Shavuot: French Dairy Delights

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01 Sep 2015

During the years I lived in France, I realized that Shavuot is a perfect time to enjoy such luscious French dishes as cheese soufflés, quiches with creamy fillings and sweet cheese tarts for dessert.

Alsace and southern France are regions in which Jews have lived for centuries. These areas are also known for their tasty cooking styles and have numerous dairy specialties, from Alsatian onion and cream cheese quiche to Gruyere cheese salad to Provencal vegetable casseroles topped with Parmesan. And, of course, many Jews live in Paris, the showcase of the country’s finest delicacies. My husband tells me that in the Parisian phone book there were more people named Levy than there were Dupont!

The creamy, cheesy French dishes are the ones that have always tempted me the most, and they are ideal for a festive Shavuot dinner. I love vegetable gratins baked in bechamel sauce, a smooth, nutmeg-flavored white sauce, and browned with a sprinkling of cheese. Pasta, vegetables and fish are especially wonderful when served with a mushroom sauce enriched with cream. It’s nearly impossible for me to resist the tarts with buttery crusts, from savory spinach and cheese tarts to strawberry tarts with vanilla pastry cream and shiny jam glaze.

The fabulous cheese shops of Paris are a special delight, with their huge bowls of thick crème fraiche, their tall blocks of fresh, yellow butter from which they cut a slab for you, and the rich variety of cheeses from every region of France. Israel also has a terrific selection of high quality cheeses, and you can find an appealing selection of them in many kosher markets in the US. For Shavuot, we feast on several choice cheeses and of course, we enjoy them with fresh, crusty French baguette.

The following treats are definitely not lean. But, after all, Shavuot comes only once a year!

Faye Levy is the author of Healthy Cooking for the Jewish Home (Morrow), 1,000 Jewish Recipes (Wiley) and Jewish Cooking For Dummies (Wiley).

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.