Shavuot

Cheese and Vegetable Kugel

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When my kids were young and still living at home, I made kugel a lot. My daughters were not terribly anti-vegetable, but I realized that pairing veggies and noodles would make it even easier to have more vegetables at our meals.

Also, it is a good way to use leftovers -- the recipe below is extremely versatile. Add cut up cooked green beans or asparagus, corn kernels, peas. Like that.

This kugel is filling enough for dinner. Also yummy with a sunny-side egg or two on top of each serving for a meatless (Monday) dinner. And a wonderful choice for dairy-fest Shavuot.

Veggie Kugel

  • 4 tablespoons olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 10-12 ounces mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 bunch spinach or kale, washed and dried, coarsely cut
  • 2 medium carrots, shredded
  • 12 ounces medium-wide egg noodles
  • 3 large eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup grated Swiss cheese
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
  • paprika

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x9” baking dish. Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the spinach and cook for another 1-2 minutes or until it has wilted (kale may take a minute or so longer). Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Remove from the heat and set aside. Cook the noodles according to package directions, drain and place in a large bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, the cooked vegetables, eggs, sour cream and 3/4 cup of the Swiss cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Stir to mix ingredients well. Place in the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the top with the remaining Swiss cheese, Parmesan cheese and paprika. Bake for about 35 minutes or until the top is crispy and brown.

Makes 6-8 servings

 

New York Cheesecake

This is my no-better-than-this-one cheesecake.

Honest.

I have tasted all sorts. Plain, chocolate, gloppy-cherry-topped, graham cracker crusted, pumpkin-infused, brandy-spiked, caramel swirled. Sara Lee’s, Lindy’s, Eli’s, Junior’s.

Not that I spend my life eating cheesecake. In fact, cheesecake is a rare item at our house because, let’s face it, there are enough calories in one slice for an entire meal.

Nope. Cheesecake is reserved for special occasions, like Shavuot (which begins at sundown May 14 this year). It’s tradition to eat dairy on this holiday, and cheesecake has always been the most popular holiday dessert.

As far as I’m concerned, because cheesecake is such a rarity in my life, it has to be worthy. Worthy of a celebration. Worth adding all those calories to my day.

This one is.

Honest.

 

New York Cheesecake

 

  • 1-1/2 teaspoons butter or margarine
  • 1/3 cup graham cracker crumbs (approximately)
  • 1-1/2 pounds cream cheese (3-8 ounce packages)
  • freshly grated peel of one small orange
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated lemon peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup whipping cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup dairy sour cream or unflavored yogurt

 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the butter on the bottom and sides of a 9” springform pan. Sprinkle the inside of the pan with the graham cracker crumbs. Shake the pan to coat the bottom and sides of the pan completely. Beat the cream cheese, orange peel and lemon peel together in the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese has softened and is smooth. Gradually add the vanilla, cream and sugar and beat for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating them in after each addition. Stir in the sour cream. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Prepare a bain-marie, that is, place the springform pan inside a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come at least 1-inch up the sides of the baking dish. Bake for 70-75 minutes or until the top of the cake is lightly browned. Remove the springform pan from the larger pan and let the cake cool in the springform pan. When the cake has reached room temperature, refrigerate it for at least 4 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled. Remove the sides of the pan to serve the cake. Slices best using a knife that has been inserted into very hot water. Makes one

