In ancient times, Shavuot, which this year starts Saturday night, was celebrated as a harvest holiday in which people brought gifts to the temple from their orchards and fields. Fresh fruits--the first fruits of the season--were among the offerings, especially grapes, figs and pomegranates. The Book of Ruth was read, giving thanks for the harvest. Dairy foods were usually eaten and the traditional dishes featured cheese, eggs and milk, in addition to fruits, vegetables and grains gathered from the fields.
Today in California the first fruits available in the markets inspire us to celebrate the holiday with a variety of recipes. We can include these fruits in everything from appetizers to desserts. There's even a raspberry mayonnaise. The subtle flavors of fresh fruit please the palate and the glowing colors appeal to the eye, making each plate a painting.
SHAVUOT FRUIT MENU Whole-Wheat Fig Loaves Fresh Fruit and Yogurt Compote Grilled Fish Salad With Raspberry Vinaigrette Risotto With Cheese and Berries Schaum Tarts With Fruit Filling
WHOLE-WHEAT FIG LOAVES
1 cup dried figs, stems removed and finely chopped
1/2 cup dry Sherry
1/2 cup boiling water
3 cups sifted whole-wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter or margarine, cut up
3/4 cup chopped pecans
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup finely ground pecans
Soak figs in water and Sherry at least 30 minutes, or until tender.
In large mixing bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Blend in butter until crumbly. Mix in chopped pecans. Add fig mixture, eggs and vanilla. Using rubber spatula, mix until batter is completely moistened.
Brush 2 (7x3-inch) loaf pans with butter and sprinkle with ground pecans. Bake at 350 degrees 30 to 40 minutes, or until wood pick inserted in center comes out dry. Cool 10 minutes before removing from pan. Loosen from pan with metal spatula and cool on racks. Makes 2 loaves.
FRESH FRUIT AND YOGURT COMPOTE
1 cup sugar
2 cups water
1 pound plums, halved and pitted
2 pints strawberries, hulled and halves
2 pints raspberries
2 navel oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/4 pound each green and red seedless grapes
2 tablespoons grenadine
1/3 cup concord grape wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Plain yogurt flavored with 1 tablespoon grenadine
In saucepan bring sugar and water to boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Simmer 5 minutes. Poach plums in syrup 20 seconds and transfer with slotted spoon to bowl. Repeat with berries, oranges and grapes. Add grenadine, wine and lemon juice to syrup and simmer until thick, about 3 minutes. Pour syrup over fruit. Spoon into bowls or goblets and top with flavored yogurt. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
GRILLED FISH SALAD WITH RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE
8 to 10 small lettuce leaves
1 1/2 pounds fresh tuna or halibut, sliced, grilled and chilled
8 to 10 small red potatoes, boiled, chilled and sliced
1 pound green beans, steamed and chilled
2 sweet red peppers, thinly sliced
4 to 5 hard-cooked eggs, quartered
2 bunches seedless grapes
In large salad bowl or individual serving plates, arrange lettuce leaves, tuna slices, potatoes, green beans, peppers, quartered eggs and grapes. Garnish with lemon wedges. Spoon Raspberry Vinaigrette over salad. Serve immediately. Makes 8 to 10 servings.
1 small shallot, minced
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons raspberry vinegar
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon whipping cream
In bowl of food processor or blender process shallot, Dijon mustard and raspberry vinegar. In slow, thin stream add 1/2 cup olive oil, beating constantly. Blend in remaining oil. Blend in cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 1 cup.
RISOTTO WITH CHEESE AND BERRIES
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 onion, finely chopped
2 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 cup dry Champagne or white wine
8 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup whipping cream
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
1 cup raspberries or blueberries
Melt butter in large heavy saucepan. When butter foams, add onion. Saute over medium heat until tender. Add rice and mix well with wooden spoon. Add Champagne and cook until wine evaporates, stirring constantly. Add 1/2 cup vegetable broth, or enough to cover rice. Cook, stirring constantly. As broth is absorbed, continue adding remaining broth, a little at a time, until rice is almost done, about 15 minutes.
When rice is tender but firm to bite, blend in cream and 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese. Fold in strawberries and raspberries and blend until berries soften and risotto turns rosy pink. Season to taste with salt and pepper. If risotto is too dry, add additional broth. Makes 10 to 12 servings.
SCHAUM TARTS WITH FRUIT FILLING
3 egg whites
1 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
4 bananas, thinly sliced and diced
1 cup seedless grapes, sliced in half
2 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup powdered sugar
In large bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually add granulated sugar with vinegar and vanilla, beating until firm peaks form. Spoon meringue into 9 generously buttered muffin tins.
Bake at 250 degrees 1 hour or until lightly golden. With fingertips carefully lift meringues out of muffin cups by twisting them gently. Transfer to large platter to cool.
In bowl, combine pineapple, bananas and grapes. Whip cream until soft peaks form. Add powdered sugar and continue beating until stiff.
Just before serving, with small sharp-pointed knife, carefully cut off tops of meringues. Then use back of large spoon to make indentation in bottoms. Spoon layer of pineapple mixture into each meringue, then add layer of whipped cream. Add 1 more layer of fruit and another of cream. Replace tops lightly and garnish with whole grapes. Serve immediately. Makes 9 tarts.