Sheer Dairy Delights for Shavuot


In honor of Shavuot, satisfy your taste buds with these healthier, lighter, dairy friendly recipes.

In the time of the Temple, the Jewish people made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem three times a year: Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot. On Shavuot, the Jews would bring their best first fruits to the Temple. I am blessed to be writing this article in Jeru­salem, where we came for a short trip to celebrate two different weddings of close friends.
As I write, I can see the Old City from my window, and was privileged to visit the Kotel several times. This week, we also took hikes through the Judean hills in Ein Gedi, on the shore of the Dead Sea.
How the Jewish people made their way to Jerusalem through those hills, I can only imagine. Even with a few donkeys, it must have been a challenging journey. With the residual kedusha of our stay, when I go back to my “second” home in the States, I know that celebrating Shavuot this year will be even more meaningful.
Shavuot is also known as the “Dairy Holiday.” One of the reasons is that when the Jews received the Torah, they began to follow kosher dietary laws. To do this they had to “kosher” their cooking utensils and prepare kosher meat. During the koshering process they had to eat dairy foods. Bonus for us!
I love making dairy foods for Shavuot. Cheesy, creamy, dairy goodness! But cheese and dairy often mean heavy, full of calories and just plain bad for you. Instead, you can now satisfy your taste buds with these healthier, lighter, dairy friendly recipes — guilt free! Chag sameach!
Roasted Cauliflower and Caramelized Onion Soup
Roasting the cauliflower brings out its rich flavor for a healthy, twist on traditional onion soup. You can add fresh mozzarella and croutons to make it extra special. If you do use another type of cauliflower (purple, green, orange), make sure to adjust the roasting time — they take less time to roast.
nonstick vegetable spray
2 large heads cauliflower, broken into florets
1⁄4 cup olive oil
1⁄4-1⁄2 tsp. salt
2 Tbsps. olive oil
4-5 medium onions, chopped (approximately 4 cups)
1 clove garlic
4 cups vegetable stock
8 cups water
optional toppings: croutons, shredded mozzarella cheese, grated parmesan, crisp fried onions
Preheat oven to 350˚ or 325˚ convection. Line a large baking sheet with foil and spray with nonstick vegetable spray.  Set aside.
In a large bowl, toss the cauliflower with the 1⁄4 cup olive oil. Evenly distribute the cauliflower on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt. Bake uncovered for 45 minutes until the cauliflower is soft.
Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large 8-quart stock pot. Add the chopped onions and sauté until caramelized. Add garlic, vegetable stock, water and roasted cauliflower, then bring to a boil. Remove from heat, then, using an immersion blender, blend the soup until smooth. Top with croutons, shredded mozzarella or parmesan cheese, or crisp fried onions. Serve hot.
Makes 6 quarts (gluten-free).
Claudette’s Haystacks
Our family friend Claudette is from Jamaica and always has new and interesting recipes to share with me. We have the best time comparing my family’s Ashkenazi traditional recipes with her traditional Jamaican ones. Claudette is also a vegetarian, so her recipes are generally extremely healthy. She recently shared her family favorite of Haystacks with me. It’s awesome and perfect for a crowd.
Cashew Sauce Ingredients:
2 cups cashews (salted is fine)
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp. lemon juice (or more to taste)
1⁄2 tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
1 Tbsp. olive oil (optional)
2 fresh red pepper (pimiento)
salt to taste
Haystack Ingredients:
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
8 oz. shredded lettuce
1 can (15 oz.) black beans, red kidney or pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (3.8 oz.) sliced olives, drained
1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
1 medium cucumber, seeded and diced
10 oz. corn tortilla chips
For the Sauce: Place the cashews, garlic, lemon juice, crushed red pepper and olive oil in a blender or the bowl of a food processor.  Process until smooth, adding a tablespoon of water at a time until the mixture is “salad dressing” consistency. Transfer to a medium bowl. Stir in the red pepper if using. Set aside.
For the Haystack: Spread the rice on a large platter. Top with the shredded lettuce, beans, olives, diced tomato and cucumber. Sprinkle with a few tortilla chips and place the remaining chips around the “haystack.” Spoon the prepared sauce over the “haystack.” Serve immediately.
Serves 6 to 8 (gluten-free).
Spicy Tofu Poppers
I frequently get requests to review the latest and greatest kosher cookbooks. A while back I reviewed Chic Made Simple by Esther Deutsch. One of my family’s favorite recipes from the book is Chicken Fire Poppers. They are sweet, spicy and tangy. I recently converted the recipe for a vegetarian Shabbat guest using tofu instead of chicken. I also baked the poppers instead of frying them to cut the calories and make them healthier.
1 lb. firm tofu
2 eggs
1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp. onion powder
2 cups cornflake crumbs
nonstick vegetable spray
Sauce Ingredients:
1⁄2 cup sugar
1⁄2 cup brown sugar
1⁄4 cup honey
1⁄3 cup hot sauce
Preheat oven to 375˚. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray with nonstick vegetable spray. Set aside.
Cut the tofu into 16 pieces by slicing the tofu into half lengthwise, then 8 making 16. Set aside.
Place the eggs in a medium bowl. Add the garlic powder and onion powder, then whisk until blended. Place the cornflake crumbs in a casserole dish or on a large plate.
Coat each piece of tofu with the egg mixture, then completely coat with the cornflake crumbs. Place on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining tofu.
Spray the tofu generously with nonstick vegetable spray. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes until crispy and lightly browned.
While the tofu is baking, prepare the sauce. Combine the sugar, brown sugar, honey and hot sauce in a medium saucepan. Place over medium heat until the sugars are melted and all the ingredients are blended.
When the tofu is done baking, spoon the sauce over the tofu. Reduce the oven temperature to 350˚ and bake the tofu uncovered for 15 minutes. Serve warm.
Serves 4 (gluten-free).
Chicagoan Sharon Matten is a freelance pastry chef, kosher food writer, electrical engineer, wife and mom. Find Sharon at: or email: [email protected].


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