Shavuot is the festival that commemorates the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat dairy dishes, especially sweet ones such as cheese blintzes and cheesecakes, which symbolize the sweetness of the Torah. Blintzes are a traditional treat because they also represent the shape of the Torah.
Other traditional dairy dishes include plump cheese kreplach and crispy knishes topped with sour cream and fruit, as well as cheese-filled noodle kugels, both sweet and savory. Mediterranean Jews celebrate by eating bourekas (turnovers) stuffed with feta cheese or spinach-cheese fillings.
Shavuot is also referred to as Chag HaBikkurim, the Festival of the First-Ripened Fruits. Before the revelation at Mount Sinai, the Bible describes Shavuot as an agricultural festival, a feast of the summer wheat harvest, as well as a feast of the first fruits. This was the start of the agricultural cycle that ends with Sukkot, the final harvest of the year.
Here are some delicious dairy dishes to serve this year for Shavuot. The recipes come from several popular cookbook authors, including Sheilah Kaufman of Potomac, Maryland and Susan Mendelson of Vancouver, Canada. I’ve also included one of my favorite lasagna recipes for your holiday table. There are lots more delicious recipes for Shavuot on my website at http://www.gourmania.com. Enjoy….
NORENE’S TORTILLA LASAGNA FLORENTINE Source: The Food Processor Bible by Norene Gilletz (Whitecap Books)
There’s no need to cook pasta for this quick lasagna which makes a delicious dairy dish for Shavuot. I often make it in two pie plates and freeze one for a future meal. Everyone will say “More cheese, please!”
12 oz chilled Mozzarella cheese (3 cups grated) 2 cloves garlic 1 medium carrot, cut in chunks 3 cups (1 1/2 lb) dry cottage cheese 10 oz package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 1 tsp salt (or to taste) Freshly ground black pepper to taste 1/2 tsp each dried basil and dried oregano 4 cups vegetarian tomato sauce (store-bought or homemade) 6 large soft flour tortillas (10-inch round)
Grater: Grater Mozzarella cheese, using medium pressure on the pusher of the food processor. You should have 3 cups. Empty processor bowl.
Steel Blade: Process garlic and carrot until finely minced, about 10 seconds. Add cottage cheese, spinach, Parmesan cheese, salt, pepper, basil and oregano; process until blended. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
Spray two 9-inch glass pie plates with nonstick spray. In each pie plate, layer 1/2 cup of sauce, a tortilla, 1/4 of the spinach mixture and 1/2 cup of grated cheese. Repeat layering, ending with a tortilla. You will have 3 layers of tortillas and 2 layers of spinach mixture in each pie plate. Top with remaining sauce and grated cheese. (Can be prepared in advance up to this point and refrigerated.)
Bake, uncovered, in preheated 350 F oven for 30 minutes until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes for easier slicing. Cut in wedges to serve.
Yield: 8 servings. Reheats and/or freezes well.
Variations: * Use a combination of grated Mozzarella and Swiss cheeses. Replace part or all of the cottage cheese with ricotta cheese or tofu.
SHEILAH’S PARMESAN CHEESE STICKS Source: Upper Crusts: Fabulous Ways to Use Bread by Sheilah Kaufman (Capital Books)
Most people can’t quite figure out what these wonderful cheese sticks are made with. They’re great with soups or salads and make a perfect accompaniment for a Shavuot meal. They also make an excellent after-school treat for kids. These freeze nicely, or will keep in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. Guaranteed to please! They make a perfect accompaniment for lasagna (above).
2 cups grated Parmesan cheese 2 cups crushed corn flakes (crushed as fine as possible) 1 1/ 2 sticks melted butter or margarine (approximately) 1 loaf thinly sliced white bread, frozen (do not defrost)
Preheat oven to 350F.
In a pie pan or shallow dish, mix together the cheese and crushed corn flakes.
Place the melted butter in another shallow pan or dish.
Remove 2 slices of bread at a time from the freezer and trim off crusts.
Dip bread in melted butter, then in cheese mixture.
