If there was ever a holiday that celebrates the strength and intelligence of women, Shavuot is it. Yes, I know that this joyous holiday is most commonly associated with Moses bringing the words of G-d down from the mountain to a less than grateful nation. But it is also the holiday during which we read the story of Ruth, a story of the strength of her character and her perseverance.
I once wrote part of a very long graduate school paper on Ruth and Naomi, their power and intelligence, and their actions that saved the Jewish people and allowed for their continuity.
The story tells how these two women worked in concert to achieve their goals. It is an introspective story that examines, perhaps for the first time in the Bible, the beliefs and struggles of female characters.
Ruth took a huge leap of faith and adopted a new religion. She trusted Naomi with her very life, and their friendship illustrates the unbreakable strength of their relationship. While many other women in Biblical stories worked against each other or were fueled by jealousy, these two worked to ensure the continuation of the Jewish people by cooperating. Together, they made sure that Ruth married Boaz, which produced future generations of Jews including King David!
While I write this, I think about the powerful women who raise incredible children, have intense jobs and still manage to cook delicious meals. Many of us had role models for the domestic side of our lives, but only recently, historically speaking, have there been role models that show our daughters how to be strong, capable women who can run a board room and a home with grace and equanimity.
When we read the story of Ruth this Shavuot, think about her bravery and her strengths; she is a role model for the ages. But before the holiday, encourage your family members with the story of Ruth and Naomi and their cooperation. Then make some great food for a celebratory meal together and have a wonderful holiday.
Creamy Roasted Cauliflower Soup with Roasted Garlic (Pareve)
2 heads cauliflower
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 large garlic bulbs or 15 to 25 cloves peeled garlic
1-1/2 cups diced onion
1 cup thinly sliced leeks, thoroughly washed
1 to 2 tsp. honey, agave syrup or sugar
1 to 2 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
4 to 5 cups vegetable stock
1 to 2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, to taste
1 to 3 Tbsp. fresh snipped chives
White pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Break/cut the cauliflower into florets. Place in a Pyrex-like baking dish and drizzle with 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Toss to coat evenly with the oil.
Cut off the very tips of all the garlic cloves in the bulbs and place the bulbs on a large piece of foil. Drizzle generously with olive oil and cover completely with foil. Roast both for about an hour, or until soft and lightly golden. Toss the cauliflower once or twice. The garlic will be very fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool.
Place 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Heat for about 15 seconds and add the chopped onion and leeks. Sauté until soft and very lightly golden. Add the roasted cauliflower. Stir.
Squeeze the roasted garlic from each clove of one bulb into the pot and discard the casing. Add 1 teaspoon of the honey, sugar, or agave syrup and 1 teaspoon of salt and stir. Add the stock and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes. Add the thyme for the last 5 minutes of simmering. Turn off the heat and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, covered.
Use an immersion blender and puree the soup until very smooth. Taste and add more garlic cloves and more salt and sweetener syrup as desired. If you add more garlic, puree again. Add the white pepper and mix well. Taste again to adjust seasonings. and simmer for about 10 more minutes. Garnish with snipped chives and serve. Serves 6 to 10.
NOTE: For a decadent treat, stir in some half and half during the last 2 to 3 minutes of heating. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle with fresh chives.
Sweet and Sour Lentils (Pareve)
I love these lentils — they are sweet and sour and delicious hot, room temperature, or cold.
1/4 cup tamari sauce
2 bay leaves
1 small onion, grated
1 Tbsp. onion powder
1/2 cup Canola oil
1/2 (scant) cup red wine or garlic wine vinegar
3/4 cup honey
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice
4 cups water
3 cups brown lentils, rinsed in a large strainer until water runs clear
Rinse the lentils and set aside. Place the rest of the ingredients in a 4-quart pot. Mix well. Add the lentils and mix well. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cover. Reduce heat and simmer gently for 1-1/2 to 2 hours, until lentils are soft, but not mushy. Watch carefully and stir often. You will probably need to add more water, but do not add too much.
When soft, turn off the heat, keep the pot covered, and let stand for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaves before serving. Delicious, hot, warm, or cold. Serve with rice for more protein. Serves 8 to 10.
Onion Artichoke Galette (Dairy)
This is easy and delicious. Use canned or frozen baby artichokes to save time. A great side dish with salmon.
2 cups flour (a mixture of white and whole wheat works well)
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1-1/2 sticks very cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/2 cup ice water, you may need less
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Place the flour, salt and sugar in a food processor bowl. Pulse once or twice to mix. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal and has a few lumps. Slowly add the ice water through the feed tube as the machine is running, adding just enough to cause the dough to stick together. Remove the dough and any loose pieces, press gently and quickly into a disc shape, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface until the crust is about 16 inches in diameter. Fold gently in half and then in half again to facilitate easy transport to a large cookie sheet that is lined with parchment paper. It is best if the cookie sheet has an open side so that sliding it onto a serving dish after baking will be easy. Open the dough and set aside.
3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. butter
1/2 small onion, diced
6 small shallots peeled and sliced.
2 to 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
10 to 12 baby artichokes frozen and thawed, or canned and well-drained
Baby spinach leaves, about 1 cup
OPTIONAL: 1 small jar (about 3 to 4 ounces) sun to dried tomatoes, drained and chopped, use as many or few as you like.
3/4 to 1 cup shredded (not grated) Parmesan cheese (Asiago cheese is nice on this).
1/3 to 1/2 cup pine nuts
2 Tbsp. fresh snipped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
OPTIONAL: You can add torn basil leaves or fresh thyme leaves, as you like.
Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat and add the olive oil and butter. Add the onions and shallots and sauté until golden brown and caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté t 2 minutes, stirring gently but constantly. Add the artichokes and cook 5 to 7 minutes. If you like, add the sun-dried tomatoes and heat through, 2 minutes. Add the baby spinach leaves and cook just until barely wilted. Season as desired with salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Spread the cheese over the dough and leave a three to inch border clear. Place the pine nuts over the cheese and spoon the filling over the cheese and nuts. Sprinkle with snipped chives.
Fold the dough rim up and over the filling, pinching pleats together to hold. There should be about a 2 to 3-inch frame all around the filling.
Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is nicely browned. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Cut into wedges. Serves 6 to 8.
Grilled Salmon with Citrus Glaze (Pareve or Dairy)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 (6 to 8 ounce) salmon steaks
2 small or 1 large garlic clove(s), minced
1 to 2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 Tbsp. lemon or lime juice
A generous drizzle of honey, to taste
OPTIONAL: A pinch of cayenne pepper for some heat
Baste the salmon steaks with one tablespoon of olive oil. Grill them over a medium to high fire until just cooked through. You can also broil them, roast them on a cedar plank or pan fry. When cooked through, just to opaqueness inside, remove to a plate to keep warm.
While the salmon is cooking, heat a skillet and add 1 to 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the minced garlic and ginger and stir until fragrant, about 30 to 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the juices, and honey and cook at a steady boil, until reduced by about 1/3 to 1/2, 3 to 5 minutes. Pour over salmon steaks and serve. Serves 4.
Mount Sinai Dessert (Pareve)
This is a very simple, fun recipe for the younger members of the house to make and share (although they may need some help forming the egg white “mountains”). Decorate with any kind of sparkles or sprinkles or more that can be imagined. Color the egg whites if you like with a drop of food coloring.
6 egg whites at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1-1/2 tsp. vinegar
1-1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
several kinds of berries and cut up fruits.
If you have a gas oven, preheat the oven to 450 degrees while you make the egg whites. Reduce heat to 300 degrees just before you put the “mountains” in the oven. If you have an electric oven, preheat to 300 degrees at the outset. Remove the middle rack so you have some height between the shelves.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Set aside.
Beat the egg whites and salt on high speed until soft peaks form. Add the cream of tartar. Add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, until all the sugar is added. When the whites are very stiff, add the vanilla and the vinegar and blend well. Turn off the mixer and remove the whip.
On the parchment, draw several circles about 3 to 4 inches in diameter or draw one large circle about 8 inches in diameter. Spoon the meringue inside the circle(s), heaping it higher in the middle like a mountain. Keep the sides uneven with “ledges” in places. The piles should be 3 to 4 inches high for the small ones and 4 to 5 inches high for the large one.
Bake 40 to 50 minutes. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed and let cool for several hours or even overnight.
Assembly: Place the “mountain(s)” on a platter and surround with fruit and berries. Place some on the mountain “ledges.” Decorate with mint leaves and garnish with whipped cream, if desired. Cut up the mountain and serve pieces of it with each bowl of fruit. The outside will be crisp and the inside creamy like marshmallow. You can drizzle with chocolate syrup or caramel syrup, or add some sparkly sugar or sprinkles, if you like. Let kids decorate their own mountains. Serves 4 to 10.
Simply Devine Hot Milk Cake (Dairy)
This is a classic, easy-to-make comfort cake that reflects the “Milk and Honey” theme of the holiday. I have used many recipes for this kind of cake over the years, including a chocolate one that uses boiling water, but I like this one best. I don’t know the chemistry that makes it work, but the cake is scrumptious.
3 cups unbleached flour, sifted
2 tsp. baking powder
Tiny pinch salt
6 extra-large eggs
2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups sugar (I use the lesser amount with no ill effects)
1-1/2 cups whole milk
3 Tbsp. butter
2-1/4 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Grease a 10-inch tube pan. Line the bottom with a parchment circle and then grease the parchment and about one-inch up the sides of the pan. Flour the pan and shake out the excess.
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together.
Place the eggs in the bowl of an electric mixer, add the sugar and vanilla and mix on medium speed until thick ribbons fall when the beaters are lifted, about 5 to 6 minutes.
When the eggs are just about beaten, heat the milk and butter in a small heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Bring the milk just to scalding, when steam forms, but before actual boiling.
While the milk is heating, add the flour mixture to the eggs, beating on low speed. Make sure to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Slowly add the hot milk to the batter and mix just until thoroughly combined.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 to 70 minutes or until a tester comes out clean. Let cool for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan and invert onto a plate. Remove the parchment and reinvert onto a serving plate.
Dust with powdered sugar by placing a doily over the cake and shaking some sugar onto the doily. Carefully remove the doily to reveal a pretty design on the cake. Serves 8 to 12.
French Yogurt Cake (Dairy)
I discovere this recipe from the March 2012 issue of Bon Appetit magazine, and people have loved it ever since! It is tangy and not too sweet. I have adapted it for you and added a light lemon glaze, but you don’t have to. Great with tea or coffee!
1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup whole milk, plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup canola oil
2 large eggs (I used extra to large with no problem)
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
Lemon Glaze: 4 Tbsp. sugar; 2 to 3 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a standard loaf pan (8-1/2 by 4-1/2)
Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk to blend.
Place the sugar in a small bowl with the lemon zest. Use your fingers and rub the lemon into the sugar (I wear food prep gloves) until the sugar looks moist and has little clumps. Add the yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla to the sugar and whisk to blend completely. Add the liquid to the flour mixture and whisk to blend just until smooth.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 50 to 60 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool. Invert onto a plate and reinvert to a serving plate.
For the Glaze: Add 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice to the sugar and mix; if the mixture is too thick, add a bit more juice. Mix until the sugar is dissolved. Drizzle over the cake.
Serves 8 to 10.