Not pictured: freezer burn. Photo by Tess Cutler

Frozen blintzes are for cowards, so here’s how to make them from scratch


Don’t get me wrong. I have at least four boxes of (Streit’s?) cheese blintzes gathering a third layer of permafrost in my freezer right now. I bought them before the glatt marts could jack up the prices because this is not my first go-round, folks. This is my life.

However! I do not expect to unpackage them this holiday. Or, perhaps, ever. That is because after making my own blintzes with the following recipe I have settled on the conclusion that frozen blintzes are for cowards. You can whip up a batch homemade so easily that to buy the little kosher hot pockets from the store would be to impugn—nay, swear off—your integrity in the kitchen.

Not to mention that the frozen kind never cook evenly and don’t taste that great to begin with. Have I ever had a positive frozen blintz experience? The short answer is no. The long answer is, has anyone? Nothing like biting into a blackened potatoey crust that you are certain is cooked all the way, only for the cool dispassion of stubborn icicles to greet you in the interior. Come on now. Let’s just make them from scratch.

First: go shopping!

Here’s what you need that you might not have: good ricotta cheese, sour cream, a lemon, and blueberries. (I take it you have vanilla.) Everything else is below:

You will need:

…for the crepes

1 cup flour
2 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1.25 cups whole milk
1 tbsp vegetable oil

…for the filling

1 lb ricotta cheese (get the good stuff)
3 tbsp sour cream or mascarpone
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

…for the win

hella blueberries
a tablespoon (or less!) of sugar

Also get out: a big round frying pan, a saucepan, a mixing bowl, a strainer and a stick of butter to play around with.

After you have all your ingredients together, start by making the crepe batter. Take all the ingredients from the first half and whisk them together in a bowl. This should be a relatively thin liquid, thin enough to drip off the whisk when you hold it over the bowl but thick enough that it doesn’t all run off immediately. Okay, now let it sit.

[The life hack here is to double this part of the recipe and save half the batter for breakfast, when you can cook up crepes any other way you like. Thank me later.]

Next, take a look at the ricotta. Is it good and wet, dripping like a baby fresh out the bathtub? In that case, let it towel off in a colander to drain some of that excess liquid. (You can also dry it out in the fridge.) We’re not trying to make soggy blintzes. That’s what Big Kosher wants us to do.

[It’s important, here that we’re pronouncing ricotta “ree-coatt-ah.” It enhances the taste, I guarantee it. Make sure to get that double ‘t’ sound.]

When the ricotta is ready and at room temperature, combine the filling ingredients in a separate bowl and blend until smooth. You should have a nice, heavy whip going.

Okay, now you’re ready to make the crepes!

Heat a non-stick crepe pan or 8 inch skillet.  Grab that stick o’ butter and slather the pan with it. The pan should froth about it as you are merely teasing the main event. So, deep breath at this point. Next is the part where you showcase your elegance and prove your worth as a chef: pour about a quarter-cup of batter into the frying pan as you tilt the pan to spread the batter thin. You’re making broad, thin circles here, about seven or eight inches in diameter.

It should cook in a flash — no more than twenty seconds on each side if your pan is hot enough. Throw it on a plate to cool and repeat. Make a bunch of these and kill the batter, unless you wisely doubled the recipe for later, in which case kill half of it.

All set? Now take the action to the countertop. Spread a crepe out onto a flat surface (cutting board is fine), and drop a couple of tablespoons’ worth of filling into the bottom third of the crepe. Don’t worry about spreading it out—it’s easier to roll up into a lil’ burrito this way. Roll the bottom flap over the filling and tuck it under, then fold over the side leaves, then roll the whole thing forward like a sleeping bag. Honestly, just make a lil’ burrito. Repeat until all the crepes are filled.

Now heat up that pan and smother it with butter again. (Hey, diets don’t count on chag!) Throw your Hungarian blintzes on there 2-3 at a time and cook on each side until golden. Then you’re done.

Oh yeah! Blueberry sauce: take all those blueberries, throw them in a pot, and throw some sugar on top of it, and then just cook it until you get this oozing pot of succulence that looks like it does on the frozen box of Streit’s blintzes. That takes like 10 minutes? Tops.

I have no idea how many this makes because I eat them as I go. Rob, whose recipe this is, says it’s good for about a dozen. Happy Shavuot!