Cut each piece of bread into 3 or 4 strips and place on a parchment lined baking pan.
Bake 7 to 8 minutes or until golden brown.
Makes about 80 strips.
BETH’S WINE, BREAD, AND CHEESE SOUFFLE Source: Upper Crusts: Fabulous Ways to Use Bread by Sheilah Kaufman (Capital Books)
This rustic casserole from cookbook author Beth Hensperger is a cross between a traditional soufflé and a quiche. It has a crust of garlic-scented bread slices and a filling made with a dry white wine like a Sauvignon Blanc. Whatever type wine you use will affect the character of the dish. This is one of Beth’s signature recipes.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine, room temperature (or olive oil) 2 to 3 cloves garlic, pressed 8 slices (no more than 3/4-inch thick) stale baguette, cut in half * 1/2 cup dry white wine 1/2 cup milk 3 large eggs 1/4 teaspoon salt Few grinds of freshly ground black pepper Pinch of paprika 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard Splash of Worcestershire sauce 1/2 pound (2 cups) shredded Swiss cheese, such as Jarlsberg or Emmenthaler
Preheat the oven to 325F.
In a small bowl, cream together the butter and garlic.
Spread (just slather on nice and thick) the bread slices with the garlic butter on one side. Arrange, butter side down, to line the sides and bottom of a 1 1/2 quart casserole. It does not matter if there are some uneven spaces between the slices, but place as close together as possible.
In a medium bowl, combine the wine, milk, eggs, salt, pepper, paprika, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce with a whisk; beat until smooth, 1 minute.
Add the cheese and stir to combine. Pour into the lined casserole.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown and the filling is puffed and set.
Serve immediately. Can be assembled up to 8 hours ahead, but do not bake. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature for 30 minutes before baking as directed above.
* Beth uses a thicker (wider) type baguette. Any amount of bread slices is fine as long as you cover the bottom and one layer up the sides.
GRANDMA FAYE’S CHEESE BLINTZ LOGS Source: Mama Now Cooks Like This by Susan Mendelson (Whitecap Books)
This recipe has been a B’nai Mitzvah special for over 25 years at the Lazy Gourmet in Vancouver, B.C. Susan Mendelson’s customers have been begging her for the recipe for many years. Here it is at last!
Pastry: 1 cup butter 2 cups flour 1 egg yolk 1/2 cup sour cream 1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350 F (180 C). Combine flour and butter until crumbly. Add egg yolk, sour cream and baking powder to mixture and mix together. Divide into 3 logs. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 hours.
Filling: 1 1/2 lb pressed cottage cheese 3 eggs 6 tbsp sugar
Blend filling ingredients together.
Egg Wash: 1 egg 2 tbsp water
1 tbsp berry sugar, optional
Mix together egg and water. Roll out each pastry log into a rectangle. Brush egg wash over edges. Spread one-third of cheese filling in the center of each; fold ends to seal. Brush top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar, if desired.
Bake in preheated oven for 20 to 25 minutes until golden brown. Serve with fresh berries and sour cream.
Makes 3 logs (6 servings).
SUSAN’S FAMOUS LEMON CHEESECAKE Source: Mama Now Cooks Like This by Susan Mendelson (Whitecap Books)
This is a classic recipe that Susan developed over 30 years ago for a dear friend, Larry Lillo, who loved cheesecake!
Crust: 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs 1/3 cup butter 1/4 cup brown sugar
Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C). Mix together crust ingredients and press into the bottom of a 9-inch springform pan. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes. Leave oven on.
Filling: 1 lb spreadable cream cheese 3 medium eggs 1/2 cup sour cream 2/3 cup sugar 2 tbsp lemon juice
Mix filling ingredients together well to form a batter. Pour over crust. Bake in oven for 30 to 35 minutes, until firm to the touch. Leave oven on.
Topping: 1 cup sour cream 4 tbsp sugar 2 tbsp lemon juice
Mix together and spread over cheesecake. Return to oven for 5 minutes.
Makes 10 servings.