The two-day Jewish holiday of Shavuot begins tonight at sundown. This celebration takes place seven weeks after Passover (Shavuot means "weeks" in Hebrew) and celebrates Moses receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is traditional to eat dairy foods, vegetables and grains during Shavuot, which, in ancient times, was also a spring harvest celebration.
Blintzes, either sweet or savory, are the most traditional treats enjoyed by American Jews during Shavuot. These luscious cr�pes are filled with slightly sweetened cottage cheese with a hint of cinnamon and served with sour cream and fruit sauces. To make them savory, simply fill them with a mixture of spinach and cheese or a m�lange of heady mushrooms.
In our neck of the woods, local strawberries take pride of place on the Shavuot table. I recently visited the Springdale Farm store in Cherry Hill, one of the last working farms in New Jersey. The owners have been working closely with agricultural mavens at Rutgers University and have come up with a new variety of strawberries that aims to please. They are larger than the local Pennsylvania berries, which are also in the market. These New Jersey beauties are deep red and have a heavenly aroma. During the past few cool months, before the harvest, they were protected by the earth and topped with plastic sheeting.
Cold soups, made with yogurt or cream, are popular Shavuot dishes. My grandmother made shaav, a creamy soup made with sorrel, a wonderful slightly tangy spring green. Spinach can be used in place of the sorrel. You can buy bottles of shaav in supermarkets.
Here are recipes for Shavuot.
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup milk
1 cup flour
Place the ingredients in a blender or bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the batter into a pitcher and place in the refrigerator for about 10-15 minutes.
Place a clean cotton kitchen towel on a flat surface.
Oil an 8-inch nonstick saut� pan. You can use nonstick cooking spray. Heat the pan over medium heat and pour in just enough batter to thinly coat the bottom of the pan. This may take some practice as you want the blintz to be thin. Swirl the batter around evenly. When the edges begin to pull away from the pan, the cr�pe is done. Place on the kitchen towel to cool. Repeat until all the batter is used.
Makes about 16 blintzes.
2 cups farmer cheese
1/4 cup cottage cheese
1 large egg
Sugar, to taste
Sprinkling of cinnamon
Butter, to saut� the blintzes
Place the ingredients, except the butter, in a large bowl and blend well.
Lay a blintz, browned side up, in front of you. Spoon about 2 heaping tablespoons of the cheese mixture near the edge of the blintz. Fold over the edges of the blintz so that both edges cover the filling. Roll up the blintz, beginning with the edge with the filling. Repeat until all blintzes are rolled up.
Heat about 2 tablespoons butter in a large nonstick skillet. Working in batches, add about four blintzes and saut� over medium heat until golden. You can keep saut�ed blintzes in a warm oven until all are saut�ed.
Serve with sour cream and fresh strawberries, if desired.
Makes about 16.
Quick Cous Cous Pudding with Strawberries
From 1,000 Jewish Recipes by Faye Levy
1-1/4 cups strawberries
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup milk
1/2 cup cous cous
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind
3/4 cup whipping cream, well chilled
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Small whole or halved strawberries for garnish
Put the strawberries in a medium bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon sugar. Toss gently and refrigerate. Chill a bowl for the whipping cream.
Bring milk and 1 tablespoon sugar to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in cous cous, cover the pan and remove from the heat. Let stand 15 minutes or until milk is absorbed. Transfer cous cous to a large bowl and stir with a fork to separate the grains. Let cool to room temperature, then stir in the lemon rind.
Whip the cream in the chilled bowl until it holds soft peaks. Add remaining sugar and vanilla and whip cream until just stiff. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cous cous, followed by sliced strawberries and their liquid.
Spoon mixture into four custard cups, small ramekins or other dessert dishes. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight. Serve cold, garnished with strawberries.
Bulgarian Yogurt and Cucumber Soup
From The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
1-1/2 large cucumbers, peeled and coarsely grated or diced
3 cups natural yogurt
2/3 cup sour cream
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped, about 1/2 cup
Sprinkle the cucumber with salt and leave to drain in a colander. Rinse and drain again.
In a serving bowl, beat the yogurt and sour cream with the garlic, olive oil and dill. Stir in the cucumber, taste and add salt, if needed. Chill and add ice cubes before serving.
Note from Phyllis: If you use the long thin English cucumbers, you don’t have to salt them.
Spinach and Yogurt Soup
From The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden
1 pound leaf spinach
1 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons oil
1 or 2 cloves garlic, crushed
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
4 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup rice
Salt and pepper
2 cups yogurt, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons dried mint
Note from Phyllis: I would use two (8-ounce) packages baby leaf spinach for this recipe.
Stem the spinach leaves and cut them into strips.
Fry the onion in the oil until soft. Add one crushed garlic clove and cook gently, stirring for two to three minutes. Add the spinach.
Cover with stock, add the scallions and the rice, season with salt and pepper and simmer 20 minutes, until the rice is tender. Beat the yogurt with another crushed garlic clove, if you like, add the mint and beat it into the soup. Heat through, but do not let the soup boil or it will curdle.