Edited to add: this recipe makes about eight blintzes.

Blintzes and beyond for Shavuot


The holiday of Shavuot marks the receiving of the Ten Commandments by Moses, but it’s also a kind of Jewish Thanksgiving, when farm bounty and grains — “first fruits” — were brought to the temple. These often included wheat, barley, grapes, figs and dates.

In modern times, Shavuot is a holiday that inspires the preparation of many delicious and traditional recipes that usually feature a variety of vegetarian and dairy foods. Milk, eggs and cheeses of all kinds are used in abundance. 

Blintzes are the most popular of the Shavuot foods. They may be served as a side dish, dessert or main course. They are thin pancakes or crepes that are filled with an assortment of dairy or vegetable mixtures. I have adapted a basic blintz recipe to include a spinach-ricotta combination; served with yogurt or sour cream, it adds a perfect dairy accent.

The Vegetarian Lentil Soup is a family favorite. All the ingredients can be sautéed, blended in a food processor and served immediately, or prepared and stored in the refrigerator for two to three days.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls are another flexible choice for your Shavuot lunch, brunch or dinner. Thin slices of eggplant are rolled around a three-cheese filling that is combined with lightly beaten egg whites. The spicy, garlicky herbed tomato sauce is a perfect accompaniment.

And don’t forget about dessert. One of my special treats for the holiday is an Apricot Cheesecake, along with bowls of fruit, dates and nuts. Together, they are sure to please!

SHAVUOT BLINTZES

  • Ricotta and Spinach Filling (recipe follows) 
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons melted, unsalted margarine
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Sour cream

 

Prepare Ricotta and Spinach Filling; refrigerate. 

In a large bowl, blend the eggs, milk and 1 tablespoon margarine. Add flour and salt, blending until smooth. (If any lumps remain, pour through a fine strainer, pressing any lumps of flour through; mix well.) Cover and set aside for 1 hour.

Lightly grease a 6-inch nonstick skillet. Place over medium heat until hot. Pour in about 1/8 cup batter at a time, tilting pan and swirling to make a thin pancake. When lightly browned, gently loosen edges and turn out of pan onto towel or plate. Repeat with remaining batter. Cool.

Place 1 to 2 tablespoons of Ricotta and Spinach Filling in center of browned side of each blintz. Fold lower portion over filling. Tuck in ends then roll to form flat rectangle. Place on larger platter and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

In a large skillet, place remaining 2 tablespoons melted margarine. Cook blintzes about 2 to 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Transfer to serving plates and serve with sour cream.

Makes about 20 blintzes.

RICOTTA AND SPINACH FILLING

  • 2 bunches fresh spinach
  • 2 cups ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

Rinse spinach; remove and discard stems. Place leaves in boiling salted boiling water; boil 10 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze dry. Chop finely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, parsley and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.

Makes 5 to 6 cups.

VEGETARIAN LENTIL SOUP

  • 1 1/2 cups dried lentils
  • 2 1/2 cups warm vegetable broth or water
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1/4 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 4 large tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Red wine vinegar to taste
  • Plain yogurt or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

 

Soak lentils in 4 cups of water 6 hours or overnight. Drain and place in a large, heavy pot with vegetable broth and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that forms. Reduce heat, cover partially, and simmer 15 to 20 minutes or until lentils are tender.

In a large skillet, heat margarine and olive oil. Add garlic, carrots, parsnips, onion, celery and parsley. Sauté 10 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Add rosemary and tomatoes, and simmer 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and vinegar. Remove 2 cups of the cooked lentils and 1/2 cup of the liquid; puree in a processor or blender. Return the puree and sautéed vegetable mixture to the soup pot. Mix well. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, until thick, 30 to 40 minutes. Ladle soup into warm bowls and garnish with yogurt or grated cheese. 

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

STUFFED EGGPLANT ROLLS

  • Tomato-Basil Sauce (recipe follows)
  • 1 pound ricotta or hoop cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese
  • 2 medium eggplants
  • Flour
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Fresh basil leaves for garnish

 

Prepare Tomato-Basil Sauce; refrigerate. 

In a bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, parsley, basil and egg yolks.

In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until stiff but not dry. Fold into cheese mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Slice mozzarella cheese into 2-inch-by-1/2-inch sticks. Set aside.