Half and Half Cheesecake

Why wait for a holiday to eat cheesecake?  We didn’t.  Last week as the family gathered I wanted to make a dessert we hadn’t eaten in a while, so I played around with my basic cheesecake batter and came up with this sort of striped, half vanilla, half chocolate version.  When even my grandson Remy, who is 2 and will not eat cheese, asked for “mo cheesecake, mo cheesecake!” I knew I had a winner. (Everyone else liked it too.)  You might think cheesecake is too heavy for summer eating. But it doesn’t have to be. This recipe is light, but creamy and soft. Nice even on a hot hot day.  You can make this cake all vanilla, of course (I would add some freshly grated lemon and/or orange peel, maybe 2-3 teaspoons grated) or all chocolate (increase the melted chocolate to 10 ounces).  Among the great things about cheesecake is that you can make lots of changes easily to suit yourself and it’s still cheesecake. Like, you can serve it plain or cover it with glazed fruit. Or you can build a graham cracker crust inside. And so on. Also, you can save leftovers for another day: wrap in plastic and put in the freezer for months.  Try this first and let your tastebuds take you from there:   Half and Half Cheesecake   6 ounces semisweet chocolate  1-1/2 pounds cream cheese (3 8-ounce packages)  1 cup sugar  4 large eggs  1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract  1/2 cup whipping cream  1/3 cup dairy sour cream or unflavored yogurt   Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water (or use a microwave oven). Set aside to cool. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set it aside. Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer set on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract, cream and sour cream. Remove half the batter to a second bowl. Add the melted chocolate to one of the halves and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon one of the batters into the prepared pan. Top with the second batter. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come at least 1” up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes or until the cake is set and doesn’t shake when the pan is moved gently. Remove the springform pan from the larger pan and let the cake cool in the springform pan. When the cake has reached room temperature, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled. Remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cake into slices using a knife that has been heated under hot water and dried. Makes one cake, 8-12 servings 

Why wait for a holiday to eat cheesecake?

We didn’t.

Last week as the family gathered I wanted to make a dessert we hadn’t eaten in a while, so I played around with my basic cheesecake batter and came up with this sort of striped, half vanilla, half chocolate version.

When even my grandson Remy, who is 2 and will not eat cheese, asked for “mo cheesecake, mo cheesecake!” I knew I had a winner. (Everyone else liked it too.)

You might think cheesecake is too heavy for summer eating. But it doesn’t have to be. This recipe is light, but creamy and soft. Nice even on a hot hot day.

You can make this cake all vanilla, of course (I would add some freshly grated lemon and/or orange peel, maybe 2-3 teaspoons grated) or all chocolate (increase the melted chocolate to 10 ounces).

Among the great things about cheesecake is that you can make lots of changes easily to suit yourself and it’s still cheesecake. Like, you can serve it plain or cover it with glazed fruit. Or you can build a graham cracker crust inside. And so on. Also, you can save leftovers for another day: wrap in plastic and put in the freezer for months.

Try this first and let your tastebuds take you from there:

Half and Half Cheesecake

6 ounces semisweet chocolate

1-1/2 pounds cream cheese (3 8-ounce packages)

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup whipping cream

1/3 cup dairy sour cream or unflavored yogurt 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler over barely simmering water (or use a microwave oven). Set aside to cool. Butter a 9-inch springform pan and set it aside. Beat the cream cheese and sugar with an electric mixer set on medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Stir in the vanilla extract, cream and sour cream. Remove half the batter to a second bowl. Add the melted chocolate to one of the halves and blend it in thoroughly. Spoon one of the batters into the prepared pan. Top with the second batter. Place the springform pan inside a larger pan. Fill the larger pan with enough hot water to come at least 1” up the sides of the springform pan. Bake for 65-70 minutes or until the cake is set and doesn’t shake when the pan is moved gently. Remove the springform pan from the larger pan and let the cake cool in the springform pan. When the cake has reached room temperature, place it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or until it is thoroughly chilled. Remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cake into slices using a knife that has been heated under hot water and dried. Makes one cake, 8-12 servings 

