18 delicious dishes (besides cheesecake) to savor on Shavuot | The Jewish Week | Food & Wine

18 delicious dishes (besides cheesecake) to savor on Shavuot


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Photo of spanakopita by Jessica Halfin

    On the Jewish holiday of Shavuot, meals usually finish with cheesecake. Here are other delectable delights for your holiday menu.

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    Shavuot, a Jewish holiday celebrating the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the annual reaping of the wheat harvest, and the Israelites’ journey through the desert toward the land of milk and honey, is all about cheesecake for many people (inspired by the “milk” part of milk and honey).

    Don’t get us wrong — we love a good cheesecake, and we’ve even created this Tayim cooking video showing you how to bake your own delicious version.

    However, before you get to dessert there are plenty of other great foods to eat at Shavuot. Below we’ve compiled a laundry list of irresistible dishes for your holiday feast.

    Most are dairy in keeping with the long-held tradition, but some are marked as vegan-friendly because, as we all know well, Israel is a nation of veggie-lovers and just because you’re vegan doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the holiday.

    Dig in, enjoy, and remember to leave a little room for the cheesecake.

    1. Blintzes

    Cheese blintzes are a traditional Shavuot dish. Photo by Tory Avey

    Yes, we know blintzes require tedious prep you might be inclined to tackle only once a year. Shavuot is that time of year! Break out your frying pan and make a batch or two of these sweet, oh-so-good cheese-filled blintzes from Jewish blogger Tori Avey.

    2. Noodle kugel

    Noodle kugel photo via onceuponachef.com

    Another dish that screams Shavuot is noodle kugel. A blend of egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, some sugar, and lots of eggs make this recipe one of the most delicious sweet cheese dishes that you can get away with serving for a holiday breakfast.

    And it’s entirely customizable. Want a carrot-cake feel? Add some grated carrots and spices. Want apple-cinnamon flavored kugel? Go for it! My grandmother used to make it with pineapple, and crushed breakfast cereal on top. You can’t go wrong.

    3. Date-nut cookies

    Orange blossom-scented strudel cookies. Photo by Jessica Halfin

    Many believe that the “honey” described in the biblical phrase “a land flowing with milk and honey” was actually date honey, aka silan — a molasses-like syrup derived from dates.

    Therefore, it’s totally legit and even encouraged to incorporate dates into your Shavuot meal. Whipping up any recipe with the fruit, be it dates stuffed with nuts, date bread, or date paste baked into strudel cookies like these will prove to the other dishes on your table that this superfood fruit should be part of the feast.

    4. White lasagna with spinach

    Photo of white spinach lasagna via thebakerchick.com

    Sadly, we can’t live off sweets alone. Eventually you’ll have to make something savory to eat during the Shavuot holiday. And let that dish be white lasagna with spinach!

    The irresistible creamy aspect of the holiday gets a big check here, while adding tons of baby spinach makes it green and relieves just enough of the guilt to let you enjoy your gigantic slice in peace.

    5. Greek-inspired spread

    Go to a Greek tavern and you’ll quickly realize that the Greeks are into flavorful small plates of food shared tapas-style and washed down with a bit of ouzo or house wine.

    Flaky Greek pie with greens and feta cheese, buttery garlicky tzatziki, and a fresh feta-and-oregano-topped vegetable salad (not to mention baklava) sounds like a killer Shavuot menu to me, so why not go for it?

    6. Seasonal fruit salad (vegan)

    Photo of fruit salad via cafedelites.com

    Shavuot is one of the three main harvest holidays on the Jewish calendar and celebrates the late spring’s bounty. In this vein, why not celebrate the holiday with a platter of beautiful produce or a fruit salad?

    This time of year in Israel brings fresh plump apricots and dark sweet cherries, but really anything works in a recipe like this one for honey-lime fruit salad.

    7. Pashtida

    Photo of pashtida via myjewishlearning.com

    Ah, that vague reference to any Israeli vegetable-based casserole, pashtida is a favorite dish in the holy land for this particular holiday.

    Israelis cannot agree on the exact specifications of the category (It’s not a quiche, but also not a kugel or a frittata, but sort of??) or on what should go inside: corn, tuna, cheeses, seasonal vegetables? All we know for sure is that every family has its own version. And that it makes a great addition, as does any savory casserole, to the Shavuot celebratory meal.

    8. Quiche

    Like pashtida, but much more upfront about what it is, quiche is an absolute staple in Israeli bakeries, cafés, and on the Shavuot table.

