Shavout is the Festival of weeks (shavuot in Hebrew means weeks) but it has many names-Hag Hakatzir Festival of Reaping (cutting the harvest), Yom Habikurim Day of the First Fruits and more.
The holiday celebrates all of the above. The 7 weeks from Passover, the harvest of the grain and all the new fruits that come with the season. Even the new animals that are born at this time of the year.
I am not sure why I love Shavuot as much as I do but I really feel that this is a beautiful holiday. I guess it is the white clothes, the respect for nature and excitement about all the NEW beginnings.
Shavuot is very well known in Israel and less known around the world. Although it is one of the 3 REGALIM (that are big deals by Jewish religion), it is the least felt Religious holiday in my opinion.
Shavuot has many customs that make it as unique as it is. But, before that, why do we celebrate Shavuot? It is the celebration of receiving the Torah by God on Mount Sinai, while the Jews were walking to Israel, The Holy Land, The Land of Milk and Honey, after being slaved by Pharaoh.
Shavout is celebrated 7 weeks after Passover and also symbolizes the beginning of the wedding season, as you can not get married (in Israel at least) during the 7 weeks between Passover and Shavuot- the Omer.
It is the celebration of the harvest because the harvest season used to begin during Passover, with the harvest of the barley and ended at Shavuot with the harvest of the wheat so Shavuot was the concluding festival of the harvest.
It celebrates the First Fruits because it was customary to bring BIKURIM, offerings of the first fruits (the seven species – wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives and dates) to the Temple in Jerusalem.
But that is the religious part.
Growing up in Israel Shavuot was about dressing up in white, singing songs, going to visit the kibbutzim and take hay rides on trucks, seeing the new foals, calf’s and lambs. Not to talk about all the newborn babies that come out dressed in white.
During Shavuot you eat mostly dairy food. There are many explanations to why but I always feel that dairy to Shavuot, is like Guinness to St. Patrick’s day. The dairy companies decided it is their holiday and invested their promotions and budgets into it. Walking the supermarket aisles in Israel this time of year, you see it is all about the cheesecakes, cheese treats and recipes based on any and all dairy products.
I want to share some easy, tasty, dairy based recipes that are fast to prepare and great to share;
Cold Cheesecake, not baked: 1 round cake pan or other preferred shape…
For the base: different options-
1. Dip lady fingers in espresso and your cheese cake will be a mix between cheese cake and Tiramisu.
2. Break Petit Berre cookies into tiny almost powder pieces, mix in 100 grams of melted butter and optional some cinnamon. Cover the bottom of the cake pan.
3. Baked base- mix 1.5 cups of flour with 1/3 cup sugar, 3 egg yolks and 150 grams of butter into a nice dough. place 2/3 of the dough in the cake pan and the rest, spread out on a baking sheet. place both in a 325F (170C) oven for about 10 minutes until light brown. Take out of the oven and cool. Use the leftover dough to crush into almost powder consistency and sprinkle on top of the cake.
The Cheese Filling:
500 m”l heavy cream
500 gram soft cheese (Gvina levana) or Greek yogurt.
250 cream cheese – fat free or 1/3 fat
1 cup sugar
lemon zest from one big lemon
Mix the cheese with the Greek yogurt well. Add sugar, lemon zest and vanilla.
In a separate bowl mix well the heavy cream into whipped cream.
Mix the two together and spread over the base.
Let cool in the fridge for a few hours, best overnight.
On top you can cover with the dough left over, fresh fruit thin cut, thin layer of jelly or cocoa (especially if your base is lady fingers).
Sweet Cheese Crepes: I don’t like over sweet creeps because the filling is sweet enough
For the crepes
1.5 cups flour
2 bags vanilla sugar (20 gram)
1 1/3 cups milk
mix well and make thin round crepes on a non stick pan. IF your pan is not smooth enough, melt 50 grams unsalted butter and add to the mixture.
For the filling:
250 grams cream cheese (fat free or 1/3 fat)
50 gram Ricotta cheese
Handful juicy raisins
1/3 cup sugar
couple of drops of vanilla essence
lemon zest if you like
Mix well the cheeses and add the sugar, raisins and vanilla.
Fill the crepes.
You might also mix 3 spoons of Nutella with 3-4 spoons of Greek yogurt and fill crepes or mix cut strawberries, vanilla and whipped cream…..
Lastly, if you have any cheesecake filling, add some raisins or strawberries and fill the crepes- perfect combination.
This is also the time to go back to the Emhanadas I’ve posted here and make them cheese filled. That is what I’m going to make right now. With Feta and Parmesan cheese.
Enjoy and let me hear from you!