Trim stem end from eggplants and slice lengthwise 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in flour seasoned to taste with salt and pepper. Shake off excess.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add eggplant slices and sauté on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Cool.

Place 2 tablespoons cheese filling across narrow end of each eggplant slice. Press stick of mozzarella into filling. Roll up eggplant tightly around filling. Place rolls, seam-side down, in greased baking dish. Cover with foil and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours. (Do not freeze.)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

Spoon some of Tomato-Basil Sauce over each roll. Bake for 15 minutes or until hot and bubbling. With metal spatula, carefully place one or two eggplant rolls on each plate. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately. 

Makes about 16 rolls.

TOMATO-BASIL SAUCE

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped 
  • 1 (28-ounce) can crushed tomatoes with liquid
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh or dried basil
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a skillet, heat oil. Add garlic and onion, and sauté until onions are transparent. Add tomatoes, wine, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until well blended. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate. 

Makes about 4 cups.

APRICOT CHEESECAKE

 

  • 1 (6-ounce) package dried apricots
  • 1 1/2 cups apple juice
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust (recipe follows)
  • Sour Cream Topping (recipe follows)
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

In a small saucepan, combine apricots, apple juice and 1/2 cup sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Cool. Transfer to a food processor or blender and process until pureed. Set aside. Reserve 1/2 cup apricot puree for cookie crust.

Prepare the Crumbled Sugar-Cookie Crust and Sour Cream Topping; set both aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and remaining 1 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup of the apricot puree. Beat 2 or 3 minutes until light. Pour into crust that has been spread with a thin layer of apricot puree. 

Bake in preheated oven for 50 minutes or until center is set and top is golden. Remove from oven and spread with Sour Cream Topping. Return to oven 5 minutes. Cool. Remove from springform pan and garnish with remaining apricot puree. Chill before serving.

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CRUMBLED SUGAR-COOKIE CRUST

  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled sugar cookies
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine

 

In a large mixing bowl, food processor or blender, thoroughly blend the cookie crumbs and margarine. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 9-inch springform pan and press down firmly to make an even layer on bottom of pan. Spread with a thin layer of the apricot puree. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

SOUR CREAM TOPPING

  • 1 pint sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

 

In a small bowl, beat the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until well blended. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Makes 2 cups.


Judy Zeidler is a cooking instructor and the author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Mozzarella and Tomato Caprese Blintzes


I’d like to think this caprese blintz is the epitome of my background. A blend of cultures, colliding different upbringings and introducing new memories.

I grew up, like many Brooklyn Jewish girls next door, on blintzes and bagels, on latkes and matzah balls and so did everyone around me. It was the norm. Jewish delis filled with freshly made bialys were the signature of my past and new worldly flavors are the introduction to my future.

You can imagine how my worlds collided when I moved to Hawaii when I was fourteen. The only Jewish girl in my school, the only one that had some reminisce of a east coast accent, the only know what knew what a blintz was. But alas, everything happens for a reason. My eight years living in Hawaii taught me patience and love of the land and introduced me to my Italian husband of (soon to be) 10 years who fell in love with traveling just as much as I did.

Over the last 10 years, Joe and I have had a love affair with traveling and one of our favorite memories was experiencing a true caprese  salad in Italy. The tomatoes were so sweet and mozzarella like no other. I have been addicted ever since and want to caprese-fy anything I can get my hands on! Blintzes seemed to be a natural fit for these flavors.

This one is certainly for the savory lovers and aint your mama’s blintz, that’s for sure! Filled with soft mozzarella and sundried tomatoes, you will certainly be transported to a café in Italy like I was! A blend of cultures for your next brunch? I like that idea.

Mozzarella and Tomato Caprese Blintzes

Shavuot inspires dairy recipes


Shavuot 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 — delicious combinations of cheese, sour cream, milk and eggs. Also in abundance are “stuffed” foods, such as blintzes with cheese fillings.

For this holiday, I have experimented with dairy ingredients and come up with some unusual results.

Using my favorite recipe for Classic Blintzes, I have developed two new variations. One is a spectacular appetizer — Lox and Cream Cheese Pinwheels, garnished with salmon caviar. They’re great for entertaining at Shavuot or any time. And once you’ve tried this combination, you’ll think twice before serving simple bagels and lox.

