Treats for Shavuot
Shavuot (in Hebrew, [i]Shavuos[i] in Yiddish and among many Ashkenazi Jews) is one of the joyful holidays of the Jewish religion, celebrating among other things the anniversary of the day God gave the Torah to the Israelites gathered at Mount Sinai and falls this year on Wednesday, 8 June..
No one questions the importance of Shavuot in Jewish life but, with the holiday coming rapidly upon us it is appropriate to ponder on the fact that no one seems to know precisely why it is considered traditional to celebrate the holiday by eating dairy dishes. Some say that such dishes remind us that the Torah is as sweet and nourishing as milk and honey. Others claim that the tradition honors the Israelites who were wandering through Sinai and gave up meat dishes as a sacrifice just before Moses ascended the mountain to receive the Torah. Some students of the Kabbalah say that dairy products have a special purity, one that reminds us that if we are faithful to the Torah we will eventually attain paradise.
Whatever the reason, the habit is a delicious one. Although the dishes that most often come to mind on the holiday are cheese-filled blintzes (crepes) and chesecakes, there is no reason why dairy dishes need be made only for desserts. Some of the following recipes are appropriate as first courses, others for lunch or breakfast and yet others for dessert. Unless otherwise noted, each of the recipes is designed to serve 4 - 6.
Cream Cheese Quiche
1 cup cream cheese
1./4 cup butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
generous pinch of nutmeg
1 23 cm. (9") pie shell, partially baked and
placed on a baking sheet
In a mixing bowl beat the cream cheese, butter and sugar together
until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the eggs and nutmeg and then
pour the mixture into the pie shell. Bake in the upper part of a
medium-hot oven until the pie is done. (The pie will be done when
it has become puffy and browned and when a sharp knife plunged
into the center comes out clean, about 25 - 30 minutes of baking).
Serve hot, at room temperature or cold as a first course or for
Fried Cheese Balls
2 eggs, separated
1/2 cup each milk and flour
1/4 kilo Swiss-style cheese, grated
1 Tablespoon Parmesan cheese, grated
2 teaspoons onion, grated
pinch of grated nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste
oil for deep frying
In a mixing bowl beat the egg yolks until frothy and then add
the milk, mixing well. Gradually add the flour and beat until
smooth. Beat the egg whites until stiff and then fold the milk
mixture into the egg whites. Add the remaining ingredients and
stir gently but well.
Drop the mixture by teaspoonsful into hot deep oil and fry,
turning, until just golden-brown. Drain and serve immediately
as an appetizer.
4 cups cottage cheese
3/4 cup flour, sifted
4 egg yolks
2 Tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
butter for frying
sour cream for serving, well chilled
Place the cheese in toweling or cheesecloth and carefully
squeeze as much moisture from it as possible. Rub the dry cheese
through a sieve. In a mixing bowl combine the cheese, flour, egg
yolks, sugar and salt. Knead together well and roll into 7 1/2 cm. (3")
thick tubes. Refrigerate for about 1 hour and then slice the
rolls into 2 1/2 cm. slices.
In a skillet melt just enough butter to fry the slices and fry
until golden brown on both sides. Serve hot with the sour cream
as an appetizer or for a light meal.
Honeyed Cheese with Berries
350 grams (12 oz) cream cheese, softened
6 Tablespoons dry white wine
5 Tablespoons honey
1 kilo (2.2 lbs) whole blackberries or blueberries (may used tinned)
2 Tablespoons confectioners' sugar
Place the cream cheese in a mixing bowl and gradually add and
beat in the wine. When the wine is beaten in, add the honey and
beat in well. Add the berries and stir them gently into the
mixture. Chill for 1 - 2 hours and then serve in chilled glasses
or bowls that have had their rims dipped in the confectioners'
sugar. (Serves 6 - 8 as a dessert).
Adapted from a recipe by Penelope Casas
For the dough:
1 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
For the Filling:
250 grams (9 oz) cottage cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon dried ground mint
1/4 teaspoon ouzo, arak or pastis liqueur
3 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon rose water
powdered cinnamon, as required
Make the dough by mixing the flour and salt and stirring in the
oil and 2 1/2 Tablespoons of water. Roll the mixture out and fold in
three, as you would a letter. Roll out again and fold and roll 2
more times. Place the dough into a 20 centimeter (8") loose-bottomed
cake or quiche pan, making sure the bottom and sides are covered
with the dough.
In a mixing bowl beat together the eggs, cheese, sugar, mint and
ouzo. Spread the mixture on the dough and bake in a medium oven
until the filling is firm (about 40 minutes).
Mix together the honey and rose water, sprinkle this mixture
over the pie and then dust with cinnamon. Serve warm. (Serves
6 - .
Based on a recipe from The American Harvest
Restaurant at New York City's Vista Hotel
15 grams butter, melted
8 gingerbread cookies, crushed into fine crumbs
1 kilo cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 kilo sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons grated orange rind
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon rind
.1 kilo pumpkin puree (may use tinned)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons ground anise
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoons ground coriander
50 milliliters sweet cream
50 milliliters sour cream
3 Tablespoons Bourbon or Scotch whisky
100 grams walnuts, chopped finely
Brush a 25 centimeter cake tin with the melted butter and then
coat evenly with the cookie crumbs.
Cut the cream cheese into small pieces. In a large bowl whisk
the cheese until it is creamy and then gradually beat in the
sugar. Continue beating until the mixture is very soft and no
lumps remain. On a low speed beat the eggs one at a time and then
beat in the grated orange and lemon rind together with the
pumpkin, cinamon, nutmeg, anise, cloves and coriander. Add the
sweet cream, sour cream and whisky and beat until the mixture is
Pour the mixture into the cake tin, sprinkle over with the
choped nuts. Place the cake tin in a large roasting pan, pour in
boiling water that will reach halfway up the sides, set in the
center of a medium oven and bake for 1« hours.
Remove from the oven and place on a rack to cool completely.
Refrigerate for at least 8 hours (may be stored, refrigerated for
up to 2 days). To unmould, dip the cake tin into very hot water
for about 30 seconds, taking care that the water does not come
overthe top of the ake. Run a knife carefully around the edge and
then invert the cake onto a board. Invert again onto a serving
place so that the nuts are on top. To serve, dip a wide cake
knife in hot water to cut each slice. (Because the cake is quite
soft do not expect the slices to be perfect). (Serves 12 - 14).
Spinach Salad with Feta Cheeseּ
1 clove garlic, cut in half
1/2 kilo spinach, washed and picked over well
2 hard boiled eggs, sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tomato, cut in wedges
1/2 cup feta cheese or Bulgarian cheese, crumbled
6 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon each oregano, salt and pepper
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
With the garlic clove rub the inside of the salad bowl well.
Tear the spinach by hand and drop it into the bowl. Add the
eggs, onion, tomato and cheese and toss gently.
Combine the remaining ingredients in a jar, cover and mix well
by shaking. Pour the dressing over the salad, toss the salad well
but gently and serve. (Serves 4 - 6).