Home Food The Shabbat table – Meatless and marvellous for Shavuot

The Shabbat table – Meatless and marvellous for Shavuot

1969
0
SHARE
Cheese Blintzes (Noah Fecks photo)

Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom! If you’re planning ahead, you’re probably deciding on which traditional dishes to include for your upcoming Shavuot menu. The two main dishes that come to mind are blintzes and cheesecake . . . So dairy good!

If you’re looking for dairy-free options, see https://www.cjnews.com/living-jewish/the-shabbat-table-save-room-for-the-cheesecake.

The 100 Most Jewish Foods by Alana Newhouse (Artisan Books)

The 100 Most Jewish Foods: A Highly Debatable List, by Alana Newhouse (Artisan Books) features 60 recipes for Everything from Kugel to Kubbeh. You’ll find recipes and stories about the foods that contain the deepest Jewish significance—chicken soup, matzo balls, babka, dill pickles, chopped liver, shakshuka, gefilte fish, matzo brei, crispy gribenes, whitefish salad, and borscht (see

https://www.cjnews.com/food/the-people-of-the-dish.

Alana Newhouse, the founder and editor in chief of Tablet Magazine, writes in the introduction: “This is not a list of today’s most popular Jewish foods, or someone’s idea of the tastiest, or even the most enduring. In fact, a number of the dishes on this list are no longer cooked or served with any regularity­—at least not in the home kitchens or communal spaces where they originated—and the edibility of many others is . . . well, let’s say it is up for debate.”

Newhouse will be in Toronto at Holy Blossom Temple on Monday, June 24, 2019 to celebrate the recent release of The 100 Most Jewish Foods, along with special guests and Toronto contributors, David Sax and Michael Wex. For more information or to purchase tickets, see https://holyblossom.org/event/the-100-most-jewish-foods/

 

CHEESE BLINTZES

By Adina Steiman

Excerpted from The 100 Most Jewish Foods by Alana Newhouse (Artisan Books). Copyright 2019. Photographs by Noah Fecks, illustrations by Joana Avillez. Used with permission from the publisher.

 

Blintzes might seem as familiar as other Jewish-food classics like babkas or latkes, but hardly anyone thinks they deserve to be re­invented with a blanket of duck-fat cracklings or a tahini-dosed filling. In fact, now that my grandmother has passed away, I don’t know a single person brave enough to attempt them, much less succeed at making them, as she did after decades of practice. But that lack of fashion only proves the blintz’s Jewish bona fides. Perhaps it’s because, even more than latkes, blintzes require a balaboosta’s true mastery of the frying pan.

In fact, “pans” should be plural, since you can’t produce blintzes in any useful quantity without having a couple of them going simultaneously—yet another degree of difficulty. But with a master behind the stove, the allure of the blintz, blurred by too many freezer-burned simulacra, comes into sharp focus. Tender and slightly thicker than crepes, the bletlach (Yiddish for “leaves”) are the foundation of the dish. And just like cooking crepes, cooking bletlach well requires hard-earned muscle memory, since the hot pan engraves every hesitation, every misstep you make with the batter.

Unlike crepes, bletlach are cooked only on one side to maintain a pillowy softness within—a softness that melds with the invariably tender fillings. Cottage cheese, or farmer cheese, is a classic, but my grandmother never liked the gummy, thickened versions she’d find at the supermarket, so she’d use ricotta cheese, along with a dose of cream cheese for richness and tang. She’d mix in a couple of eggs to help the filling set, and just a tiny bit of vanilla, sugar, and salt to balance the flavour. She wasn’t making dessert. She was making blintzes. And if her greengrocer had saved her some marked-down, overripe blueberries, they’d go in the bowl, too.

She’d fill and fold dozens of blintzes at a time, regardless of who was coming over, since she knew that they freeze beautifully if separated by sheets of waxed paper. Then, after thawing them for a day in the fridge, she’d give them their final panfrying, browning the tender leaves of those tidy packages until they turned as golden brown as autumn, transforming the sweet dairy within into molten lava ready to be released with the side of a fork. We’d never wait for her to finish frying them to eat them. She insisted we start as soon as they hit the paper towels, and she kept making more as we shouted our praise into the kitchen. Until there were none left.

 

CHEESE BLINTZES

Makes 32 blintzes; serves 6 to 8

 [Note: This recipe was developed for the book and is not Adina Steiman’s personal recipe.

 

For the Blintzes

4 large eggs

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick/55 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus 2 Tbsp (30 grams) at room temperature

1 cup (240 millilitres) whole milk, plus more if needed

1 1/4 cups (300 millilitres) water, plus more if needed

2 Tbsp (20 grams) sugar

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

1/8 tsp kosher salt

2 cups (250 grams) unbleached all-purpose flour

 

For the Filling

2 cups (455 grams) farmer cheese

1 large egg

1/2 tsp packed lemon zest

3 Tbsp (30 grams) sugar

3/4 tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of kosher salt

 

Make the blintzes: Place the eggs, 2 tablespoons (29 millilitres) of the melted butter, the milk, water, sugar, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 20 seconds to combine. Add the flour and process for 20 seconds more. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula, then process for 20 seconds more. The batter will be very smooth and have the consistency of light cream. Transfer the batter to a medium bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 12 hours.

Stir the batter if it has separated, and add 1 tablespoon (15 millilitres) more water or milk if it has thickened too much. It should have the consistency of heavy cream and flow easily when you tilt the pan to distribute the batter.

 

Set up your work area: Have a large cutting board, a dish with the remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter, a paper towel folded into quarters, a ladle or ¼-cup (60-millilitre) measuring cup, and a butter knife with a rounded tip near the stove.

