June 9, 2005
Shavuot Food : Turn Torah Fest into a Veggie Feast
Shavuot, which marks the receiving of the Ten Commandments by Moses, was often referred to as the Jewish Thanksgiving or the "Feast of the First Fruits," a time when farm bounty and grains were brought to the ancient Temple. The harvest often included wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.
In modern times, Shavuot inspires the preparation of many delicious and traditional recipes that usually feature a variety of vegetarian and dairy foods. Milk, eggs and cheeses of all kinds are used in abundance.
Blintzes are the most popular of the Shavuot foods and can accompany other foods or be served as a main course. They are thin pancakes or crepes, filled with interesting mixtures. I have included a classic cheese filling, enlivened with sugar-glazed, crunchy apple slices. It makes a perfect holiday dessert. The same basic blintz can be made with a spinach-ricotta combination, and served with yogurt, which adds a perfect dairy accent.
Stuffed Eggplant Rolls are a wonderful choice for your Shavuot lunch, brunch or dinner. Thin slices of eggplant are rolled around a filling prepared with three cheeses plus beaten egg whites. The spicy, garlicky herbed tomato sauce is a perfect accompaniment.
Shavuot desserts are especially tempting and fun to serve family and friends. Desserts your family will enjoy include my Apricot Cheesecake, along with bowls of dried figs, dates and nuts.
Shavuot is a wonderful occasion to entertain informally and since this is an agricultural holiday, decorate your home or table with fresh plants and flowers from the garden. Some Sephardic Jews celebrate Shavuot as "The Feast of Roses" and use roses as the table centerpiece. As a treat for your guests, bake your favorite cookies and wrap them in rose-patterned paper for them to take home.
Blintzes (Savory or Sweet)
Basic Batter for Blintzes
Ricotta and Spinach filling (recipe follows)
Hoop Cheese and Apple Filling (recipe follows)
Unsalted butter, for frying
In a large bowl, blend eggs, milk and butter. Add flour, salt and herbs, blending thoroughly until smooth. Cover and set aside for one hour.
Lightly butter and preheat a 6-inch nonstick frying pan. Pour about 1/8 cup of batter in at a time to form a thin pancake, tilting pan and swirling batter to patch up holes. When lightly browned, gently loosen edges and turn out of pan onto towel or plate. Cool before filling.
Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of filling on browned side, in center of each blintz. Fold lower portion over filling; tuck sides; continue rolling to form a flat rectangle. Place on large platter and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet. Cook blintzes on both sides, about three to four minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to serving plates and serve immediately with sour cream, preserves or remaining Glazed Apple Slices.
Makes about 15 to 20 blintzes.
2 bunches spinach
Rinse spinach and remove stems. Place in salted boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze dry in cheesecloth; chop fine.
In bowl of electric mixer, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, parsley and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
2 pounds hoop cheese, farmer or pot cheese
Glazed Apple Slices (recipe follows)
In large bowl, combine hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs. Fold in 1 cup of the drained apple slices. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to assemble blintzes.
Glazed Apple Slices
1/4 cup sugar
In large heavy skillet, combine sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar and marmalade dissolve. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer two to three minutes, just until it begins to thicken.
Place apple slices in large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Add apples, lemon zest and lemon juice to syrup in skillet and toss to coat. Simmer, covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until apples are soft. Transfer to glass bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.
Makes about 2 cups.
Stuffed Eggplant Rolls
Cheese Filling: Combine Ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and egg yolks. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.
Slice mozzarella cheese into sticks 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.
Slice eggplant in half lengthwise, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in seasoned flour mixture, shaking off the excess.
Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, and sauté eggplant slices on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Cool.
Place 2 tablespoons of cheese filling across the narrow end of each eggplant slice. Press a stick of mozzarella into the filling. Roll up eggplant tightly around filling. Place rolls, seams side down, in buttered baking dish. Cover with foil at this point and store in refrigerator for one to two hours; do not freeze.
Spoon Tomato-Basil Sauce over each roll and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. With metal spatula, carefully place one or two eggplant rolls on heated plates. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.
Makes about 16 rolls.
3 tablespoons olive oil
In a heavy skillet, heat oil. Add the garlic, onions, red pepper and carrots and sauté until the onions are transparent. Dice the tomatoes and add with liquid, red wine, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to boil and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into food processor or blender and blend well. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Sugar Cookie Crust (recipe follows)
In a small saucepan, combine apricots, apple juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Bring to boil and simmer until tender, five minutes. Cool. Puree apricot mixture in food processor or blender and set aside.
Prepare Sugar Cookie Crust and refrigerate.
In bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1 cup of the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup of apricot puree. Pour into prepared springform pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until center is set and top is golden. Remove from oven; spread with sour cream topping and return to oven for five minutes. Cool. Remove from spring-form pan; garnish with apricot puree and serve cold.
Sugar Cookie Crust
1 1/2 cups sugar cookie crumbs (oatmeal, coconut or vanilla)
In food processor or blender blend crumbs with butter. Transfer cookie mixture to 9-inch springform pan and press down firmly. Spread a thin layer of apricot puree over cookie mixture. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.
Sour Cream Topping
In a small bowl, blend sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
For more holiday recipes, visit www.jewishjournal.com/local/KosherEats.php.
Judy Zeidler is the author of "The Gourmet Jewish Cook" (Cookbooks, 1988) and "The 30-Minute Kosher Cook" (Morrow, 1999) Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.