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JUNE 2006

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The Kosher Table
Shavuot Cheesecake Recipe
 

You Say Shavuot and I Say Shavuos

by Lisa Kelvin Tuttle

When I was growing up, my family was more Jewishly literate than were most of my Jewish friends' families. One of my friends described her family as "three-holiday Jews" (the three holidays being Chanukah, Passover, and Purim). My parents were founding members of our synagogue, attended services pretty frequently, and my sisters and I all celebrated becoming Bat Mitzvah. But I have to admit that if you had quizzed me about the festival of Shavuot (or Shavuos), I probably would have had a perplexed look on my face. Having definitely been raised as a "gastronomical" Jew, though, I might have replied that the holiday had something to do with blintzes.

Fortunately, my Jewish knowledge has come a long way since those days. My two sons have known from an early age that Shavout (Hebrew for "Weeks") is the culmination of the 49 days (seven full weeks) of counting the Omer that commences on the second night of Pesach and that it commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai. They also know that some of the holiday's traditions include the reading of the Ten Commandments in the synagogue and the enjoyment of dairy foods. Also known as Chag ha'Katzir, the Festival of the Harvest, Shavuot marks the beginning of the spring wheat harvest. During the time of the Temple in Israel, on Shavuot two loaves of bread were offered as a "wave offering" (Leviticus 23:17-20).

Although we know much about the festival, it is not known precisely why we indulge in dairy foods on Shavuot. One reason given for why they became central to the day is that once the Torah was given, along with the mandate not to combine meat and dairy foods, our ancestors had to abstain from eating meat until they gained knowledge of the proper means of kosher ritual slaughter. In one of my favorite books on the Jewish holidays, Seasons of Our Joy, Rabbi Arthur Waskow writes about another possible reason: "Some commentators connect the custom with a verse from the Song of Songs, "Honey and milk are under your tongue"-which they suggest refers to the sweetness of the Torah, and is acted out by cooking foods of milk and honey."

Whatever the reason, my wish is that this Shavuot, may you savor the sweetness of all the good in your life-and may honey and milk be always under your tongue. 

Until we eat again . . . 

Lisa

Recipes 

Ashkenazi Cheese Knishes

This variation on the popular Eastern European staple is adapted from Rabbi Gil Marks's wonderful book of international Jewish vegetarian cooking, Olive Trees and Honey

Dough.

  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening or margarine, softened
  • teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
  1. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, eggs, shortening or margarine and salt.
  2. Gradually add the 3 cups of flour to form a smooth, soft dough. If the dough is too soft or sticky, add a little more flour. Do not overwork the dough or it will become tough.
  3. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Cheese Filling

3 cups (1 pounds) farmer cheese or 2 cups (1 pound) pot cheese
1 cup (8 ounces) cream cheese
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 large egg, slightly beaten
About teaspoon table salt or 1 teaspoons kosher salt

Bring cheeses and sour cream to room temperature. Combine all ingredients and beat until smooth, either by hand or using an electric mixer.

Additional ingredients

  •  1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • sesame seeds (optional)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it.
  3. Divide dough in half or thirds. On a lightly floured surface, roll each piece into a rectangle inch thick. Cut into 4 inch squares.
  4. Spoon about cup filling into the center of each square, bring the edges together over the filling and pinch to seal. Place on the prepared baking sheet, seam-side down, and brush with egg mixture, and sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
  5. Bake until golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes about 12 knishes. Knishes can be frozen, then lightly covered with aluminum foil and reheated in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 15 minutes. 

Milchige Luchshen Kugel

This recipe is a combination of several noodle kugels I have made over the years, borrowing the most delicious elements. The addition of tart apple wonderfully balances the sweetness, and the topping lends a nice bit of crunchiness and flavor.

  • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 pound wide egg noodles
  • 2 cups (1 pound) large curd pot or cottage cheese
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • cup sugar
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • cup raisins
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 2 teaspoons lemon rind
  • teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled and minced

Topping

  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Use some of the melted butter to grease a 13" x 9" baking dish or 3-quart ovenproof casserole.
  3. Cook noodles in a large quantity of boiling salted water until tender. Drain well, but do not rinse, and transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Stir into the noodles the cheese, eggs, salt, sugar, sour cream, raisins, extracts, rind, and teaspoon cinnamon.
  5. Turn mixture into the prepared baking dish.
  6. Combine the bread crumbs with all but 1 tablespoon of the remaining melted butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and the brown sugar. Cover the top of the pudding with this mixture and drizzle over the remaining tablespoon of melted butter. 
  7. Bake kugel for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is nicely browned and the kugel is bubbling.

Makes about 10 to 12 servings. 

Homemade Lemon Sherbet

Thank you to Rabbi Fredi Cooper for sharing this luscious and refreshing lemony treat with me. It is so simple to make, you can whip up the ingredients in the morning, pop the bowl in the freezer, and serve the sherbet that evening.

  • Juice of three lemons
  • Finely grated zest of two lemons
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup whole or low-fat milk
  • 1 cup light cream
  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and beat with a whisk until thoroughly combined.
  2. Place bowl in freezer and freeze until solid.
  3. Scoop into serving bowls accompanied by fresh strawberries.
  4. To store, scoop into an airtight container. 

Mandarin Orange Cheesecake Pie

This recipe is a variation on a classic, handed down to me by my mother, Edie Kelvin, of blessed memory. Here I substitute fresh-squeezed orange juice for the lemon juice and orange extract for the vanilla extract in the original recipe. Light cream cheese (Neufchatel) and light sour cream can be used in lieu of the full-fat kind. For a treat, pour any leftover batter into greased mini muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Crust

Mix together:

  • 1 cups chocolate graham cracker crumbs (1 wax-paper wrapped packet of chocolate graham crackers (about 9 long/18 square graham crackers or half of a 14.4 oz. box)
  • 1 heaping tablespoon cocoa powder
  • cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup melted butter or margarine

Press crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 10-inch pie plate. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes. Chill.

Cake

  • 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese
  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon orange extract
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed orange juice
  • finely grated zest of one orange
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 3 tablespoons all purpose flour

Garnish

  • 1 can whole mandarin segments, drained and lightly dried on paper towels
  • 8 ounces (about 1 cups) semisweet chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Mix cream cheese and sour cream together.
  3. Add sugar, orange extract, orange juice and zest and beat well.
  4. Add egg yolks and combine thoroughly, then beat in the flour until incorporated.
  5. Gently fold in the beaten egg whites.
  6. Pour cheesecake batter into the prepared pie crust and bake for 45 minutes. Then shut off the oven and let pie stay in the oven for another half hour.
  7. Remove and refrigerate for a few hours.
  8. When pie is thoroughly cooled, top with mandarin orange segments in a spiral pattern, starting at the center.
  9. Melt chocolate chips either in a microwave (using a microwave-safe bowl) for 1 minute, or over boiling water in a double boiler. Stir until smooth and all the chips are completely melted.
  10. Using a spoon or squeeze bottle, drizzle chocolate over the mandarin oranges.
  11. Refrigerate until chocolate has cooled completely. 

Previously on the Kosher Table