Shavuot - חג השבועות
Tomorrow is שבועות (Shavuot - Pentecost). It is both a harvest festival (wheat crop) and a spiritual commemoration of the giving of the Torah to the Nation of Israel at the foot of Mount Sinai. שבוע in Hebrew means week and שבועות means weeks. Shavuot marks the end of what was essentially a taking of the census called עומר (Counting of the Omar) and takes place seven weeks after the second day of פסח (Passover), hence the name.
During the Counting there are only 5 days when it permitted to get married. So, Shavuot is also a time when we emerge from an enforced cocoon (sound familiar) and resume our normal activities like weddings and hair cuts (another thing that is forbidden). It is a beautiful holiday. It takes place in late spring. The weather is pleasant and not yet unbearable. Years ago I was lucky enough to join a wedding on a kibbutz on Shavuot. It was a bit of a wild celebration - half way between joy and revelling.
Shavuot is also the time that we eat traditional food - dairy. In my family, Ashkenazi all the way, this meant cheese blintzes. Cheese blintzes topped with sour cream and strawberries. I love blintzes. And when I lived in New York, I didn't need to make them myself. In fact, when Avi was a baby and he had no say in the matter, Ken and I would go on a Sunday morning to Ratner's Dairy Restaurant, perhaps one of the most well known spots on the Lower East Side. Ken would have the lox platter special and I went for cold borscht and blintzes - and sometimes latkes.
Little did we know then, that although I love all things dairy (Ken not so much), our children would not share my passion. And so for many years I would rely on visiting my mother and enjoying this special treat in her kitchen where we could kvell (Yiddish for "to be delighted) together.
This year, eating blintzes with my Mom is not possible. So I decided that I be Israeli and make a cheesecake instead. But this put me in a conundrum. First, getting the ingredients here, for a New York Cheesecake is a challenge to say the least. Second, cheesecake is also dairy and fits into the category of brie and yogurt as far as some of my family members believe. Third, cheesecake is not blintzes.
So, to satisfy myself I have made three special things - cheesecake (Israeli element), cheese blintzes (sentimental element) and potato blintzes (the make your children happy element).
Tomorrow's dinner will be a little bit of this and a little bit of that. But I hope everyone enjoys the holiday whether they like dairy or not. For me it will be a perfect combination of agrarian, spiritual and a celebration of a traditions passed down from one generation to the other.
חג שבועות שמח
P.S. I miss מסעדות חלביות (Dairy Restaurants)
BT's Cheese Blintzes
For the Blatten (pancakes)
2 and 1/2 cups (600 ml) water
1/2 teaspoon (2 gramssalt
2 teaspoons (8.5 grams) sugar
3 tablespoons (45 ml) vegetable oil
2 and 1/4 cups (270 grams) white flour
For the filling:
1 and 1/4 pounds (500 grams) dry curd cottage cheese
3 tablespoons (45 grams) sugar
1 teaspoon salt
8.5 ounces (250 grams) cream cheese
Into a large bowl put 2 cups (240 ml) water
Add sugar, oil and salt and mix well
Add flour and blend until smooth
Add eggs one at a time incorporating each egg before adding the next
Add remaining water to thin out batter
Place a non-stick crepe pan on medium heat
Ladle 1/8-1/6 of cup of batter into pan and swirl around until the batter cover the entire surface
When edges of batter begin to curl (1-2 minutes) turn pan upside down and drop pancake onto clean tea towel
Let pancake cool - 1 minute
Add cheese mixture at 6 o'clock on pancake
Roll pancake once and then fold sides in and continue rolling until the blintz is closed
Fry blintzes in no salt butter on low heat turning them over once. Serve with sour cream and fruit topping.
If you want to make them ahead of time, blintzes can be frozen uncooked. To prepare, take them out of the freezer and leave to thaw for an hour. Fry as per instructions above.
Cheesecake recipe coming soon.