Wheatberry Salad with Tomatoes and Olives

Can you grill dairy foods?  That’s a dilemma (sort of) this weekend as we celebrate two holidays at once! For Jews, it’s Shavuot. For all Americans, it’s Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the grilling season.  As far as the food stuff goes, Shavuot is the “dairy” holiday. When we eat all things cheese (as well as other dairy products), especially cheesecake.   But, except for a few items, like grilled halloumi cheese, which is quite delicious (cut the cheese into strips, coat them with olive oil, stick them on a skewer and grill them until they’re crispy on the outside), we don’t grill most dairy products.  However, we can grill fish and eat them with other dairy products.  Or grill meat and eat some wonderful side dishes (and save the cheesecake for another time during the holiday).  This wheatberry salad fits perfectly into both holiday meals. It is a substantial side dish, you can make it ahead and it can be either dairy or non-dairy (leave the cheese out, substitute nothing or some other vegetable of tofu). You can make this into a meat-based salad too — add some cut up grilled chicken or beef, etc.  Matter of fact, this is a good, healthy salad choice for the entire summer.  My kids love when I make this kind of salad. This is the young generation’s way to eat now. Less meat, more whole grains and veggies. You can use this salad as part of a vegetarian meal.  Also, just as you can leave out the cheese, you can make this dish with a different grain (like barley or quinoa). Use different herbs. Play around with the recipe and invent on your own. Cook the grain according to the directions on the package. The rest, as the great sage Hillel said, “is commentary.”   Wheatberry Salad with Tomatoes and Olives   1 cup wheatberries  3 cups water  1 15-ounce can (drained) black beans  1 large avocado, cut into chunks  1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper  1 cup halved grape tomatoes  1/2 cup chopped red onion  1 cup chopped cheese or meat (optional)  1 fresh serrano pepper, deseeded and finely chopped  2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves  1/3 cup olive oil  3 tablespoons red wine vingar  1 teaspoon Dijon mustard  1/2 teaspoon ground cumin  salt and freshly ground pepper to taste  Place the wheatberries in a large saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 50-60 minutes or until the wheat is tender. Drain any remaining liquid and place the wheatberries in a bowl to cool. Add the black beans, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion, cheese or meat if used, serrano pepper and oregano and toss to distribute ingredients evenly. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard and cumin. Pour over the salad and toss the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad stand at least 30 minutes before serving.  Makes 6-8 servings

Can you grill dairy foods?

That’s a dilemma (sort of) this weekend as we celebrate two holidays at once! For Jews, it’s Shavuot. For all Americans, it’s Memorial Day, the unofficial start of the grilling season.

As far as the food stuff goes, Shavuot is the “dairy” holiday. When we eat all things cheese (as well as other dairy products), especially cheesecake. 

But, except for a few items, like grilled halloumi cheese, which is quite delicious (cut the cheese into strips, coat them with olive oil, stick them on a skewer and grill them until they’re crispy on the outside), we don’t grill most dairy products.

However, we can grill fish and eat them with other dairy products.

Or grill meat and eat some wonderful side dishes (and save the cheesecake for another time during the holiday).

This wheatberry salad fits perfectly into both holiday meals. It is a substantial side dish, you can make it ahead and it can be either dairy or non-dairy (leave the cheese out, substitute nothing or some other vegetable of tofu). You can make this into a meat-based salad too — add some cut up grilled chicken or beef, etc.

Matter of fact, this is a good, healthy salad choice for the entire summer.

My kids love when I make this kind of salad. This is the young generation’s way to eat now. Less meat, more whole grains and veggies. You can use this salad as part of a vegetarian meal.

Also, just as you can leave out the cheese, you can make this dish with a different grain (like barley or quinoa). Use different herbs. Play around with the recipe and invent on your own. Cook the grain according to the directions on the package. The rest, as the great sage Hillel said, “is commentary.”

Wheatberry Salad with Tomatoes and Olives

1 cup wheatberries

3 cups water

1 15-ounce can (drained) black beans

1 large avocado, cut into chunks

1/2 cup chopped red bell pepper

1 cup halved grape tomatoes

1/2 cup chopped red onion

1 cup chopped cheese or meat (optional)

1 fresh serrano pepper, deseeded and finely chopped

2 teaspoons fresh oregano leaves

1/3 cup olive oil

3 tablespoons red wine vingar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Place the wheatberries in a large saucepan and add the water. Bring to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for about 50-60 minutes or until the wheat is tender. Drain any remaining liquid and place the wheatberries in a bowl to cool. Add the black beans, avocado, bell pepper, tomatoes, red onion, cheese or meat if used, serrano pepper and oregano and toss to distribute ingredients evenly. In a small bowl whisk the olive oil, wine vinegar, mustard and cumin. Pour over the salad and toss the ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. Let the salad stand at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes 6-8 servings

