Shavuot, June 3, celebrates the receiving of the Ten Commandments and the arrival of the spring harvest. But for food lovers, it is noted for the array of dairy foods that are served and delicious combinations of cheese, sour cream, milk and eggs, and blintzes with cheese fillings.
For this holiday I have experimented with the familiar dairy ingredients and have come up with some unusual results. Borscht is made with fresh spinach, potatoes, cucumbers and green onions, instead of the more usual beets. The result is a deep green color with an interesting texture from the crunchy chunks of vegetables. It's refreshing served chilled with sour cream. Or, puree the soup in a blender with sour cream for a smooth, creamy cold borscht. And be sure to accompany it with a round loaf of corn rye bread and unsalted butter.
Using my favorite recipe for Classic Blintzes, I have developed two new variations. One is a spectacular appetizer, Lox-Cream Cheese Pinwheels, garnished with salmon caviar. It's great for entertaining at Shavuot or any time. And once you've tried this combination, you'll think twice before serving bagels and lox.
The same Classic Blintz recipe serves as an envelope for Vegetable Blintzes, symbolic of the spring harvest. Vegetables are quickly sauteed and used as a filling for crisply browned blintzes.
A flavor surprise is the Hearts of Lettuce Salad With Warm Cheese Dressing. Crisp, tender hearts of bibb lettuce and romaine, well chilled, are topped with a warm blend of Brie and blue cheeses and tossed with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Simple, but very sophisticated.
Cheesecake is a favorite dessert for Shavuot and is very easy to prepare. My Two-Tone Strawberry Cheesecake displays a layer of creamy cheesecake based on a crisp almond crust, topped with another cheesecake layer flavored with fresh strawberry puree. A final topping of sour cream and glazed whole strawberries makes it very festive.
In making the appetizers and the cheesecake I like to use a pure, natural kosher cream cheese. It's made without a trace of vegetable gum or other additives. This cheese is lighter, smoother and blends more easily with sugar, eggs and other ingredients. It may be purchased at supermarkets or health food stores.
Shavuot is also known as the Feast of Roses, so if you are planning to entertain during this holiday you might have a pretty bouquet of roses on the table.
SHAVUOT DAIRY MENU
Chilled Spinach-Cucumber Borscht
Hearts of Lettuce Salad
With Warm Cheese Dressing
Lox-Cream Cheese Pinwheels
Two-Tone Strawberry Cheesecake
CHILLED SPINACH-CUCUMBER BORSCHT
1 pound spinach, stems removed
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, minced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions
1 large cucumber, peeled and diced
1 medium potato, peeled, boiled and diced
3 cups vegetable stock or water
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
Rinse spinach leaves carefully and chop coarsely. Heat butter in heavy skillet and saute garlic, onion and green onions until tender. Add spinach and cucumber and saute until spinach is wilted but still bright green.
Add potato, vegetable stock, lemon juice and tarragon. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate at least 4 hours. Ladle into soup bowl and top with dollop of sour cream. Makes 8 servings.
HEARTS OF LETTUCE SALAD WITH WARM CHEESE DRESSING
2 heads bibb lettuce, center leaves only, torn into bite-size pieces
2 heads romaine lettuce, center leaves only, torn into bite-size pieces
3 ounces Brie cheese, diced
3 ounces blue cheese, diced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
Wash lettuce leaves and dry. Toss in large bowl.
Just before serving, place Brie and blue cheeses on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees 5 to 10 minutes, until cheeses melt.
Toss lettuce mixture with vinegar and olive oil. Immediately spoon melted cheese over salad and toss again. Place on individual serving plates. Makes about 8 servings.
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon brandy
Combine flour, sugar and salt in bowl of electric mixer. Beat eggs, milk, 1 tablespoon melted butter and brandy. Gradually pour egg mixture into flour mixture, beating until smooth. Strain to remove lumps, if necessary. Cover and let stand 20 minutes.
Heat 2 teaspoons butter in 8- or 9-inch skillet. Pour in 3 tablespoons batter, rotating pan in circular motion. Pour excess batter back into bowl. Cook blintzes over medium-high heat on 1 side 30 seconds, until brown around edges.
Turn each blintz onto cloth towel and cool. Stack on platter with wax paper between blintzes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 2 dozen.
LOX-CREAM CHEESE PINWHEELS
12 Classic Blintzes
Cream Cheese Filling
1/2 pound lox, thinly sliced
1 small jar salmon caviar