The same blintz recipe serves as an “envelope” for a vegetable filling, symbolic of the spring harvest. The vegetables are quickly sautéed and stuffed into the crisply browned blintzes. (I make the classic cheese-filled version as well.)

Borscht is made with fresh beets and carrots, both members of the root-vegetable family, and they taste most harmonious in this rich soup. Fresh ginger offsets the sweetness, and the sour cream garnish adds mellowness with a little tang. Be sure to accompany it with a corn rye bread and sweet butter.

A flavor surprise comes with my 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, too.

Cheesecake is a favorite dessert for Shavuot and so easy to prepare. A Carrot-Spice Cheesecake displays a layer of creamy cheesecake atop a crisp Vanilla-Pecan Crust. The taste is truly addictive. The secret: two kinds of ginger, spices and a smooth carrot puree on top of a crisp, nutty crust. 

In making the appetizers and the cheesecake, I like to use a pure, natural kosher cream cheese. It’s made without 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.

For the salad and cheesecake recipes, please visit this article at jewishjounal.com.

CLASSIC BLINTZES 

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 eggs

2 cups milk

2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted

1 tablespoon brandy

Additional margarine for frying

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine flour, sugar and salt. In a separate bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, melted margarine and brandy. Gradually pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Strain to remove lumps if necessary. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes.

Heat 2 teaspoons margarine in an 8- or 9-inch frying pan; pour in 3 tablespoons of batter, rotating pan in a circular motion. Pour excess batter back into bowl. 

Cook blintzes over medium-high heat on one side only for 30 seconds, until brown around the edges. Add more margarine to the pan as needed. Turn each blintz onto a cloth towel and let cool. Stack on platter with waxed paper between blintzes. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. 

Makes about 2 dozen blintzes.

VEGETABLE BLINTZES

20 Classic Blintzes

6 tablespoons margarine

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 cup diced onions

1 cup diced carrots

1 cup diced turnips

1 cup diced zucchini

1 cup diced mushrooms

1 cup diced tomatoes

Salt and pepper to taste

Sour cream

Fresh basil or cilantro

Prepare Classic Blintzes; set aside.

Heat 3 tablespoons margarine in a skillet. Sauté the garlic and onions until tender. Add the carrots, turnips, zucchini and mushrooms; sauté until tender. Add tomatoes and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cool.

Fill the browned side of each blintz with 1 to 2 tablespoons of vegetable filling and roll, tucking ends in. Melt remaining 3 tablespoons margarine in a large skillet and brown filled blintzes on both sides until crisp. Serve with sour cream and fresh basil or cilantro.

Makes 20 blintzes.

HOOP CHEESE BLINTZES

20 Classic Blintzes

1 pound hoop or farmer cheese

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 eggs

2 tablespoons raisins, plumped in apple juice

1 tablespoon margarine

Sour cream

Fresh basil or cilantro

Prepare Classic Blintzes; set aside.

Mash cheese in a bowl. Blend in sugar, salt and eggs. Fold in drained raisins.

Fill the browned side of each blintz with 1 heaping tablespoon of cheese filling and roll, tucking ends in. Melt margarine in a large skillet and brown filled blintzes on both sides until crisp. Serve with sour cream and fresh basil or cilantro.

Makes 20 blintzes.

LOX AND CREAM CHEESE PINWHEELS

Cream Cheese Filling (recipe follows)

10 Classic Blintzes

1/2 pound lox (smoked salmon), thinly sliced

1 small jar (3 to 4 ounces) salmon caviar

Minced chives for garnish

Prepare Cream Cheese Filling; set aside.

Prepare Classic Blintzes, browning them on both sides. Place 1 blintz on a work board, spread with some of Cream Cheese Filling, top with another blintz, arrange slices of lox on top, then roll up, jellyroll fashion. Repeat with remaining blintzes. Transfer to a large platter, and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. Slice into 1-inch portions. Place on a serving plate, cut side up. Top with a spoonful of sour cream, plus a garnish of salmon caviar and a sprinkling of chives. 

Makes about 20 servings.

CREAM CHEESE FILLING

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, without gum

1 ounce blue cheese or goat cheese (optional)

1 tablespoon cream

Salt to taste

Few drops Tabasco sauce

1 tablespoon minced parsley

In a processor or bowl, beat the cream cheese, bleu cheese and cream until well blended. Season to taste with salt and Tabasco sauce. Mix in parsley. Cover and chill. 

