At Shavuot, a Salute to the Land of Milk and Honey



In ancient times, Israel was crowned "the land of milk and honey." And with the abundance of fine, fresh Israeli dairy products, this is still true today.

Although everyone agrees that the food of choice for Shavuot is cheese, as in blintzes and kugels, there are many opinions as to why it has become customary to serve dairy dishes to celebrate the holiday that marks the receiving of the Torah.

One explanation is that spring harvest festivals featured dairy dishes, because cheese was produced during that season.

For Hungarian Jews, Shavuot coincided with the country's abundant sour cherry harvest so dishes with sour cherries were eaten during the holiday.

To celebrate Shavuot, pack a picnic supper and dine outdoors, in your backyard, patio or a nearby park. Let it be fuss-free and delicious.

Start off with Sour Cherry Soup, which is chilled and then poured into a vacuum flask. Dairy sandwiches may be prepared ahead and refrigerated to let the flavors meld. Consider using tortillas, croissants, crusty French bread or puff pastry shells that can be stuffed with a salad, such as tuna or salmon.

Citrus Broccoli Salad packs well and goes with any sandwich of your choice. Finish off with Brown Sugar Shortbread.

Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup


2 jars (24 oz.) pitted sour cherries
1/2 cup unsweetened apple juice
juice of 3 large lemons
zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar or to taste
1 tsp. cinnamon
11/4 cups sour half-and-half
2 Tbsps. cornstarch
1 large Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and grated on large side of grater
1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

Strain the juices from jarred cherries into a saucepan. Reserve the cherries.

To the cherry juice, add the apple juice, lemon juice, lemon zest, sugar and cinnamon. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Reduce to simmer and cook for 8 minutes or until slightly reduced. Cool for at least 15 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the sour half-and-half and cornstarch. Mixture should be smooth. Pour the cooled juice mixture, whisking constantly. Add the reserved cherries and grated apple. Bring to a simmer, whisking constantly. Cook 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture is slightly thickened. Whisk often.

Chill for 2 to 3 hours. Serve with dollops of vanilla yogurt.

Serves 6.

Sandwich Wrap, Israeli-Style


1/2 cup prepared hummus
1/4 cup sweet onion (Vidalia) finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
4 (8-inch) wheat tortillas
1 can (11 oz.) mandarin orange sections, drained
4 large lettuce leaves, shredded
1 cup crumbled goat cheese
1/2 cup shredded basil leaves
lemon pepper seasoning

In a bowl, combine the hummus, onion and bell pepper. Spread over the tortillas. Top with the orange slices, goat cheese and basil. Sprinkle lightly with lemon pepper seasoning. Roll up as for a jelly roll. Cut each in half and serve.

Serves 4.

Tangy Salmon Salad in Croissants


All herbs should be measured packed.

1/4 cup bottled vinaigrette dressing
3 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsps. each chopped fresh dill, fresh mint and parsley
1 Tbsp. capers, rinsed and chopped coarsely
1 can (14.75 oz.) sockeye salmon, drained and flaked
11/2 cups diced cucumber
2 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
6 warm croissants, split

In a small bowl, whisk together the dressing, lemon juice, herbs and capers.

In a separate bowl, toss together the salmon, cucumber and onions. Pour the dressing over and mix. Spoon the mixture equally over the bottom halves of the croissants. Set the croissant tops over and press gently. Serve on a lettuce lined platter.

Makes 6 sandwiches.

Portofino Sandwich


Spiked with the sunny flavors of the Mediterranean

1 loaf crusty French bread, split lengthwise
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
garlic powder
8 slices semisoft cheese, such as Bel Paese or Camembert
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3 large tomatoes, thinly sliced
1 jar (4 oz.) diced pimentos, drained
1 can (2 oz.) anchovy fillets, drained and chopped
10 to 12 pitted, oil-cured olives, sliced
2-3 Tbsps. shredded parmesan cheese
1/3 cups shredded basil leaves, packed

Brush the cut sides of the bread with olive oil. Sprinkle lightly with garlic powder. Arrange the soft cheese to cover the bottom half of the bread. Top with the onion, tomatoes, pimentos, anchovies and olives. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, then the remaining oil, vinegar and basil. Cover with the remaining bread and press lightly.

Wrap in foil and refrigerate for 1 hour. Unwrap, slice with a serrated knife and serve.

Serves 6.

Citrus Broccoli Salad


2 packages (10 oz. each) frozen broccoli florets
2 Tbsps. fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 Tbsps. frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
2 Tbsps. chopped chives
1/2 tsp. paprika
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare the broccoli according to package directions. In a small bowl, combine the remaining ingredients, whisking well. Pour over the broccoli. Toss to mix. Serve chilled.

Serves 6.

Brown Sugar Shortbread


1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp. almond extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2-3 Tbsps. brown sugar crystals (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°. Spray an 11×7-inch baking pan with non-stick cooking spray.

In a small mixing bowl, beat butter and sugars until pale and fluffy. Add the almond extract, then the flour gradually, about 1/3 cup at a time. All the flour should be thoroughly mixed in before each addition. Press into prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with sugar crystals (optional). Prick all over with a fork.

Bake for 25 minutes or until edges are beginning to brown. While still warm, cut into squares. Shortbread will crisp up as it cools.

Makes 30 to 32 pieces.

Ethel G. Hofman is a past president of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. Email her at: [email protected]



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