Friday & Shabbat are the only days off in Israel. Israelis call Fridays the day for SKS - Siddurim (errands) kniyot (shopping), and sponga (washing the floor). Yes - it sounds like what it sounds like in English too.
For those of us who are religious, it's the only day off we have all week that we can really just do what we want. Add in the chores involved in preparing for Shabbat, and many families never really get to just spend some time together on their Fridays.
Clearly, one doesn't want to enter Shabbat with a filthy house and no food, so there are going to be preparations, but cooking doesn't need to take up all of your day.
I've prepared a sample menu for a Shabbat that involves relatively little preparation time.
how to make this course:
(prep time - about 10 minutes + shopping)
buy challah, hummus, matbucha, your family's favorite hatzilim, olives, and pickles at the supermarket.
1 bag pre-shredded, pre-washed lettuce
lemon juice or vinegar
olive or other oil
pepper if you like it
wash the tomatoes and cukes
sit down at the table with a cutting board
cut the tomatoes into pieces and put them in a big bowl (preferably with a lid)
add contents of lettuce bag. Add a splash of lemon juice or vinegar and a splash of oil, a dash of salt, and maybe some pepper. Put the lid on the bowl (or plastic wrap if you don't have a lid.) Shake it all. Put in the fridge. Serve.
Everything else can be served directly out of the container or spooned into a plate or bowl before serving. (I prefer not to serve cans at the table, but have no problem with hummus in plastic containers)
Prep time: 10 minutes.
Lead time: at least 2 hours
How to make this course:
1 large or 2 small onions
oil for frying
salt & pepper to taste
parsley (dry flakes work fine)
Chop the onion fine.
Fry the onion in the bottom of your soup pot until it turns transparent
add water and split peas. Stir.
Bring to boil, then leave to simmer, stirring every 30-40 minutes and checking to make sure it doesn't run out of water.
Add parsley - it helps with certain gastric issues.
Add salt and pepper only after the peas have become mushy. If you forget, they can be added at the table.
Chicken & potatoes
String beans with slivered almonds
Prep time: 15-20 minutes
Chicken & potatoes:
prep time: 5-10 minutes
lead time 1-2 hours, depending upon the cooking utensil.
1 whole chicken & or a bunch of chicken pieces
4 large or 6 medium potatoes (or you can use the tiny ones)
how to prepare:
I usually use a clay pot, but you can use a regular deep baking pan or even a disposable.
wash the potatoes. Do not peel.
slice them, unless you're using the tiny ones, in which case, just stick them in as usual.
place the chicken on top of the potatoes. Sprinkle granulated garlic on the chicken.
Cover the chicken (if you're using a clay pot, use the lid. If you're using something that doesn't have a lid, use tin foil) Place in the oven at about 350 degrees F (175 C). A clay pot needs about 2 hours while a regular baking pan needs a bit more than an hour
string beans with slivered almonds
prep time: 10 min
frozen string beans, preferably whole
oil (preferably olive)
how to make:
defrost the string beans, either by leaving them out or by microwaving them until they're defrosted and not all the way cooked
put oil in a frying pan.
add string beans and stir until they look lightly sauteed.
add slivered almonds, salt, and granulated garlic to taste.
cake & fruit
buy a nice cake at the supermarket or bakery (rugalech are fine too)
rinse off the fruit and put them in a bowl, serve whole.
sliced deli meats
sliced challah/rye bread/rolls
ketchup/mustard/mayo (depending upon your family's tastes)
cake & fruit
that's it. done. You don't have to spend your whole day working on this.
You've only prepared:
salad (10 minutes)
soup (10 minutes)
chicken & potatoes (15 minutes)
string beans with slivered almonds (10 minutes)
You've spent less than an hour slaving away in the kitchen, but you have full, acceptable Shabbat meals, you haven't bought lots of overpriced prepared junk, the meals have a reasonable amount of variety, and you don't have to leave the platta/blech on all of Shabbat either. (This is a huge benefit in the summer, imo - we use a timer to have it on for about 2 hours Friday night, and then it's off the rest of the time.)
If you put all the hot stuff in the oven and put it on high for a few minutes right before you leave for shul, you can actually get away with not leaving the platta on at all. (unless you go to a Karlebach minyan...)
This isn't our family's definitive every week menu, but it's a good sample of how we manage to get in a nap on Friday afternoon, have friends drop by, and not feel like we're rushed to get our food ready for Shabbat.
*matbucha is roughly like salsa, though it has more cumin and less pepper.
**hatzilim is shorthand for any of a number of salads which include eggplant (the actual translation of hatzil)