Makes 1 1/4 cups.

BEET AND CARROT BORSCHT

1 quart cold water

1/2 pound carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

1/2 pound baby beets, peeled and shredded

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered

2 nickel-size pieces fresh ginger, peeled

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish 

Bring the water to a boil in a 2 1/2-quart pot. Add the carrots, beets, onion and ginger. The water should just cover the vegetables. Cover, lower the heat, and simmer until the beets are soft when pierced with a fork, about 10 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer the vegetables and ginger to a food processor or blender, and puree until smooth. Scrape the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the pureed vegetables to the liquid and stir until smooth. Add salt and pepper to taste. To serve, ladle into heated soup bowls and garnish with sour cream.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Note: The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2 to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. 

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-type cheese, diced

3 ounces blue-type cheese, diced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar

1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 F.

Wash lettuce leaves and dry; toss in a large bowl.

Just before serving, place cheeses on a foil-lined baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, until cheeses melt. Toss the lettuce mixture with vinegar and olive oil. Immediately spoon the melted cheese over the salad and toss again. Place on individual serving plates. 

Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

CARROT-SPICE CHEESECAKE 

Vanilla-Pecan Crust (recipe follows)

3/4 pound carrots, boiled and pureed

1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons ginger preserves

2 tablespoons candied ginger

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 teaspoon orange zest

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground mace

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 packages (8 ounces each) cream cheese

4 eggs

1/4 cup chopped pecans

Prepare the Vanilla-Pecan Crust; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat together the carrot puree, brown sugar, ginger preserves, candied ginger, lemon juice, orange zest, cinnamon, mace and allspice until blended. Add the cream cheese and blend.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust and sprinkle with pecans. 

Bake for about 30 minutes, until the center is firm and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour before serving. 

Makes about 8 to 10 servings

VANILLA-PECAN CRUST

2/3 cup finely ground vanilla wafers (4 ounces)

2/3 cup finely ground ginger snaps (4 ounces)

2/3 cup finely ground pecans (4 ounces)

1/3 cup sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted margarine

Preheat the oven to 375 F.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer or blender, combine the vanilla wafers, ginger snaps, pecans and sugar. Add the margarine and mix until the mixture is well-blended but still crumbly. Spoon the mixture evenly into a 9-inch springform pan, and press it down firmly. Bake for 5 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool. 

Celebrate Shavuot with the best of the spring season


With its tradition of dairy meals, Shavuot is one of my favorite holidays. Arriving later in the spring — an ideal time to find delicious fruits, herbs and vegetables — it's perfect for using fresh and seasonal ingredients.

The four dishes I have selected for a Shavuot menu not only are perfect for dinner or lunch, they also reflect my philosophy on eating well: good planning, portion control and nutrition. Each dish can be prepared in advance, is not too difficult to make and doesn’t require many ingredients. And the ingredients are readily available.

I love to start holiday meals with soup. Green Pea and Zucchini Soup can be served at room temperature, which is nice if the weather is warm. It also freezes well.

For the main course, Ziti With Herbs and Mozzarella has a lovely combination of herbs and cheese. And in late spring and summer, there is an abundance of fresh basil, parsley and arugula, all of which add wonderful flavor to the dish.

For my fish, the tasty Seared Tuna With Two Sauces also can be served at room temperature.

Finally, instead of the obligatory highly caloric cream cheese-based cheesecake, try Ricotta Flan with Raspberry Sauce. The ricotta and almonds make the cake much lighter (and healthier) than a traditional cheesecake, and it  can be served warm, cold or at room temperature.  Feel free to add fresh raspberries.

The recipes below are from “Helen Nash's New Kosher Cuisine” (Overlook Press).

GREEN PEA AND ZUCCHINI SOUP

Makes 6 servings

This nutritious soup is truly a dish for all seasons, as it can be served at any time of year. Because it is so easy to prepare and freezes well, I usually have a batch on hand for last-minute dinner guests.

Ingredients:

1 pound zucchini
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20 ounces frozen sweet green peas, defrosted
3 1/4 to 4 cups  vegetable broth
10 basil leaves, torn
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preparation:

Rinse the zucchini and trim the ends. Cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the zucchini and garlic and saute for a minute.

