Shavuot – A Dairy Good Holiday!
Shavuot is a two-day festival that celebrates the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai. 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.
On Shavuot, we decorate our homes with flowers, plants and fruits. Traditional dairy dishes include tender cheese blintzes, plump kreplach and crispy knishes topped with sour cream and fruit, creamy cheesecakes and cheese-filled noodle kugels. Mediterranean Jews celebrate by eating bourekas (turnovers) stuffed with feta cheese or spinach-cheese fillings.
I also discovered a superb selection of dairy dishes that are perfect to serve on Shavuot in The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook: Traditional Recipes from Contemporary Kosher Kitchens (Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, $29.95 U.S., $49.50 Cdn.). This excellent book was edited by Joan Michel, the senior editor of Hadassah magazine. She is the author of several cookbooks, including The Foods of Israel Today, Good Enough to Eat and The Woman’s Day Cookbook.
Based on the Jewish festival calendar, the book is divided seasonally. It begins with Shabbat and works through the traditional Jewish festivals, from Rosh Hashanah in the autumn to Shavuot in the spring. There are introductions and personal reminiscences by several well-known Jewish authors, including Joan Nathan, Claudia Roden and Steven Raichlin.
The Hadassah Jewish Holiday Cookbook contains a collection of 250 of the best Kosher recipes, with wonderful family heirloom recipes submitted by Hadassah members from throughout the U.S. and Israel. You’ll find the usual traditional classics, plus many modern variations, including a wide range of Ashkenaz and Sephardic dishes for the major Jewish festivals. An excellent reference book which took two years to compile, this large format cookbook contains fabulous photos that look good enough to eat!
This beautiful book deserves a place on the cookbook shelf in every Jewish kitchen. It makes a great gift for new brides as well as seasoned cooks and is a perfect gift from mothers to their daughters, or vice versa. You’ll find ideas for an abundance of holiday feasts to carry you throughout the year.
Enjoy the new tastes of tradition in this super selection of dairy recipes for your Shavuoth celebrations. I wish you and your families a ‘dairy good’ Shavuot!
16 ounce package frozen phyllo dough
1 pound feta cheese
2 pounds pressed cheese or pot cheese (dry cottage cheese)
1 tsp. salt, or to taste
Oil for brushing
1. Defrost phyllo sheets according to package directions. Put between 2 pieces of wax paper and cover with a lightly dampened towel.
2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Crumble feta into small pieces and blend well with pressed cheese, eggs and salt.
3. Remove 2 phyllo sheets at a time, keeping remainder covered. Place on a flat surface and brush very lightly with oil. With narrow end facing you, cut lengthwise into 3 strips. Fold each in half lengthwise and brush lightly with oil again.
4. Put 1 tbsp. cheese mixture on bottom right-hand corner of strip. Fold over to left side in a triangular shape and continue folding right to left, left to right, as in folding a flag. Lightly oil top of finished triangle and put on baking sheet. Repeat with remaining phyllo and cheese mixture.
5. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden. Serve warm.
Serves about 18.
- To vary this recipe, a 10-ounce box of frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry, may be added to the cheese mixture.
- Alternatively, generously oil a 13 x 9-inch pan. Line with half the phyllo sheets, each oiled lightly. Spread cheese mixture over and top with remaining pastry sheets, each oiled lightly. Bake at 375°F 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden; cut into 3-inch diamonds. Best when served warm.
CHEESE BLINTZ LOAF
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 pound farmer cheese
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Pinch of salt
4 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 cup milk
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 350°f. Grease 9 x 5-inch loaf pan. Mix all filling ingredients and set aside.
2. Make batter: Cream butter with sugar, then add eggs, milk, flour, baking powder and salt. Pour half of batter into prepared pan. Spread filling over batter and cover with remaining batter. Bake 45 minutes.
RANDY’S FAVOURITE CHEESECAKE
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup (4 tbsp.) melted unsalted butter, plus additional as needed
2 1/2 pounds cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Desired Topping (see below)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Set rack on center shelf. Lightly butter sides of a 9- or 10-inch springform pan.
2. To make crust, combine all ingredients and pat evenly over bottom of the pan. Using pie weights on wax paper, bake 15 minutes. Remove from oven, remove pie weights and wax paper, and lower oven temperature to 325°F.
3. Make batter: Gradually combine all ingredients in mixer until smooth. Pour into pan and bake 1 hour. Turn off heat and leave cake in oven with door closed 1 hour longer. Let cool, then top with fruit, or serve plain.
This needs time to set; refrigerate several hours before serving.
Serves 10 to 12.
Tip: The hour in the closed oven allows the cheesecake to cool very gradually, reducing the likelihood of splitting.
Currant Jelly-Berry Topping
1 cup currant jelly
1 hefty tsp. cornstarch
2 tbsp. water
4 cups ripe berries
Heat jelly. Put through sieve and bring to a simmer. Blend cornstarch with water and stir into jelly until clear. Let cool. Arrange fruit on top of cheesecake and brush with cooled jelly.
Sour Cherry Topping
16-ounce can pitted sour cherries, drained, liquid reserved
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Add water to cherry liquid to equal 3/4 cup. Combine sugar and cornstarch; blend in with cherry liquid. Simmer 5 minutes and add lemon juice and cherries. Let cool, then spread over cake.
Tip: Sour cherry juice is an old folk remedy for easing arthritis pain because anthocyanins, the pigment that gives them their vibrant hue, offers 10 times the anti-inflammatory relief of aspirin without irritating the stomach.