Kale Gratin

Kale is king these days. I’ve been reading all about things such as crispy fried kale and kale chips and braised kale and of course, kale soup. 
 All delicious. And it’s healthy too. Calcium. Vitamins A, C and K (sounds like New York subway lines). Also one of those cabbage descendants that may have anti-cancer effects. 
 I never heard of kale, growing up. The only cabbage we ate was in Aunt Goldie’s special soup and also the sauerkraut we put on top of our hot dogs. 
 But now, as I said, kale is king. Like other cabbage cousins, it can be acrid so you have to treat it right. If you overcook it, it can smell up the entire kitchen. But if you undercook it it doesn’t taste right. 
 I buy kale a lot because I like to experiment with recipes, especially with ingredients that weren’t familiar from my childhood. 
 But Ed has always hated my kale concoctions. 
 Until this one: Kale Gratin. It looked so appealing to him he actually asked for a piece (I was saving it to be rewarmed for another meal). And then he asked for seconds! 
 A miracle. 
 We finished the rest the next day (10 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven). 
 Enjoy this, kale lovers! 
 Enjoy this, everyone celebrating Shavuot. It’s the cheese dish I will be serving instead of my usual Spinach Pie this year. 
 Kale Gratin 
 1 large bunch kale 
 2 large eggs 
 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 
 1 cup half and half cream 
 1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese 
 salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste 
 2-3 tablespoons plain, fresh or dry bread crumbs 
 1 tablespoon butter 

 Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off and discard the hard stems from the kale. Discard discolored leaves. Wash the leaves carefully and cut them into 3-4 pieces. Place the leaves in a large saucepan, add about 1 cup water and cover the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes or until the leaves are soft and wilted. Press the water out of the leaves. Chop the leaves into small pieces and place in a lightly greased baking dish. In a bowl, beat the eggs and mustard until combined. Stir in the cream and blend ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the Swiss cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the kale and stir to distribute the kale evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Cut the butter into small pieces and use them to dot the surface of the gratin. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden brown. Makes 4-6 servings

Kale is king these days. I’ve been reading all about things such as crispy fried kale and kale chips and braised kale and of course, kale soup.

All delicious. And it’s healthy too. Calcium. Vitamins A, C and K (sounds like New York subway lines). Also one of those cabbage descendants that may have anti-cancer effects.

I never heard of kale, growing up. The only cabbage we ate was in Aunt Goldie’s special soup and also the sauerkraut we put on top of our hot dogs.

But now, as I said, kale is king. Like other cabbage cousins, it can be acrid so you have to treat it right. If you overcook it, it can smell up the entire kitchen. But if you undercook it it doesn’t taste right.

I buy kale a lot because I like to experiment with recipes, especially with ingredients that weren’t familiar from my childhood.

But Ed has always hated my kale concoctions.

Until this one: Kale Gratin. It looked so appealing to him he actually asked for a piece (I was saving it to be rewarmed for another meal). And then he asked for seconds!

A miracle.

We finished the rest the next day (10 minutes in a preheated 400 degree oven).

Enjoy this, kale lovers!

Enjoy this, everyone celebrating Shavuot. It’s the cheese dish I will be serving instead of my usual Spinach Pie this year.

Kale Gratin

1 large bunch kale

2 large eggs

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 cup half and half cream

1/2 cup grated Swiss cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

2-3 tablespoons plain, fresh or dry bread crumbs

1 tablespoon butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cut off and discard the hard stems from the kale. Discard discolored leaves. Wash the leaves carefully and cut them into 3-4 pieces. Place the leaves in a large saucepan, add about 1 cup water and cover the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes or until the leaves are soft and wilted. Press the water out of the leaves. Chop the leaves into small pieces and place in a lightly greased baking dish. In a bowl, beat the eggs and mustard until combined. Stir in the cream and blend ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the Swiss cheese and some salt and pepper to taste. Pour the mixture over the kale and stir to distribute the kale evenly in the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top. Cut the butter into small pieces and use them to dot the surface of the gratin. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the top is crispy and golden brown. Makes 4-6 servings

