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Cookbook author Adeena Sussman brings her kind of Shabbat to the table

Cookbook author Adeena Sussman has many constants in her life and celebrating Shabbat has always been one of them.

It’s the subject of her latest cookbook, following the success of her 2019 “Sababa,” as well as three Cravings cookbooks with Chrissy Teigen and a long list of other co-authored cookbooks.

“Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours” (Avery) dives into the foods served during the Sabbath, the weekly day of rest marked by many Jews, whether with a Friday night dinner party or the full three ritual meals served over 25 hours.

The book is a visually vibrant guide to Sussman’s kitchen and table, with crisp, lively photos by Dan Perez and Nurit Kariv’s impeccably warm styling. Like “Sababa,” “Shabbat” is full of recipes that promise to please the palate and the cooks preparing them.

“Shabbat seemed like a really good organizing principle because it’s an overarching concept that a lot of Israelis participate in,” said Sussman, speaking with The New York Times the week before the September 5 launch of “Shabbat” at New York’s Streicker Center.

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“It’s essentially a national holiday in Israel,” said Sussman, who immigrated to Israel from New York in 2018 and lives in Tel Aviv. “I think there’s nowhere else in the world that Shabbat is lived the way it’s lived here.”

The cover of Adeena Sussman’s second cookbook, ‘Shabbat,’ which had its official publication date on September 5, 2023, following the successful ‘Sababa’ (Courtesy Dan Perez)

Her second solo cookbook was a way to continue exploring the themes she first delved into with “Sababa,” examining her life in Israel combined with her Jewish identity, and how the two manifest through her food and cooking experiences.

It also gave Sussman the opportunity to cook with people from different immigrant groups and ethnic backgrounds.

She waxes euphoric over the lightly sweet, “ethereal” gefilte fish at the home of a Bnei Brak woman with 13 children, and douchebara, a rich Bukharian dumpling soup she likened to Italian brodo with tortellini. She learned from another home cook how to make an Indian curry with heavily caramelized onions, blended into a cream in a food processor as a base for cooking chicken.

“Whoa, really delicious,” said Sussman. “My non-Jewish tester said his mind was blown by that recipe.”

Some of the “Shabbat” dishes include Caramel Apple Kugel, Fricassee, and Water Challah (a more traditional recipe than the olive oil and honey version in “Sababa”) for some Ashkenazi flavor, alongside Pomegranate Sumac Margaritas, Fig and Pomegranate Brisket, and several versions of cholent or hamin, the long-cooked stews often served by Jews of all flavors on Shabbat day.

Fig and Pomegranate Brisket from Adeena Sussman’s ‘Shabbat,’ which had its official publication date on September 5, 2023 (Courtesy Dan Perez)

And like “Sababa,” with recipes that became breakout favorites for many home cooks, such as Melted Green Cabbage, Tahini-Glazed Carrots and Chewy Tahini Blondies, “Shabbat” includes several that may well become part of many home cooks’ recipe collections, such as salmon with tomato jam, a spicy schnitzel salad and her feta, pea and artichoke dip.

There’s the expected Sussman twist in many of the recipes, like a lemon black sesame cake, a takeoff on lemon poppy seed cake, or her version of Moroccan carrot salad, this one with chopped dates and fresh lemon.

Plant-based recipes also have a presence in “Shabbat,” including an Ethiopian Swiss chard dish, along with seared broccoli steaks with a caper vinaigrette and a cold yogurt soup with chickpeas, garlic chips and cumin oil.

There was added value in collaborating with other cooks for “Shabbat,” said Sussman, besides the recipes themselves.

“You just get the full rich story of the Israeli Jewish immigrant experience in the kitchen,” she said, “just talking to people and hanging out with them.”

Seared Broccoli from Adeena Sussman’s second cookbook, ‘Shabbat,’ which had its official publication date on September 5, 2023 (Courtesy Dan Perez)

One of the home cooks is the Moroccan mother of an owner of Cafe Tamati, the Carmel Market coffee shop where Sussman drinks her java each morning, sharing the experience with her Instagram followers. Another is the private chef for a Jewish oligarch, but she’s not saying which.

In “Shabbat,” she leans on the staples created for “Sababa,” including a double spread in the back of the cookbook that refers back to those favorite spice blends and condiments that have become part of “Sababa” readers’ pantries.

There are new spice blends in this cookbook as well, including a lamb blend similar to baharat, a Swiss chard reduction used in Libyan and Moroccan cooking, and a secret sauce she calls Schug-a-churri, a mixture of spicy schug and chimichurri that Sussman believes will become a kitchen staple.

This is a cookbook that’s a little more personal as well, said Sussman.