Heat a 6-inch (15-centimetre) crepe pan over medium-high heat. Moisten the paper towel with melted butter and use it to grease the pan. Using the ladle or measuring cup, scoop about 3 tablespoons (45 millilitres) of the batter into the skillet and swirl the pan to evenly coat the bottom and partway up the sides. The blintz should be about 1⁄16 inch (1.5 millimetres) thick, not paper-thin like a crepe.

After about a minute, when the edges of the blintz start to curl, use the tip of the butter knife to gently lift the edge of the blintz to check if it is browning on the bottom—it should be. (If the batter starts to blister and small holes form, reduce the heat slightly.) Cook the blintz on one side only. With one swift motion, flip the pan over the wooden board to release the blintz onto it, browned-side up, leaving enough space on the board for more blintzes to be placed side by side. (Once they have cooled, you can start stacking them on top of one another.) Repeat until all the batter has been used, greasing the pan after making each blintz—the butter prevents them from sticking together when they are stacked.

 

Make the filling: Place all the filling ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process for 30 seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a spatula and process again until blended, about 20 seconds more.

Set a blintz in front of you, browned-side up. Place a heaping tablespoon of the filling closer to the upper third of the blintz and flatten it slightly to form a small rectangle, about ½ inch (1.5 centimetres) thick. Lower the upper flap to cover the filling, fold both sides toward the centre of the blintz to enclose the filling, and roll the filled portion toward you, ending seam-side down. Repeat until you have used all the filling. (You will have some unfilled blintzes left over. They are delicious folded, fried in butter, and topped with jam.)

To fry the blintzes, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons (30 grams) butter in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. When the butter is sizzling, place a few blintzes in the pan, seam-side down, and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 2 to 3 minutes. Flip them over using two forks and cook until they brown on the second side and puff up, 2 to 3 minutes more.

Serve immediately with sour cream and fresh berries or fruit compote.

Store filled, unfried blintzes, seam-side down, in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days, or stack them between layers of waxed paper and store in an airtight container in the freezer for up to 2 months.

Cheesecake (Noah Fecks photo)

CHEESECAKE

By Daphne Merkin

 Excerpted from The 100 Most Jewish Foods by Alana Newhouse (Artisan Books). Copyright 2019. Photographs by Noah Fecks, illustrations by Joana Avillez. Used with permission from the publisher.

This silky-smooth baked confection, creaminess masquerading as a cake, sets my salivary glands dripping. Best served on Shabbos morning as padding for the several hours of shul-going ahead, or at a Shavuot dinner, cheesecake is a shout-out to the magnificence of all things light and sweet: cream cheese, eggs, sugar.

For people raised on Jewish cuisine, the unalloyed milchigness of cheesecake comes as something of a relief, a counterpoint to the dominant melody of cholent and brisket. If it isn’t a quintessentially Jewish dessert, it should be legislated as one—proof that sometimes simplicity wins out, even for a people who have God on the brain.

 

CHEESECAKE WITH CHERRIES

Makes one 9-inch (23-centimetre) cheesecake; serves 12

 

For the Crust

4 Tbsp (1/2 stick/60 grams) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for greasing

1 3/4 cups (215 grams) graham cracker crumbs (from 14 graham crackers)

1/4 cup (50 grams) sugar

1 tsp kosher salt

 

For the Cheesecake

3 1/2 packages (8-ounce/225-grams each) cream cheese, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups (250 grams) sugar

3/4 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp pure vanilla extract

4 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/4 cups (300 millilitres) sour cream

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Boiling water, as needed

 

For the Cherry Topping

1 package (10-ounce/284-gram) frozen pitted sour cherries or sweet cherries

1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar (if using sweet cherries, reduce to 1/4 cup/50 grams)

2 Tbsp (30 millilitres) fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp (8 grams) cornstarch

3 Tbsp (45 millilitres) water

 

Make the crust: Position a rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177ºC). Grease a 9-inch (23-centimetre) springform pan with butter. Wrap the bottom of the pan with enough aluminum foil to protect the cake from the water bath.

Stir together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar, and salt in a large bowl until combined. Pour in the melted butter and stir until all the dry ingredients are uniformly moist and the mixture resembles wet sand. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan and, using your fingers, pat it into an even layer over the bottom of the pan.

Place the pan on a baking sheet and bake until the crust is lightly brown, about 10 minutes. Transfer the springform pan to a wire rack. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F (163ºC).

 

Make the cheesecake: In the bowl of the stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese on medium speed for about 4 minutes, until soft and creamy. With the mixer running, add the sugar and salt and beat for 4 minutes more, until the cheese is light. Beat in the vanilla, then add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the sour cream and lemon zest. Beat until combined.

Place the springform pan in a roasting pan large enough to hold the pan with some space around it. Give the cheesecake batter a few stirs to make sure that the bottom doesn’t have any unmixed bits, then scrape the batter into the springform pan over the crust. The batter should reach the rim of the pan. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour enough boiling water into the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the springform pan.

Bake the cheesecake for 1 1/2 hours, until the top is brown and maybe cracked. Turn off the oven and open the oven door just a smidge (you can keep it ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon). Let the cheesecake sit in the oven for 1 hour more.

Carefully pull the roasting pan out of the oven and lift the springform pan out and onto a rack. Carefully remove the foil from around the springform pan. Let the cheesecake cool in the pan.

When the cake is cool, cover the top loosely and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to overnight (overnight is better, as it allows the flavours to settle).

 

Make the topping: Combine the cherries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the cherries are soft and the sauce has thickened, 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, transfer to a jar, cover, and let cool completely before serving.

When ready to serve, unmold the cheesecake by carefully unclasping the sides of the springform pan. If the cheesecake is sticking to the sides, run an offset spatula between the pan and the cheesecake to loosen it. Transfer the cheesecake to a serving platter, top with the cherries, and serve immediately.