By Suzi Brozman / sbrozman@atljewishtimes.com

Carol Ungar's "Jewish Soul Food"

Carol Ungar’s “Jewish Soul Food”

Several years ago I was sent to Israel to cover the rocket attacks in the small southern town of Sderot. Given the option to extend my stay, I decided to spend Shabbat and Shavuot in Jerusalem. I won’t go into all the details, except to tell you about a Jerusalem tradition: a dairy picnic on the hills overlooking the Old City.

My new friend Idele Ross invited some 30 to 40 of her friends, some Sabras, some Anglos, others from all points of the globe, to join us. During the course of a cloudless, peaceful afternoon, each of the picnickers showed me the magnificent vista and gave me a personalized tour of the city.

There, one said, was the place Abraham tried to sacrifice Isaac. Over there, said another, is where Jacob wrestled with an angel. Holy ground, indeed. Sadly, I didn’t know enough Bible to comprehend what I was seeing and hearing. So, as we say in the seder, “Next year in Jerusalem.”

One thing I couldn’t help but comprehend was the food. Anxious to impress others, each person brought salad, bread or dips, each tastier than the last. There are many possible reasons for Shavuot being a time to serve dairy food. Some say it’s gematria (numbers) — the gematria for milk, chalev, is 40, so we eat milk meals to commemorate the 40 days Moshe spent on the mountain before bringing back the Torah. Others say it’s because we didn’t have meat pots, but that’s a stretch. Visit aish.com to learn more.

Of course, nobody gave me recipes. But given the nature of the holiday, I’m giving you one I developed for a friend with diabetes — a low-carb, sugarless cheesecake. And a kugel from a friend in Jerusalem. And cheese kreplach from a wonderful new cookbook, “Jewish Soul Food” by Carol Ungar.

Atkins-Style Cheesecake

No graham crackers or pie dough for the crust on this heavenly creation, and no sugar. Just mounds of cream cheese, eggs and lots of delicious enjoyment.

Crust

2 cups sliced almonds

2 packages of sugar substitute

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 350. Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and bake until browned. Pulse in a food processor with sugar substitute and melted butter. Press into a 9-inch pie pan or spring-form pan. Bake another few minutes.

Filling

2 packages (16 ounces) cream cheese

3 large eggs

8-12 packages sugar substitute

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon fresh grated lemon peel (optional)

1 cup sour cream

¼ teaspoon salt

Fresh fruit to garnish (optional — avoid if seeking real low-carb option), otherwise blueberries or strawberries

Put cream cheese and sugar substitute in a food processor and process until smooth. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla, lemon and salt and pulse to blend. Add sour cream and process to combine. Pour into the prepared, cooled crust. Bake 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Turn off the oven but leave the cheesecake in for one hour. Remove and chill overnight. Garnish with berries if desired. Eat and enjoy; it even freezes beautifully.

Sara’s Kugel

1 8-ounce package wide noodles, cooked and drained

1 stick melted butter

1 8-ounce package cream cheese

2 cups milk

4 eggs

¾ cup sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cornflakes

Cinnamon and sugar topping

Mix cream cheese and butter with a mixer. Add eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Mix until smooth. Add cooked noodles and mix with a spoon. Leave in the bowl and refrigerate overnight. Next day, put the mixture into a hot, 9-by-13-inch buttered pan. Sprinkle with cornflakes and topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 1¼ hours. Cool for 10 minutes. Cut into squares.

Cheese Kreplach for Shavuot

Here’s something I don’t usually do — interrupt recipes for a comment about a book. “Jewish Soul Food” isn’t just a cookbook. It gives information about holidays, customs and meanings. along with delicious recipes. Here’s part of what it says about Shavuot:

Shavuot occurs in Sivan, the third month counting from Nissan. Moses was the third child of his parents (the other children were Aaron and Miriam).

The Jewish nation divides into three parts: the priestly caste or the Cohens, their helpers the Levites, and the rest of the nation, who are called Israelites.

There are three patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

There are three pilgrim festivals (the Shalosh Fegalim) — Passover, Sukkoth, and Shavuot — when the Jews of ancient Israel visited the Temple.

The Hebrew punctuation symbol, the segol, is three dots arranged in a triangular formation. Segol relates to segula and Am Segula, which is the Hebrew phrase for the Chosen People. Shavuot celebrates the Torah and the Jewish covenant with Gd.

For best results, roll out the dough using a hand-cranked pasta maker. They are available online, and they are easy to use.

Filling

2/3 cup farmer cheese

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Dough

1½ cups all-purpose flour

2 large eggs at room temperature

¼ cup water

 

Sour cream and granulated sugar for serving (optional)

 

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil. Combine all filling ingredients in a blender or processor. Beat well to blend. Set aside, refrigerated if desired, while you make the dough.

In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process the flour and eggs together until crumbly, then slowly dribble in water and process until the dough is smooth and elastic.

On a heavily floured board, roll out the dough to be as thin as it will stretch, or put the dough through a pasta maker. Cut the dough into 3-inch squares. Place ½ teaspoon of filling in the center of each square. Wet the edges of each square with a pastry brush dipped in cold water to keep the kreplach from opening up, and fold diagonally into triangles. Press edges to seal.

Drop kreplach into the boiling water in batches to avoid crowding the pot, and boil for about 20 minutes. Remove from the water with a slotted spoon and drain well.

Serve as is, with sour cream and sugar if you want, or refry in a bit of butter. Freezes well. Makes about 32 and serves 8-10.