Add the peas and 3 1/4 cups broth and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.

Cool the soup a little. Puree half the soup coarsely in a blender. Return it to the saucepan and reheat, adding more broth as needed, until the soup reaches the desired consistency. Stir in the basil. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with cheese and serve.

ZITI WITH HERBS AND MOZZARELLA

Makes 6 appetizer servings or 4 main-course servings

Ingredients:

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley
1 cup loosely packed arugula leaves
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 pound imported ziti
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Preparation:

Wrap the garlic cloves in foil and bake in a toaster oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft. Cool.

Peel the cloves and place them in a food processor along with the basil, parsley, and arugula. Adding the oil in a stream through the feed tube, pulse until semicoarse. Transfer to a large bowl.

Cut the mozzarella into 1/2-inch cubes. Add the cheese, along with the crushed pepper, to the herb mixture and combine.

Bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons salt. Add all the ziti at once and stir. Boil briskly, uncovered, for about 5 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.

Drain in a colander, refresh with cold water, and drain well again. Add the ziti to the herb and mozzarella mixture and combine. Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

SEARED TUNA WITH TWO SAUCES

Makes 6 servings

Tuna is surely one of America’s favorite fish, and it lends itself to many types of preparation, from sashimi to “tuna-fish” sandwiches. This dish follows calls for the fish to be almost raw; it can be accompanied with one of the Asian-inspired sauces, Ginger or Piquant Asian.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons  freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds sashimi-quality tuna
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Julienned daikon, sliced seeded cucumbers, and strong-tasting salad leaves like arugula or watercress, for garnish
Ginger Sauce or Piquant Asia Sauce, to serve

Preparation:

Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Pat the tuna dry with paper towels. Heat the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sear the tuna on both sides, then remove from the heat and rub both sides with the salt-pepper mixture.

When cool, wrap the tuna tightly in wax paper, then in foil. Refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or overnight. This will make it firmer and thus easier to slice.

To serve: Cut the fish against the grain in thin slices and serve accompanied by the suggested vegetables. Serve either of the sauces separately.

GINGER SAUCE

Makes about 1/2 cup

Ingredients:

2 shallots, finely chopped
3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons water
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 generous tablespoon olive oil
1 generous tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Preparation:

Combine the ingredients well and season to taste.

PIQUANT ASIAN SAUCE

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2 teaspoons wasabi powder
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon powdered mustard
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup shelled soybeans (edamame), defrosted  (see note)
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

 

Preparation:

Place all the ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Season to taste.

Note: Frozen edamame, shelled and unshelled, is available in health-food stores and supermarkets.

RICOTTA FLAN WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE

Makes 8 to 10 servings

You can bake this light dessert a day in advance and refrigerate.

FLAN

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1 cup blanched almonds
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 2 lemons
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the flan
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

 

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-by-1 1/2-inch flan dish with the butter.

Roast the almonds in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes, until golden. Cool. Finely grind them in a food processor.

In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, adding the sugar gradually until well combined. Add the vanilla, lemon zest, ricotta, and almonds. Mix well.

Pour the mixture into the prepared dish and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center feels slightly springy to the touch. Place on a wire rack to cool.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

Ingredients:

One 12-ounce (340 g) package unsweetened frozen raspberries, defrosted
1 tablespoon Cognac (optional)
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar, or to taste

Preparation:

Puree the raspberries in a blender until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve. Push the solids through the sieve with the back of a spoon to obtain as much puree as possible. Stir in the Cognac. Sweeten to taste with sugar.

To serve: Spoon the raspberry sauce on individual plates and place slices of the flan on top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh raspberries.

Shavuot Food : Turn Torah Fest into a Veggie Feast


Shavuot, which marks the receiving of the Ten Commandments by Moses, was often referred to as the Jewish Thanksgiving or the “Feast of the First Fruits,” a time when farm bounty and grains were brought to the ancient Temple. The harvest often included wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates.

In modern times, Shavuot inspires the preparation of many delicious and traditional recipes that usually feature a variety of vegetarian and dairy foods. Milk, eggs and cheeses of all kinds are used in abundance.