Adeena Sussman’s Golden Challah from ‘Shabbat,’ which had its official publication date on September 5, 2023, (Courtesy Dan Perez)

While “Sababa” had a clear culinary mission, showing home cooks how to use the staples of the Israeli kitchen in traditional and novel ways, “Shabbat” harkens back to Sussman’s childhood in California’s Bay Area, in a traditionally observant family where her late mother, Stephanie Sussman, cooked extensively for Shabbat every week, creating dishes that Sussman draws upon in her work.

It’s a cultural cookbook, said Sussman, based upon a very core religious concept in Judaism, but with “fuzzy edges” with regard to the religious rituals of Shabbat.

She doesn’t, for example, include the blessing sung over the wine, although she does write about that ritual, along with thoughts and memories of some of the traditions that take place around the Shabbat table.

Cookbook author Adeena Sussman’s second recipe collection, ‘Shabbat,’ launched September 5, 2023 (Courtesy Dan Perez)

“I really want this book to be a big tent of Shabbat” that’s welcoming to all, said Sussman. She wants the cookbook, which includes only kosher recipes, to work for those who are religiously observant, as well as for those who are not but embrace Shabbat meals.

The name, “Shabbat,” has positive associations for many, said Sussman. And the cookbook offers a way to explore themes and recipes for those less familiar with the Jewish ritual, which that has expanded well beyond the Jewish community.

“I just felt like it was something that people would be able to connect with,” said Sussman. “It’s also easy to pronounce, like ‘Sababa.'”

Fig & Pomegranate Brisket
From “Shabbat” by Adeena Sussman
Serves 8 to 10
Active Time: 1 hour
Total Time (Including chilling time): 13 hours

Considered one of the crown jewels of Shabbat and holiday cooking, brisket has decidedly humble beginnings. Inexpensive due to its toughness and originally considered a throwaway cut, brisket became a staple of cold-weather Easter European Jewish cooking when farmers realized it was less expensive to butcher a cow than to feed it all winter long. Home cooks became experts at slow-cooking brisket to tender perfection, adding onions and often a tomato-based liquid to coax out the meat’s flavor and ideal texture. Aside from my mother’s recipe (see page 283), this is the version I find myself making the most. Tons of garlic and onions, white wine, and two types each of figs (fresh and dried) and pomegranate (molasses and fresh seeds) come together for a finished brisket that is simultaneously homey and elegant. Brisket is always better served the next day; if you have time, cool the whole cut in its braising liquid, then slice it against the grain and re-warm gently in the sauce.

One 5-pound brisket with a good amount of fat
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1/4 cup vegetable oil
3 large onions, thinly sliced (6 cups)
2 tablespoons all-purpose or gluten-free flour
10 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups dry white wine
1 1/2 cups beef or chicken broth
1/3 cup pomegranate molasses
4 dried figs, chopped
1/4 cup honey
1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
6 fresh figs,* quartered
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
Mint leaves, for garnish

  1. Preheat the oven to 300°F
  2. Arrange the brisket on a large plate and season it generously on all sides with 1 tablespoon of the salt and 1 teaspoon of the pepper. In a large, heavy Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat until very hot but not smoking. Add the brisket (fattier side down, if there is one) and sear until deeply browned and crisped in parts, 6 to 7 minutes. Carefully flip the brisket and sear for another 6 minutes, then, if they’re thick enough, sear each of the narrow sides, standing up the brisket, if possible, 3 minutes per side. Remove to a plate, leaving any fat and juices in the pan.
  3. Add the onions and flour and cook, stirring occasionally, until the flour is absorbed, 1 minutes, then add the garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to soften, 5 minutes. Add the wine, raise the heat to high, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the wine reduces by half, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the broth, pomegranate molasses, dried figs, honey, vinegar, cumin, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon black pepper.
  4. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and gently lower the brisket back into the roasting pan, spooning some of the sauce and onions over the brisket. Cover the brisket with a piece of parchment paper (this will prevent the acid in the sauce from interacting with the foil), seal the roasting pan tightly with foil, and cook in the oven until the brisket is tender, 4 hours to 4 hours 30 minutes. Remove the oven, unseal slightly, then let the brisket come to room temperature, about 1 hour.
  5. If you have time, refrigerate the brisket overnight, then uncover it and remove and discard the congealed fat. Remove the brisket from the sauce and slice it against the grain into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Heat the sauce in the roasting pan or another pot over medium-high heat, until boiling. Lower the heat and simmer until the sauce thickens to your liking, 10 to 15 minutes. Nestle the sliced brisket back in the sauce, cover with foil, and warm gently in a 200degreeF oven until everything is heated through, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. To serve, transfer the brisket and sauce to a platter, season with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh figs, pomegranate seeds, and mint leaves.

*If you can’t find fresh figs, garnish with more pomegranate seeds.