Israeli-Inspired Shabbat Dinner

With summer in full swing, we’ve been modifying our go-to recipes for Shabbat with dishes that are more weather appropriate and refreshing than the standard Shabbat recipes rooted in the Ashkenazic tradition (read: warm, filling, heavy). Here is a fantastic summer Shabbat meal inspired by Israeli cuisine, where the desert and Mediterranean influence are on par with our tastes for light and fresh ingredients (especially when it’s 90+ degrees outside!) And because summer is the natural time to break out the barbeque, we’ve been playing around with an Israeli-twist on this marinade-focused, American tradition.

Check out our Israeli Inspired Summer Shabbat Dinner menu, pulled together from some of our favorite food blogs, complete with a light, tangy salad, easy grilled eggplant couscous and mouthwatering kebabs marinated in pomegranate molasses.

Starter: Israeli Salad

If you’ve ever been to Israel, you know how ubiquitous this cucumber and tomato based dish is. Looking to elevate things a bit? Add some feta (we tried it and yum!)

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb Persian cucumbers, diced
  • 1 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1/3 cup minced onion (optional)
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (garlic infused olive oil is a great too)
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Salt to taste (I use about 1/2 tsp)

From start to finish:

  • Clean, prep, peel and/or chop all vegetables and put in a dish.
  • Add the parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and salt and combine until the vegetables are well coated.
  • Stick in the refrigerator if you plan to serve later (we love it chilled during the Summer) and add your feta right before plating.

Side dish: Grilled Eggplant and Red Pepper with Israeli Couscous

This delicious grain and veggie combo side dish is tasty, satiating and easy to make. Best of all, it can be served warm or cold, making it a great “cook ahead” option if you think you’ll be short on time come Friday evening.

What you’ll need: 

  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons roasted tahini
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 medium shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 3 cups water
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium eggplant (about 1 pound), trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and quartered
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

From start to finish:

  • Whisk lemon juice and tahini in a large bowl and add garlic and shallots. Slowly drizzle olive oil until incorporated and put aside.
  • Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat and add the couscous (cook based on package directions).
  • Heat a grill plan while placing eggplant and red pepper slices on a baking sheet. Coat both sides of the vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  • Once grill is hot, place the eggplant and pepper slices on the grill and cook until browned on both sides.
  • when the vegetables are cool enough to touch, cut into bite size pieces and add to the couscous. Sprinkle with parsley and stir to combine.


Entree: Beef Kebabs in Date and Pomegranate Molasses

A Mediterranean classic, we like kebabs in most forms. Add pomegranate and we’re super excited. Feel free to sub chicken or lamb for beef, as your taste prefers.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 lb. ground beef chuck
  • 1¼ cups pine nuts, finely ground in a food processor
  • 3 tablespoons date molasses (see note above)
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch cumin
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ½ cup date molasses
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

From start to finish:

  • Mix beef, pine nuts, molasses, pomegranate molasses, garlic, nutmeg, cumin and salt in a large bowl. Form 4-inch long kebabs on a tray and put in the fridge for 30-60 minutes.
  • Place date molasses, olive oil, garlic and salt in a blender until smooth.
  • Prep grill to medium heat and place kebabs on the grill until both sides are cooked. Brush with the glaze and grill a little longer. Let rest for 5 minutes or cover with foil and serve.


Dessert: Homemade Halvah

Use your Shabbat meal’s final course as an opportunity to impress your guests with your homemade halvah. It is shockingly easy to make requiring just 2-3 ingredients. If the sesame flavor is too overwhelming for you, try combining it with a scoop of ice cream (we love Sebastien Joe’s Kosher vanilla bean).

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 1/2 cups tahini, well stirred to combine
  • Up to 2 cups toasted sliced almonds or other nuts (optional)

From start to finish:

  • Heat honey on medium heat until thermometer reads 240˚ F and set aside to heat the tahini to 120˚ F.
  • Add the warmed tahini to the honey and mix.
  • Add the nuts and mix until stiff.
  • Pour mixture into a well-greased loaf pan and let cool in the refrigerator for up to 36 hours.
  • remove from the pan and cut into pieces.
  • Place in glass dishes and top with ice cream (and other toppings—fruit, chocolate, anything is game)

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