White in a golden dream

The magic occurs when the cheese mixture binds with the dough to create the ultimate Shavuot pastry.

A salad for Shavuot (photo credit: SARIT GEZ)
A salad for Shavuot
(photo credit: SARIT GEZ)
The magic occurs when the cheese mixture binds with the dough to create the ultimate Shavuot pastry.
Shavuot is the whitest holiday and I must admit I am incredibly excited about it, since I get to prepare my favorite potato and cream dishes. After so many holidays in which the grill is our main cooking tool, it’s great to have a reason to cook up some delicious dairy meals. There are so many creative dishes and combinations you can concoct with exotic cheeses and vegetables.
The dishes I’ve selected below can be served as an appetizer or a dessert, or even an entrée if you want. In essence, you can bring them to the table at any point during the meal and they will be welcomed with oohs and ahhs. They are a fantastic treat for everyone gathered to eat these sensational savory dishes, but they also make the person who baked them feel good for creating something new and tasty that we never dreamed of making. We can come up with original concoctions, combine flavors and create dishes that will be remembered long after the meal has been concluded.
From choosing the right pastry dough to baking it just until a golden crust forms, in the end the magic does its thing. When you pour the mixture onto the pastry dough, you just cannot imagine what beauty will burst forth from the oven. The incredible aroma that spreads through the house is like a love story weaving its way toward your loved ones.
It’s the signal that marks the beginning of our glorious dairy celebration.
In preparation for Shavuot, I decided to meet with pastry chef Sarit Gez, who in addition to being the mother of three lovely girls is a pastry chef at Odeon in Emek Hefer, as well as a teacher at Hachef College in Haifa.
Together, we chose a number of dishes that can easily be integrated into a dairy Shavuot meal. I wanted to focus on easy, quick, no-fail dishes that always come out tasty. We chose pastry dough dishes made from Kadaif noodles, phyllo or puff-pastry dough and then added an assortment of cheeses and vegetables, which resulted in a symphony of flavors.
Translated by Hannah Hochner.
Makes 8 servings
■ 1 red pepper
■ 1 green pepper
■ 1 yellow pepper
■ 1 red onion
■ 1 scallion, leaves only
■ Baby leaf greens
■ Champignon mushrooms
■ Cherry tomatoes
■ Salt, to taste
■ Ground black pepper, to taste
■ 2-3 Tbsp. virgin olive oil
■ 4 slices of grain bread, or bagel, or any other bread
■ 2 Tbsp. pesto
■ 50 gr. mozzarella cheese, grated
■ 6 labaneh balls
Cut the peppers and onions into ½-cm.-thick strips. Quarter the mushrooms and halve the tomatoes. Place everything in a large bowl. Add the baby leaf greens and mix. Season with salt, pepper and olive oil.
Spread pesto on two slices of bread and then sprinkle with mozzarella cheese. Place the remaining two pieces of bread on top and put in a sandwich maker until it’s nicely browned. Cut into 2-cm. squares and add to the salad bowl and mix well. Cut the labaneh balls in half and add to salad, stir a little and serve.
Makes 8 servings
■ 2 red peppers
■ 2 green peppers
■ 2 yellow peppers
■ 1 sprig of rosemary
■ 4 sage leaves, chopped
■ 4 basil leaves, chopped
■ 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
■ 1/3 cup olive oil
■ Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
■ 250 gr. Canaan cheese
■ 150 gr. ricotta cheese
■ 100 gr. hard yellow cheese, grated
Pastry dough:
■ 6 sheets of filo dough, defrosted
Finishing for crust:
■ 100 gr. butter, melted
■ Sesame/nigella/sea salt/coarse ground black pepper/black sea salt granules.
Cut the peppers lengthwise into strips and remove the seeds. Put them in a bowl and add the chopped herbs and olive oil. Mix well.
Transfer the peppers to a pan lined with baking paper and pour the remaining oil and herbs on top. Put the pan in a preheated oven at 180° and bake for an hour or until the vegetables begin to brown.
