with poppy and/or sesame seeds.

Follow baking instructions for the Single Challah recipe on page 8.

Freezes well.

Serves 8 to 10

shabbat § 11

Vav Challah

If the Six- Braid seems too daunting, a Vav Challah, which is an oval-shaped loaf decorated with a thin rope of challah dough fashioned

in the shape of the letter vav (the Hebrew letter/number symbol for

“six”), is a great shortcut. Two vav s add up to twelve, recalling the twelve loaves of Showbread, and symbolizing the tribes of Israel and the Jewish people.

On Friday night the challot are stacked and sliced and the lower

loaf is eaten first. If there is both a Vav and a Six- Braid, the custom is to place the Vav Challah underneath and eat it, to spare the plain-Jane Vav’s “feelings,” which may have been slighted had the elegant

Six- Braid been chosen to be sliced first.

It is very Jewish to attribute “feelings” to inanimate objects. That’s why the challah is covered when the kiddush is recited over the wine.

Odd as they sound, customs are meant to develop sensitivity that

extends to interpersonal relationships.

Use ingredients for dough as listed in Single Challah recipe on page 8 and prepare dough the same way, through rising, punching down,

and resting.

Cut dough into two pieces, one large and the other small (the

small piece is roughly one ounce ).

Form large piece into an oval loaf and place on a parchment- lined

baking sheet.

Roll small piece into a single strand, 4 inches long and ½ inch wide, shaped like the letter vav (vertical line with a hook at the top — it resembles an upside- down “L” with a truncated base) and lay it on top of the oval.

Follow instructions in Single Challah

recipe for the second rise, glazing,

sprinkling with seeds, and


12 § jewish soul food

String of Pearls Challah

A photograph of this lovely challah appears in Maggie Glezer’s 2004

collection of Jewish bread recipes called A Blessing of Bread. The pearl image evokes King Solomon’s poem “Woman of Valor,” which

is recited before kiddush on Friday night. The opening lines of the

poem: “Woman of valor who will find her, as precious as pearls is

her price.”

I can’t help but wonder whether the string of pearls is just a fancy

“vav,” because it’s making a small indent in between each interval of the “vav” that creates the effect of a strand of pearls.

Follow Vav Challah recipe on page 11, but after arranging dough

strand on larger dough oval, pinch strand at regular intervals with

your finger to create the strand- of- pearls effect.

Let rise, glaze, sprinkle with seeds if desired, and bake as directed.

Serves 8 to 10

shabbat § 13

Yud Bais Challah

Hassidic Jews fashion a twelve- part challah called the yud bet, or in Ashkenazi pronunciation, the yud bais challah. “Twelve” stands for the twelve tribes who descended from Jacobs’s twelve sons and also

for the twelve angels surrounding the Heavenly Throne.

While it is possible to fashion a Yud Bais by braiding twelve

strands of dough, an easier method is to construct the loaf from

twelve dough balls.

Use ingredients for dough as listed in Single Challah recipe on page 8 and prepare dough the same way, through rising, punching down,

and resting.

Cut dough into 12 or 13 identical pieces, 12 for the “diamond” and

the extra piece for an optional “frame.” Roll 12 pieces into balls of equal size. Arrange balls in a diamond shape (rows of 1, 2, 3, 3, 2, 1); they shouldn’t touch — they will grow closer as they bake. If you wish to make a “frame” for the diamond, roll remaining piece of dough

into a skinny strand long enough to frame the other pieces and place it around the diamond, without touching.

Follow instructions in Single Challah recipe for the second rise,

glazing, sprinkling with seeds, and baking.

Serves 8 to 10

14 § jewish soul food

Challah Kugel

Some Jews like to serve a bread pudding fashioned from last week’s

challah at the following week’s Shabbat meal. That isn’t only because the Torah prohibits discarding edible food. During Temple times,

the Showbread, the twelve loaves that stood on the Golden Table,

remained fresh from week to week. Challah Kugel, repurposed from

the previous week’s challah, echoes this and connects the Shabbats.

This is an updated version of an old recipe. The vanilla- flavored

soy milk keeps the kugel pareve and also adds a wonderfully rich flavor. Because it’s so easy and low tech, this is a great recipe to prepare with kids. They also enjoy eating it!

1 medium- size challah

½ stick margarine, melted

3 large eggs

1 small Granny Smith apple,

3 cups vanilla- flavored soy milk

peeled, cored, and grated

½ cup granulated sugar

Handful of dark raisins

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Tear challah into pieces — they don’t have to be too small. You can

do this by hand. Beat eggs and soy milk together in a bowl. Soak



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