The Shabbat table – Happy birthday, Israel!

Tabbouleh (Flickr photo - cyclonebill -

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom, Happy 71st birthday, Israel! To show our solidarity, why not serve some iconic Israeli specialties for your Shabbat dinner or Mother’s Day? I’ve selected a few of my favourites from my recipe collection and hope these recipes become favourites of yours as well!

For Shabbat, Merav Barr’s Chicken Schnitzel (see below) is always a winner. Kids love when you cut the chicken into long strips or fingers and serve it with duck sauce, or even ketchup, for dipping. Serve it with Israeli Salad (below), or some Yerushalmi Kugel, which is another popular Israeli specialty:

If you’re planning a Mother’s Day buffet brunch, fill up a bread basket with mini muffins, rolls, bagels, and pitas. An assortment of fish is always a popular choice—e.g., lox, whitefish, pickled herring, smoked carp, and gefilte fish. A selection of salads and spreads, home-made or store-bought, always works nicely.

And don’t forget the hummus! This award-winning recipe for Zahav’s Hummus Tachina comes from Chef Michael Solomonov’s popular cookbook, Zahav. It was named Bon Appetit’s recipe of the year in 2015. Solomonov soaks the dried chickpeas in baking soda to raise the PH and soften their skins. Learn more of his secrets here:

For dessert, serve up trays of assorted bite-sized cookies, brownies, rogelach, and other small pastries and squares. Add a colourful fresh fruit platter, plus coffee, tea, assorted juices, maybe even some sparkling champagne or a sweet Israeli wine to serve along with dessert. L’chaim!



My niece Merav Barr Matias was born in Israel and came to Canada as a very young child. When I asked Merav what she would eat if she visited Israel, she replied without hesitation, “Hummus, falafel, Israeli salad, chatzilim (eggplant), pitas, borekas, and of course, chicken schnitzel!”

Below is her scrumptious schnitzel recipe that she learned how to make from her mother. Merav explained: “It’s traditional in Israel to serve schnitzel with potato puree (i.e. mashed potatoes in North America) and Israeli salad! Tayim me’od!”


4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 lbs/750 g)

Salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp cumin

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 cup bread crumbs (approximately)

Oil for frying


  1. Cut each chicken breast in half crosswise to make 8 thin cutlets. Sprinkle on both sides with salt, pepper, garlic powder and cumin. Dip each breast in beaten egg, then in bread crumbs to which you’ve added additional seasonings.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet on medium-high heat. Brown chicken breasts in batches on each side until crisp and golden, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. Do not crowd skillet so pieces will brown quickly and evenly.
  3. Drain on paper towels. (If made in advance, reheat uncovered on a foil-lined baking sheet at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes.)


Yield: 8 pieces. Freezes well.



Adapted from Healthy Helpings by Norene Gilletz

To help celebrate Israel’s birthday, let’s bring a small taste of Israel to your table! This salad is always a favourite at a buffet. It makes quite a lot because of the addition of chopped lettuce, so either halve the recipe, leave out the lettuce, or invite guests over to help eat it!


1 head of Romaine or iceberg lettuce (optional)

4 green onions

1 medium onion

1 green bell pepper

1 red bell pepper

1 English cucumber or 3 or 4 mini cucumbers, trimmed

8 firm, ripe tomatoes (preferably Israeli)

4 Tbsp olive oil (preferably extra-virgin)

4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

Freshly ground pepper, optional


  1. Wash and dry vegetables well. Dice them neatly into 1/2-inch pieces and combine in a large bowl.
  2. Sprinkle with olive oil and lemon juice. Add seasonings; mix again. Adjust seasonings to taste.


Makes 6–8 servings.

Tip: This classic salad tastes best eaten the same day it is made, but leftovers will keep for a day or two in the refrigerator. Drain off excess liquid in the bottom of the bowl before serving.





Adapted from Norene’s Healthy Kitchen by Norene Gilletz

Most tabbouleh recipes call for soaking the bulgur in water, but I prefer the Lebanese method which I learned from Vivianne Barzel of Israel. She rinses the bulgur, drains it well, and then mixes it with olive oil before adding the other ingredients. This produces a vibrant-green tabbouleh that isn’t watery. Vivianne chops the parsley and herbs by hand, but I use my food processor. I like to layer the ingredients, which helps the bulgur absorb the other flavours.


1/3 cup bulgur (cracked wheat)

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

4 plum (Italian) tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped

2 cloves garlic (about 2 tsp minced)

2 cups tightly packed fresh parsley (washed and well-dried)

1/2 cup tightly packed fresh mint leaves (washed and well-dried)

1/4 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro

1/2 cup chopped red or green onions

3 Tbsp lemon juice (preferably fresh)

1 tsp grated lemon rind

Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Place bulgur in a fine-mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water for 1–2 minutes. Press down firmly to remove excess moisture. Transfer to a bowl and add olive oil and salt; mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 1–2 hours (or even overnight).
  2. Top bulgur with a layer of chopped tomatoes.
  3. Mince garlic, parsley, mint, cilantro, and onion (10–12 seconds in a food processor fitted with the steel blade.) Spread herbs and onions on top of tomato layer.
  4. Add lemon juice, rind, and pepper, but don’t mix.
  5. Cover and refrigerate for 2–3 hours to allow the flavors to blend. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. This tastes even better the next day!


Makes about 4 cups (6–8 servings). Recipe doubles and triples easily. Keeps 2–3 days in the refrigerator.


COLOURFUL TABBOULEH: Add any of the following: 1/2 cup chopped baby cucumber, 1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper, 1/2 cup corn kernels or baby green peas. Basil can be used instead of cilantro. Add an extra drizzle of lemon juice and olive oil.

COUSCOUS TABBOULEH: Omit the bulgur. Combine 1/3 cup couscous with 2/3 cup boiling water. Cover and let stand 10 minutes, until water is absorbed. Transfer to a bowl and add the olive oil and salt; mix well. Continue as directed in Step 2.

GLUTEN-FREE TABBOULEH: Substitute 1 cup cooked quinoa for the bulgur. Perfect for Passover.