Remove and cool.
In a medium bowl, mix all the cheeses together. If desired, you can add a tablespoon of chopped dill to the mixture. Place a sheet of phyllo dough on your work surface and brush it lightly with the melted butter. Place another sheet on top and brush it lightly with butter, too. Place a third layer of phyllo dough and brush with a generous amount of butter.
Cut the phyllo dough sheets into four squares. Place a spoonful of cheese mixture on the bottom third of the square and roll it up. Make sure both ends are free of cheese and then twist them like a candy wrapper. Brush them with butter and place them on a pan lined with baking paper.
Prepare the other four candies in the same way. You can sprinkle on top any topping – sesame, nigella, sea salt, or any other topping you desire.
Use a 30x40-cm. pan.
■ 1 kg. asparagus
■ ¼ tsp. salt
■ 500 gr. puff-pastry dough, defrosted but cold flour to cover work surface
■ ¾ cup hard yellow cheese, grated
■ ¾ cup Parmesan cheese
■ 250 gr. ricotta cheese
■ ½ package parsley, chopped
■ 2 egg yolks
■ 100 gr. sweet cream
■ ¼ tsp. nutmeg
■ Coarsely ground black pepper, to taste
■ 2 Tbsp. olive oil
Egg wash:
■ 1 egg, white and yolk separated
Fill a pot with water, add salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus and cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and submerge immediately in ice water (this helps retain color, crispiness and vitamins). Let cool.
Cut off the bottom third of each asparagus spear, put the ends in a food processor, and process into a smooth paste.
Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and roll out the dough until it’s 4 mm. thick. Cut the dough to fit the pan and cut the remaining dough into 1.5 cm.-thick strips.
Line the pan with baking paper, and then lay the dough on top of it. Brush the edges with beaten egg-white wash and then line the edges with the strips to form a frame and mold them to fit the shape of the pan. Take a fork and make holes all over the dough inside the pan and then brush all of the dough – inside and along the edges – with egg-yolk wash.
To prepare the filling, place all the ingredients in a bowl – including the asparagus puree – and mix well. Pour the cheese mixture over the dough and then align the poached asparagus pieces on top.
Bake in a preheated oven (190°-200°) for 30-40 minutes. Serve hot.
This is a sweet cheese dish with a savory twist.
Use a 28-cm. pan.
■ 150 gr. (¾ cup) sugar
■ 270 gr. (1½ cups) water
■ 2 Tbsp. rose water
■ 250 gr. ricotta cheese
■ 100 gr. goat feta cheese, crumbled
■ 200 gr. kadaif noodles
■ 200 gr. butter
■ 1 drop orange food coloring
Pour the sugar into a pot and bring to a boil. Lower the flame to medium and cook for 5-7 minutes until the syrup becomes smooth. Turn off the flame and add the rose water. Stir.
In a separate bowl, add the ricotta and feta cheeses and mix until blended well.
Heat 50 grams of butter in a frying pan. Add the drop of food coloring and mix well. Arrange half of the kadaif noodles evenly in the pan and then spread a layer of the cheese mixture on top of it. Place the other half of the kadaif noodles on top of the cheese mixture.
Continue cooking the kanafeh over a medium flame for 5-7 minutes until the bottom noodles turn a golden brown. Melt 100 grams of butter and drizzle it along the edges of the kanafeh as needed so the noodles don’t get burned.
With a spoon, lift the side of the kanafeh to check if it’s browned enough. Take a plate that has the same diameter as the pan. Place it face down on the pan and carefully flip the pan over so the kanafeh is lying on the plate. Put the pan back on the flame and add the remaining butter.
When the butter has melted, carefully slide the kanafeh back into the pan to brown the other side. Fry for 5-7 minutes until the second side is browned, too. Pour the syrup over the kanafeh and continue to cook over a medium-low flame for another minute or two. Transfer to a serving dish and serve hot.