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

Is this any time to be eating cheesecake? I mean, just when the weather is grand and we are beginning to think about what we will look like in a bathing suit soon?  Well, yes, if you don’t eat the whole cake and maybe you cut down on other high-calorie items or maybe work out a little longer. Indulgence is fine, IMHO, as long as it doesn’t get to be a habit.  And yes, if you will be observing Shavuot next weekend. This Jewish holiday celebrates the giving of the law (Torah) to the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. But somehow, for celebration sake anyway, there’s usually a cheesecake involved. Scholars say it may have to do with the Israelites’ flight from Egypt to the Holy Land, which is described as the land of “Milk and Honey.”  I think this year I will serve a different kind of cheesecake: Brownies with Cheesecake. In fact, they are already in my freezer for the company I am expecting.      Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies   1 cup butter  4 ounces unsweetened chocolate  2-1/2 cups sugar  4 large eggs  1 cup all purpose flour  1/2 teaspoon salt  1 cup chopped nuts, optional  2 teaspoons vanilla extract  1 8-ounce package cream cheese  Lightly grease a 13”x9” baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large saucepan set over low heat (or in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water). When the butter and chocolate have melted, blend them and stir in 2 cups of the sugar and 3 of the eggs. Whisk ingredients thoroughly. Add the flour, salt, nuts (if used) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir in the ingredients with a large wooden spoon. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until thoroughly blended. Spoon blobs of the cream cheese mixture on top of the chocolate batter. Cut through the cheese, making swirls in the chocolate mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool. Cut into bars with a sharp knife dipped into hot water. Refrigerate. Makes 24-36 pieces

Is this any time to be eating cheesecake? I mean, just when the weather is grand and we are beginning to think about what we will look like in a bathing suit soon?

Well, yes, if you don’t eat the whole cake and maybe you cut down on other high-calorie items or maybe work out a little longer. Indulgence is fine, IMHO, as long as it doesn’t get to be a habit.

And yes, if you will be observing Shavuot next weekend. This Jewish holiday celebrates the giving of the law (Torah) to the Israelites after the Exodus from Egypt. But somehow, for celebration sake anyway, there’s usually a cheesecake involved. Scholars say it may have to do with the Israelites’ flight from Egypt to the Holy Land, which is described as the land of “Milk and Honey.”

I think this year I will serve a different kind of cheesecake: Brownies with Cheesecake. In fact, they are already in my freezer for the company I am expecting.

 

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies

1 cup butter

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate

2-1/2 cups sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chopped nuts, optional

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

Lightly grease a 13”x9” baking pan. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a large saucepan set over low heat (or in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water). When the butter and chocolate have melted, blend them and stir in 2 cups of the sugar and 3 of the eggs. Whisk ingredients thoroughly. Add the flour, salt, nuts (if used) and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and stir in the ingredients with a large wooden spoon. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 egg and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract until thoroughly blended. Spoon blobs of the cream cheese mixture on top of the chocolate batter. Cut through the cheese, making swirls in the chocolate mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool. Cut into bars with a sharp knife dipped into hot water. Refrigerate. Makes 24-36 pieces

Tiramisu is still in style.

It’s funny how we Americans latch onto a new food or recipe and eat it to death and then get bored with it. Like quiche and blackened fish, which were popular in the 1980s but we don’t hear about them much anymore. 

Tiramisu also came along in the 1980s, at least in the States. In Italy it was a long-standing classic. I had my first taste when we were on a family vacation with the kids and our waiter in some lovely restaurant near Venice suggested we “have the tiramisu.” None of us knew what it was but from the description it sure sounded good, which it was.

And then, when we got back home, Tiramisu was all over the news (the food pages anyway). I felt as if I had sent some sort of brain wave signal: Eat this — it’s great!

But of course, it’s just that some American chef or other had discovered this Italian dish and then it popped up at dozens of restaurants and then everyone wanted the recipe to make at home so there were dozens of versions for the food pages.

And then, as with so many other foods, people got tired of tiramisu because they had eaten it so often.

But only for a while. Tiramisu never really went out of style.

Tiramisu is still in style because it’s rich and creamy, it’s light and refreshing, it’s delicious and also easy to make. You can’t beat that.

Yes, there are complicated versions — the classic recipe calls for eggs and soaked ladyfingers and so on. But there are also some really good quick and easy ones too. Like the recipe here. It’s a good choice for a last minute dessert for Shavuot. But also suitable all summer and into the fall.

