Shavuot: More than Cheesecake

Shavuot, which celebrates the giving of the Torah, is also one of the most delicious holidays.

Visions of cheesecake come to mind.

Somehow Shavuot and cheesecake go hand in hand.

Actually it is a “dairy” holiday generally. My grandmother, for instance, made her famous cheese blintzes, and so did a lot of other grandmas. Blintzes are to this day, a go-to dish for Shavuot.

It’s not clear why Shavuot = dairy. It could be because the holiday commemorates the origins of the kosher dietary laws, and one of those laws demands the separation of meat and dairy. But it could also be because in the Torah, Israel is called the land of milk and honey.

Of course anyone can figure out why cheesecake became a favorite. Few desserts are as rich and extravagant and yet so plain and simple.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for something light, but creamy and way less caloric than cheesecake, here’s a recipe for a tasty soup you can serve for the holiday and all summer. You can serve the soup hot or refrigerate it and serve it cold.

Cream of Fennel Soup

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 leek, cleaned and chopped

2 bulbs fennel, cleaned and thinly sliced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 medium all-purpose potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

3 cups vegetable stock

3 cups water

1 cup half and half or light cream

salt and freshly ground blak pepper to taste

anise extract, optional, to taste

Heat the vegetable oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3-4 minutes. Add the fennel and lemon juice and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Add the potatoes, stock, water and some salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pan partially and cook for 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup in a blender or food processor with a hand blender. Return the soup to the pan, add the cream and heat through. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste, plus anise extract to taste if desired. Makes 6 servings