Let us remember Father’s Day (Sunday, June 19). Let’s remember graduations, wedding showers and weddings. Let’s remember my birthday (I was born on a Father’s Day). Let’s remember Shavuot (Tuesday evening, June 7 through Thursday, June 9). Let’s celebrate with Jewish flair – with family and friends and lots of good food.
Also referred to as the festival of the Torah, Shavuot falls seven weeks after Passover and is about what happened after the exodus of the Israelites as they wandered through the desert, of the giving of he Torah, the Jewish scriptures and the Ten Commandments through Moses at Mount Sinai. In our synagogues and in our homes, tables are set with fresh flowers, greenery and fine china. Meals are based on dairy products, as well as fresh fruits and grains of spring. Jewish scholars point out that dairy products are symbolic of the abundance of milk in spring and remind us of the Song of Songs and of milk and honey. Many also feel that a quick drink of milk may have been a speedy and nutritious meal during the Israelites’ travels.
In my last column (May), a Mother’s Day brunch, I referred to a dairy dinner, perfect for Shavuot and for Father’s Day, as well as other social events. With reference to Shavuot, many home cooks enjoy such dairy dishes as blintzes, kugels and cheese pastries. If this is your desire, please look back upon several of my former OCJL columns – May 2007 and June 2008. Instead, this column emphasizes a simple, cheesy dinner, which can also be served as a remarkable weekend lunch. All three recipes can travel together or separately to a pot luck or can be served as a single dish with your personal recipes.
ROCK AND ROLL, STUFFED FILLETS
A terrific cheese sauce dresses up these fish roll-ups. Stuff the fish with a simple white rice mixture, or you can use a heartier grain of your choice. Perhaps, the fish fillets will be those of your fisherman. When I originally created this recipe, mine were!
4 rock fish fillets (such as red snapper), 1/4” thick, approximately 5 ounces each
Rice Medley Stuffing:
1 cup cooked white rice
3 tablespoons chopped back olives (preferably Kalamata, packed in olive oil)
¼ cup chopped mushrooms
2 tablespoons dry white wine
2 tablespoons margarine or butter, softened
¼ teaspoon each Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Swiss Cheese Sauce:
2 tablespoons margarine or butter
2 tablespoons flour
½ cup half-and-half
¾ cup dry white wine
½ cup grated Swiss cheese
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon each Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Optional garnishes: Capers and sliced lemons
Wash the fillets and pat dry with a paper towel; place on a waxed paper-lined tray and set aside. Mix all stuffing ingredients together. (If mixture seems loose, add more margarine/butter.) Spread 1to 2 heaping tablespoons of stuffing on the top of each fillet, allowing no stuffing on the very ends of each fillet. Roll up fillets, over stuffing and secure closed with toothpicks. Place fillets, seam side down, in a lightly greased (or aerosol-sprayed) baking dish, add any leftover stuffing to the dish, between the fillets. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 350-degree of oven for 15 minutes. (Note: Fillets can be prepped early in the day, then baked at meal time. Allow an extra few minutes if chilled.)
Meanwhile, make the Swiss Cheese Sauce: On low heat, melt the margarine/butter in a saucepan and, using a wire whisk, slowly blend in the flour (to make a roux). Add the half-and-half a little at a time, stirring constantly. Then add the wine, still stirring constantly. Add the cheese and stir until it is completely melted. Remove the saucepan from the heat and season with the mustard, salt and pepper. (Note: It is best to sift the seasonings, as an aid to prevent lumps.)
Pour the sauce over the rolled fillets and return to oven. Bake another 5 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.
Yield: 4 servings.
A variation of the classic American Waldorf Salad, this recipe is tangy, because it uses yogurt and lemon juice as the base of the dressing.
2 tart green apples, cored, diced (though not peeled)
1 lemon, cut in half (reserve ½ for the dressing)
½ cup diced celery
¼ cup coarsely chopped walnuts
3 ounces your favorite Swiss cheese (such as Gruyere or Jarlsberg), sliced into matchstick juliennes
1 cup non-fat, plain yogurt
Juice of reserved ½ lemon
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I prefer a Poupon)
Optional Garnish: Fresh Italian parsley leaves
In a salad bowl, toss the diced apple with the juice of ½ lemon (to hold the color); reserve remaining half for the dressing. Add the celery, walnuts and cheese, and toss well.
To make the dressing: Whisk together the yogurt, juice of reserved lemon and mustard in a small bowl. Pour dressing over apple mixture and toss well to coat all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
For a tasty, creamy dressing variation, substitute the 1 cup yogurt with ½ cup sour cream and ½ cup mayonnaise.
Yield: 6 servings.
BUNDT–STYLE WALNUT CHEESE CAKE
This cake has a simple crust. Serve this at room temperature to best enjoy the soft, moist texture and taste. From my treasury of recipes, this cake is well-loved by all ages.
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
¾ cup finely chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons matzo meal
Walnut Cream Cheese Cake:
2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, at room temperature
½ pound cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon grated tangerine zest (or, lemon or orange zest)
1½ cups sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup chopped walnuts
Optional garnish: Powdered sugar and tangerine zest
To make the crust: Generously butter a 2-quart Bundt-style baking pan. In a small bowl, mix together the finely chopped nuts and matzo meal, then sprinkle in the pan and turn the pan all around to well-coat with the nuts. Chill briefly to set the “crust.” Then fill with batter.
To make the cake: Sift the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the cream cheese, tangerine zest and sugar. Beat until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, until well mixed. (If the batter appears somewhat curdled, do not worry, it will re-establish.) Gradually add the flour mixture to the batter, then stir in the nuts. Pour the batter into the pre-prepared Bundt pan and bake in a preheated 300-degree oven for approximately 80 minutes. Allow to cool before removing from pan. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: 1 Bundt cake, to serve approximately 14 to 16 people.