The Jewish holiday Shavuot marks the onset of the wheat harvest, as well as the gathering of the season's first fruits. In ancient lore, harvests included wheat, barley, grapes, figs, honey and olives. It is also traditional to serve milk, eggs and cheese that were often encased in doughs, in dishes such as kreplach and blintzes.
This year, Shavuot, which also marks an important religious event--the receiving of the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai--will be celebrated next Thursday. In planning a light, interesting menu for family and friends, I have tried to incorporate as many traditional foods as possible, with an eye to modern tastes and nutrition.
The overall menu features a variety of whole grains, beginning with multi-seeded whole-wheat harvest seed breads. Hearty Lentil Soup is accented with rich vegetable flavors and topped with Herbed Sour Cream. This garnish is optional, but it adds a touch of glamour and gives us another of the dairy foods the holiday decrees.
Then we will enjoy an unusual and decorative casserole, combining the textures, flavors and colors of three different varieties of squash. This is enriched by the addition of three cheeses--again the prescribed dairy foods.
Adding a Little Color
A spicy Barley and Kasha Salad is a variation of the more familiar tabbouleh salad. Parsley and peppers add color, and more can be achieved by serving the salad on bronze or red leaf lettuce.
For dessert, according to Shavuot custom, we should include one of the fruits of the season. Strawberry Dessert Blintzes are served with Fresh Strawberry Sauce, decorated with sliced berries and topped with sweetened whipped cream.
If you want a lighter dessert, serve the berries with Fresh Strawberry Sauce or their creamy topping by themselves or fashion a medley of seasonal fruits.
Even confirmed steak eaters will enjoy Shavuot dinner as a welcome change from everyday foods. Vegetarians can find a menu they can relate to.
A kosher white wine would be a pleasant accompaniment to this holiday menu. Serve Sauvignon Blanc or a Chardonnay from one of the California Kosher vineyards in place of the more traditional sweeter wines.
Hearty Lentil Soup With Herbed Sour Cream
Barley and Kasha Salad
Tri-Color Squash Casserole With 3 Cheeses
Harvest Seed Loaves
Strawberry Dessert Blintzes HEARTY LENTIL SOUP WITH HERBED SOUR CREAM
1 1/2 cups lentils
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/4 cup butter or margarine
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 parsnip, peeled, finely chopped
4 carrots, peeled, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely sliced
1/2 cup minced parsley
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
4 tomatoes, peeled, finely diced
2 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 tablespoon minced green onions
1 tablespoon minced basil leaves or 1 teaspoon dried
Soak lentils in 4 cups water 6 hours or overnight. Drain lentils and place in large pot with 8 cups warm water and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
Heat butter and olive oil in large saucepan. Add garlic, onion, parsnip, carrots, celery and parsley. Saute 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rosemary and tomatoes. Simmer 10 minutes.
Drain lentils, returning liquid to large pot. Remove bay leaves. Add 2 cups drained lentils to garlic mixture and mix well.
Place remaining drained lentils in food processor or blender with 1/2 cup reserved liquid and puree. Add pureed lentils and lentils with garlic mixture to pot with reserved liquid. Mix well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer until soup thickens, about 30 to 40 minutes.
While soup is simmering, beat sour cream until smooth. Spoon into serving bowl. Sprinkle parsley, green onions and basil on top. Serve with soup. May serve soup in hot tureen along with bowl of sour cream, or ladle into soup bowls and garnish with sour cream. Makes 8 to 10 servings. BARLEY AND KASHA SALAD
1 cup barley
1 cup kasha (roasted buckwheat kernels)
1 cup minced parsley
1/2 cup finely diced celery
1 sweet red pepper, finely diced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons tahini (crushed sesame seeds), optional
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1 sweet red pepper, thinly sliced
Bring 2 quarts salted water to boil in large pot. Stir in barley and simmer 20 to 25 minutes or until tender.
Bring 2 quarts salted water to boil in another pot. Stir in kasha and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, or until tender. Drain kasha and place in large bowl. Toss gently. Cover with plastic wrap and cool. (Will keep in refrigerator up to 1 week.)
Combine parsley, celery, diced red pepper and green onions in small bowl. Toss parsley mixture with barley mixture. (If not serving immediately, reserve green onions until just before serving.)