    Here, quiches are best dressed up with Israeli produce such as fresh mushrooms, zucchini, or roasted sweet potato (bonus points for trying this very Israeli quiche variety!). Spruced up with fresh Israeli cheeses and a flaky pastry crust, quiches are delicious at any meal of the day.

    9. Cheese burekas or sambusak

    The ultimate salty-cheese fix. Burekas are flaky savory cheese pockets made from phyllo dough or puff pastry, and stuffed with a creamy salty cheese mixture (sometimes with added green olives or spinach!).


    Along with their cousins sambusak, made with a pastry or bread-like exterior (think baked empanadas), burekas fresh from the oven are a perfect little party snack to whet your appetite.

    10. Cherry vareniki

    Photo of cherry vareniki via littlebroken.com

    These sweet Russian dessert dumplings are perfect for making just as Israel’s cherry season comes into full bloom, right around Shavuot.

    Cooked up like little cherry filled ravioli, they are traditionally eaten topped with sour cream and sugar. A bit of a project to make, they are a great excuse to gather your family in the name of this harvest holiday, while honoring Israel’s Russian immigrant population.

    11. Syrniki

    Ukrainian syrniki photo via natashaskitchen.com

    Another mildly sweet Russian cheese dish, syrniki (small cheese pancakes) happen to be perfect for your Shavuot breakfast meal. Natasha from Natasha’s Kitchen shares her Ukrainian version in the link above for pancakes that are based on farmers cheese mixed with eggs, flour, sugar and raisins. These are best enjoyed warm topped with powdered sugar and fresh raspberries.

    12. Fruit soup (vegan)

    Photo of fruit soup via melskitchencafe.com

    With all that creamy deliciousness happening on your Shavuot table, you’re going to need a palate cleanser, and what better one than a refreshing fruit soup like this one, which you can make with or without sugar to suit your taste.

    Make this cold soup from market-fresh stone fruits, and serve either between courses, or as a healthy dessert for a break from all the sweet cheese madness.

    13. Caprese salad

    Photo of cherry tomato caprese salad via melskitchencafe.com

    The Italians got it right with Caprese salad. Fresh, light, fragrant and easy to pull together, the traditional salad made of vine-ripe tomatoes, fresh basil leaves and buffalo mozzarella should be your go-to salad throughout the summer months.

    Or if you’re lucky enough to live in a country like Israel that’s always got a supply of sweet bursting cherry tomatoes and fresh herbs on hand, go ahead and make it all year round. No matter what you choose, one thing is clear—you need this amazing salad at your next Shavuot meal.

    14. Whole-wheat challah

    Challah fresh out of the oven in Jerusalem. Photo by Nati Shohat/Flash90

    A huge part of Shavuot is celebrating the yearly wheat harvest, and there’s no better way to do so than to bake up some whole-wheat bread — in this case challah! Try this fan favorite from Tales of an Overtime Cook’s Miriam Pascal for the fluffiest, most flavorful version out there.

    15. Assorted Israeli salads (vegan)

    Cheese, cheese and more cheese can only call for one antidote—fresh vegetables, and lots of them. It would be downright crazy not to balance out all those sweet treats and heavy dairy dishes with vegetables.

    We all know that no one does fresh interesting salads like Israelis do. Delicious and bright, they cut through the noise of everything else at the buffet.


    16. Sweet-potato gratin

    Photo of sweet potato gratin via whatsgabycooking.com

     Want a vibrant creamy savory and sweet casserole to round out your Shavuot meal? Then it’s got to be a flavorful sweet-potato gratin! Usually made with white potatoes, sliced thinly and layered with bechamel sauce and cheese, gratin with sweet potatoes is a game changer, and one that makes it a little bit healthier and sweeter on the holiday table.

    17. Yogurt parfait

    Photo of berry yogurt parfait via simplyhomecooked.com

    If you want to call this one healthy then go right ahead, but the truth is, rich creamy Greek-style yogurt mixed with a handful of berries and sweet nutty granola can be the ultimate treat.

    Layer it up in sundae glasses, parfait style and serve it to your guests this Shavuot for a treat that feels more decadent then diet-friendly.

    18. Cottage cheese

    You might think this one is bizarre, but have you tasted Israeli cottage cheese? Sure, it can be used in just about any recipe that calls for ricotta, but you can also enjoy it on its own, topped with jam or spread onto toast and sprinkled with dried zaatar.

    The Israeli version couldn’t be more reminiscent of the good old days, even coming in a version that has 9% fat. However, if you don’t have access to the good stuff, you can always jazz some cottage cheese with a bit of cream, a dollop of sour cream, and a few drops of lemon juice to mimic the creamy freshness of the real thing.

    This article originally appeared on ISRAEL21c.

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