Surviving between one Shabbat and the next

Blessed be the one who made sure Shabbat does not fall on a Wednesday.

Fridays are more casual days. Children have a break from homework. Families have time to linger over a meal.

The rest of the week’s dinner hours, however, are not so idyllic. The adults are tired and preoccupied, the children are crabby, in need of a bath, ravenous and dreading homework and chores. Gideon, our 10-year-old son, is a finely tuned machine that without a six o’clock refueling becomes an irrational, borderline-psychotic monster. We bring him back from the dark side by refueling him no later than 6:15.

Weekday evening dinners need to be prepared quickly. And in our home, they need to be low-fat, meat-free, and pleasing to selective palates. We almost always have a salad or a vegetable such as broccoli or spinach, usually boiled or sautéed. The following recipes, although not terribly inspirational, are our weeknight staples.

Joes’s Super-Fast Pasta | Serves 6 to 8

3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic through the press
4 cups cherry tomatoes
2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp sugar
8 oz. frozen meatless meatballs
1 lb. pasta (we prefer spaghetti)
4 Tbs. grated Parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Add the onions and the garlic, and sauté until soft. Add the tomatoes, salt, pepper and sugar. Continue cooking, and as the tomatoes soften, mash them slightly with the back of a spoon. Stir in the frozen meatless meatballs and simmer the sauce 10 minutes, stirring from time to time.
While the sauce is simmering, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain well and add the pasta to the simmering sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and the Parmesan. Serve warm.

Gideon’s Puree of White Bean Soup | Serves 6 to 8

3 Tbs. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrot
1/2 cup chopped celery
3 (14 oz.) cans white beans, drained
4 cups vegetable stock

Heat the olive oil in a deep soup pot. Sauté the onion, carrot and the celery for a minute to coat with the olive oil. Add the stock, bring to a simmer and cook uncovered until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the drained beans and simmer a few more minutes to heat the beans through. Puree the soup with a food mill, blender or food processor. You may add additional water or stock if the soup is too thick.

Violet and Julie’s Roasted Winter Squash | Serves 6

3 small squash, such as delicata, cut in half
2 Tbs. walnut oil
1 Tbs. coarse sea salt

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Sprinkle the walnut oil and the sea salt over the inside of the squash. Place the squash, skin side down in an oven-safe baking dish.
Roast the squash in a preheated 425-degree oven for 35 minutes or until soft. Serve warm.

Ruby’s Yukon Gold Potatoes with Butter and Sea Salt | Serves 6

2 lbs. Yukon Gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into 4-inch pieces
fine sea salt and butter to taste

Place the potatoes in a medium soup pot and cover with the water. Bring to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes. Drain and serve warm with sea salt and butter.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a Bay Area cooking teacher and food professional. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. Questions and recipe ideas can be sent to j. or to