Blintzes are the most popular of the Shavuot foods and can accompany other foods or be served as a main course. They are thin pancakes or crepes, filled with interesting mixtures. I have included a classic cheese filling, enlivened with sugar-glazed, crunchy apple slices. It makes a perfect holiday dessert. The same basic blintz can be made with a spinach-ricotta combination, and served with yogurt, which adds a perfect dairy accent.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls are a wonderful choice for your Shavuot lunch, brunch or dinner. Thin slices of eggplant are rolled around a filling prepared with three cheeses plus beaten egg whites. The spicy, garlicky herbed tomato sauce is a perfect accompaniment.

Shavuot desserts are especially tempting and fun to serve family and friends. Desserts your family will enjoy include my Apricot Cheesecake, along with bowls of dried figs, dates and nuts.

Shavuot is a wonderful occasion to entertain informally and since this is an agricultural holiday, decorate your home or table with fresh plants and flowers from the garden. Some Sephardic Jews celebrate Shavuot as “The Feast of Roses” and use roses as the table centerpiece. As a treat for your guests, bake your favorite cookies and wrap them in rose-patterned paper for them to take home.

Blintzes (Savory or Sweet)

Basic Batter for Blintzes

3 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon salt

Ricotta and Spinach filling (recipe follows)

or

Hoop Cheese and Apple Filling (recipe follows)

Unsalted butter, for frying

In a large bowl, blend eggs, milk and butter. Add flour, salt and herbs, blending thoroughly until smooth. Cover and set aside for one hour.

Lightly butter and preheat a 6-inch nonstick frying pan. Pour about 1/8 cup of batter in at a time to form a thin pancake, tilting pan and swirling batter to patch up holes. When lightly browned, gently loosen edges and turn out of pan onto towel or plate. Cool before filling.

Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of filling on browned side, in center of each blintz. Fold lower portion over filling; tuck sides; continue rolling to form a flat rectangle. Place on large platter and cover with plastic wrap until ready to cook.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large skillet. Cook blintzes on both sides, about three to four minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to serving plates and serve immediately with sour cream, preserves or remaining Glazed Apple Slices.

Makes about 15 to 20 blintzes.

Ricotta/Spinach Filling

2 bunches spinach
2 cups ricotta cheese
2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 egg yolks
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Rinse spinach and remove stems. Place in salted boiling water and boil for 10 minutes. Drain and cool, then squeeze dry in cheesecloth; chop fine.

In bowl of electric mixer, combine spinach, ricotta, Parmesan cheese, egg yolks, parsley and basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Cheese/Apple Filling

2 pounds hoop cheese, farmer or pot cheese
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Glazed Apple Slices (recipe follows)

In large bowl, combine hoop cheese, sugar, salt and eggs. Fold in 1 cup of the drained apple slices. Cover with plastic wrap and chill until ready to assemble blintzes.

Glazed Apple Slices

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
3 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

In large heavy skillet, combine sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until sugar and marmalade dissolve. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer two to three minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

Place apple slices in large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent them from discoloring. Add apples, lemon zest and lemon juice to syrup in skillet and toss to coat. Simmer, covered for 10 to 15 minutes, until apples are soft. Transfer to glass bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill.

Makes about 2 cups.

Stuffed Eggplant Rolls

1 pound Ricotta or hoop cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons minced parsley
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
2 eggs, separated
Salt and pepper to taste
8 ounces mozzarella cheese
2 medium eggplants
Flour seasoned with salt and pepper
3/4 cup olive oil
Tomato-Basil Sauce (recipe follows)
Fresh basil leaves for garnish

Cheese Filling: Combine Ricotta cheese, Parmesan cheese, parsley, basil and egg yolks. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill.

Slice mozzarella cheese into sticks 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide by 1/2 inch thick. Set aside.

Slice eggplant in half lengthwise, 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick. Dredge in seasoned flour mixture, shaking off the excess.

Heat oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat, and sauté eggplant slices on both sides until soft and lightly browned. Drain on paper towels. Cool.

Place 2 tablespoons of cheese filling across the narrow end of each eggplant slice. Press a stick of mozzarella into the filling. Roll up eggplant tightly around filling. Place rolls, seams side down, in buttered baking dish. Cover with foil at this point and store in refrigerator for one to two hours; do not freeze.

Spoon Tomato-Basil Sauce over each roll and bake at 350 F for 15 minutes, or until hot and bubbling. With metal spatula, carefully place one or two eggplant rolls on heated plates. Garnish with basil leaves. Serve immediately.