Easy Tiramisu

12 ounces Mascarpone cheese

1 cup small curd cottage cheese or ricotta cheese

2 tablespoons dairy sour cream or heavy sweet cream

1/2 cup sugar

4 tablespoons cold brewed coffee

2 tablespoons coffee flavored liqueur

ladyfingers 

1 teaspoon cocoa powder

1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar

3-4 tablespoons finely chopped chocolate

Place the Mascarpone and cottage cheeses in an electric mixer bowl (or use a hand mixer) and beat at medium-high speed for 2-3 minutes or until smooth and well blended. Add the cream, sugar, 2 tablespoons coffee and the liqueur and beat to blend them in thoroughly,. Raise the speed to high and beat for 2-3 minutes or until thick. Place some ladyfingers in a serving dish. Brush with the remaining coffee. Spoon the cheese mixture on top. Dust with cocoa powder and confectioner’s sugar (best to use a small strainer). Sprinkle the chocolate on top. Refrigerate for at least one hour. Makes 6 servings

Shavuot and working out are both about cheesecake!

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In the old days, if you’re Jewish, and you knew the holiday Shavuot was coming your first food thought would be “YUM. CHEESECAKE.”

Cheesecake and Shavuot go hand in hand. This is a dairy-eating kind of holiday.

Why is not important really. It’s tradition.

But a lot of food writers, like me, try to steer you away and suggest that there are, after all, lots of other dairy foods that you can (and should) eat during the holiday. Not just cheesecake. 

Of course.

But cheesecake is still the number #1 favorite I think.

So, what kind?

I love the plain old, Lindy’s sort of cheesecake. Creamy, smooth, rich. No gloppy fruit on top. The kind that softens on your tongue and melts away inside your mouth in time for the next bite.

I make a darn good cheesecake. But my trainer Robbie, who makes me do millions of pushups and something called mountain climbers and other things called squats in order to work off any cheesecake I may have eaten in between workout sessions, told me his cheesecake is awesome. He’s not Jewish and probably never heard of Shavuot.

He brought a slice along to one of my workouts.

Now, I have to ask — do you think that’s fair????

But I have to say, it was YUMMY. 

I asked for the recipe and here it is.

Whether or not you are Jewish and whether or not you celebrate Shavuot, which starts this year at sundown on June 7th, do make this cheesecake! You can store this in the fridge for days and even freeze the leftovers, if there are any.

Robbie’s Cheesecake

  • 4 8-ounce packages cream cheese

  • 1/4 pound butter

  • 1-1/2 cups sugar

  • 1 pint dairy sour cream

  • 5 large eggs

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 12-inch springform pan. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add the butter and beat the ingredients until they are smooth and thoroughly blended. Add the sugar and beat until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Add the sour cream and beat until the ingredients are thoroughly blended. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. Add the cornstarch and vanilla extract and blend them in thoroughly. Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan. Place the pan in a larger pan filled with water that comes up one-inch on the sides of the cake pan. Bake for about one hour or until set and lightly browned. Remove the cake pan from the water bath. Let the cake cool on a cake rack. When the cake is cool, refrigerate until well chilled. Remove the sides of the pan and serve.

Makes 12-16 servings

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

Soggy Cheesecake Crust

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Hi Leslie - sorry that your cheesecake crust comes out soggy. It may be that water leaks into the seams of the springform pan. You can line the bottom with tin foil (overhang it), then attach the side, then take the overhanging part and crumple it to try to seal all the edges. That may help.

On the other hand — it may be the recipe. It’s important to bake the crust for at least 10 minutes in a preheated 350 degree oven. Then let it cool. Then fill it.

Another trick you can try — add some ground nuts to the crumbs. Nuts always crisp up nicely and stay crispy better than crumbs do.

Another tip: bake the crust for 10 minutes, brush it with an egg wash (beat an egg with a small amount of water) and bake for another 3-4 minutes.

And another: let the crust cool, then layer on a thin layer of melted chocolate, jam, lemon curd or the like. This adds a flavor dimension of course, but it also helps keep the crust crispy.

After sitting in the fridge, even after all that, eventually cheesecake crust will become soggy just from the moisture in the cheese. But the tips above will help get you a better crust at least at the beginning.