Post­ed by Sophie Siegel

Shavuot is a cel­e­bra­tion of when the Jew­ish peo­ple received the Torah on Mount Sinai. In the Jew­ish tra­di­tion, Shavuot is cel­e­brat­ed by indulging in meals cooked with dairy prod­ucts. In some cul­tures, peo­ple observe the hol­i­day by stay­ing up all night to learn the Torah, and some com­mu­ni­ties take advan­tage of the spring weath­er by orga­niz­ing large picnics.

The ori­gins of these tra­di­tions are often dis­put­ed. One expla­na­tion is that we eat dairy to com­mem­o­rate the giv­ing of the Torah, which King Solomon com­pares to milk: Like hon­ey and milk, it lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Anoth­er expla­na­tion is that since the Torah was giv­en on Shab­bat, no cat­tle could be slaugh­tered or dish made kosher, so they chose to eat dairy. Regard­less of the ori­gin, the use of dairy prod­ucts makes for many inven­tive and deli­cious meals. 

The Hol­i­day Kosher Bak­er pro­vides great recipes for deli­cious hol­i­day dish­es. The author, Paula Shoy­er, includes recipes made specif­i­cal­ly for the Jew­ish hol­i­days: Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kip­pur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot. For Shavuot, Shoy­er abides by the tra­di­tion­al cus­toms of the hol­i­day, pro­vid­ing rich-in-dairy recipes that do not have dairy-free alter­na­tives. Shoyer’s back­ground in the art of French pas­tries led her to con­vert her favorite dairy desserts into parve ver­sions.” Some of her most delight­ful dairy desserts include her family’s noo­dle kugel recipe, caramelized cakes called can­nelés, caramelized mocha and vanil­la bean napoleons, choco­late mille-crêpes cake, white choco­late mousse cake, and brioche challah. 

The recipes in Ina Pinkney’s auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal cook­book Ina’s Kitchen: Taste Mem­o­ries and Recipes from the Break­fast Queen are easy to make and aes­thet­i­cal­ly pleas­ing. Some of her recipes are pre­pared with dairy prod­ucts, per­fect for Shavuot, includ­ing a pas­ta frit­ta­ta lay­ered with many types of cheeses. In The New Per­sian Kitchen, a com­pi­la­tion of Louisa Shafia’s reimag­ined Per­sian recipes, Shafia includes a recipe for Greek-style yogurt, which can be paired with veg­eta­bles, fruit, and pita or can accom­pa­ny any entrée. For dessert, read­ers have the choice between her dairy-filled recipes for mul­ber­ry yogurt cake and saf­fron frozen yogurt and car­damom pizzelle sandwiches.

In The Sea­son­al Jew­ish Kitchen, Amelia Salts­man brings a fresh approach to tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish cook­ing. For Shavuot, she shares many dairy based recipes. Espe­cial­ly entic­ing is her pashti­da, Israeli noo­dle or egg casse­role: Saltsman’s recipe calls for baked pas­ta, spinach, ricot­ta, and brown but­ter. Anoth­er appe­tiz­ing meal for Shavuot from Saltsman’s trove is a cheese and hon­ey filo pie, which inte­grates three dif­fer­ent kinds of cheese and is served with warm hon­ey atop to cre­ate a per­fect blend of sweet and savory. 

Dairy-based desserts are a rich indul­gence dur­ing Shavuot, as they are rarely con­sumed in kosher house­holds fol­low­ing a tra­di­tion­al meat meal for most oth­er hol­i­days and occa­sions. Milk and hon­ey are trans­formed into culi­nary del­i­ca­cies in Zahav: A World of Israeli Cook­ing, writ­ten by Michael Solomonov and Steven Cook. Their recipe for choco­late bab­ka is mouth-water­ing, filled to the brim with choco­late. Their recipe for hon­ey cake with apple con­fit is tra­di­tion­al, but can be paired with both sweet and savory foods like cof­fee or goat cheese. 

Although Shavuot is a big hol­i­day for dairy and wheat-based dish­es, there are some real­ly great alter­na­tives to suit dif­fer­ent dietary needs. In The New Yid­dish Kitchen: Gluten-Free and Paleo Kosher Recipes for the Hol­i­days and Every Day, Simone Miller and Jen­nifer Robins share their gluten-free and kosher recipes for the hol­i­days. Sprin­kled into the mix are orig­i­nal sub­sti­tu­tions to condi­ments and sauces, includ­ing recipes for dairy-free sour cream and dairy-free butter. 

These cook­books pro­vide you with the nec­es­sary foun­da­tions for cre­at­ing the per­fect Shavuot meal: dairy from start to finish!

Sophie Siegel is a stu­dent at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty and a cur­rent intern for the Jew­ish Book Council.

Relat­ed Content:

Sophie Siegel is a stu­dent at Emory Uni­ver­si­ty inter­est­ed in Holo­caust Stud­ies and Film. She worked with the Jew­ish Book Coun­cil as a 2016 sum­mer intern.