Makes about 16 rolls.

Tomato-Basil Sauce

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes with liquid
1 cup dry red wine
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil or 1 teaspoon dried
2 tablespoons minced parsley
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy skillet, heat oil. Add the garlic, onions, red pepper and carrots and sauté until the onions are transparent. Dice the tomatoes and add with liquid, red wine, basil, parsley and sugar. Bring to boil and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally until thick, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pour into food processor or blender and blend well. Transfer to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Apricot Cheesecake

1 6-ounce package dried apricots
1 1/2 cups apple juice
1 1/2 cups sugar

Sugar Cookie Crust (recipe follows)

3 8-ounce packages cream cheese
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
Sour Cream Topping (recipe follows)

In a small saucepan, combine apricots, apple juice and 1/2 cup of the sugar. Bring to boil and simmer until tender, five minutes. Cool. Puree apricot mixture in food processor or blender and set aside.

Prepare Sugar Cookie Crust and refrigerate.

In bowl of an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and 1 cup of the remaining sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Blend in vanilla and 1/2 cup of apricot puree. Pour into prepared springform pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes, or until center is set and top is golden. Remove from oven; spread with sour cream topping and return to oven for five minutes. Cool. Remove from spring-form pan; garnish with apricot puree and serve cold.

Sugar Cookie Crust

1 1/2 cups sugar cookie crumbs (oatmeal, coconut or vanilla)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup apricot puree

In food processor or blender blend crumbs with butter. Transfer cookie mixture to 9-inch springform pan and press down firmly. Spread a thin layer of apricot puree over cookie mixture. Refrigerate at least 15 minutes.

Sour Cream Topping

1 pint sour cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a small bowl, blend sour cream, sugar and vanilla. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

For more holiday recipes, visit www.jewishjournal.com/local/KosherEats.php.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999) Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Celebrate Shavuot With Spring Harvest


When I was growing up, two types of food were usually associated with the holiday of Shavuot. There were the dairy dishes — blintzes, knishes, noodle kugels and, of course, cheesecake. Most of us remember them from our childhood, but they were always laden with cream, butter and cheese, and may not appeal to our diet today.

The second group reminds us of the harvest, and includes wheat, barley, lentils, spring vegetables, honey and the traditional first fruits of the season.

This year I have planned a menu for my family Shavuot dinner using many of the foods in the second category. The recipes are designed for six, but may be doubled, and can be prepared in advance.

I always include Harvest Wheat Rolls for the holiday. They carry out the harvest theme and are a perfect accompaniment for the Lentil Soup, that is accented with rich vegetable flavors and topped with olive oil. Don’t forget to serve a bowl of honey to spoon on the rolls.

Harvest Wheat Rolls

2 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups unbleached flour

1 package active dry yeast

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup warm water

1/4 cup olive oil or safflower oil

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup peeled, grated carrots

2 eggs

1/4 cup yellow corn meal

2 tablespoons sesame seeds

Combine the flours. Place 2 cups of flour mixture, yeast and salt in bowl of an electric mixer. Heat water, oil and honey in a saucepan until very warm, 115 F to 120 F. Add water mixture to flour mixture, beating until well blended. Beat in one egg, carrots and 2 cups of flour mixture to make a soft dough. Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 5-10 minutes, adding remaining flour to make a smooth and elastic dough. Place dough in an oiled bowl and oil the top. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.

Line baking sheet with foil; brush with oil and sprinkle with corn meal. Break off small pieces of dough (about 30) forming each piece into a long rope, twist into a knot and place on prepared baking sheet. Cover with towel and let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1 hour.

Beat remaining egg and brush the top of rolls. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake at 350 F for 20-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about 30 rolls.

Lentil Soup

1 1/2 cups lentils

2 bay leaves, crumbled

1/4 cup unsalted butter or nondairy 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

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon each, minced parsley, green onions and basil leaves

Olive Oil for garnish

Soak lentils in 4 cups water six hours or overnight. Drain lentils and place in large pot with 8 cups warm water and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then simmer 20-25 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.

Ladle into serving bowl. Sprinkle parsley, green onions and basil and drizzle with olive oil.

Makes 8-10 servings.


Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (William Morrow & Co, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

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