Have a dairy happy Shavuot

Recipes for a holiday without requirements

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I love Shavuot. The weather is usually glorious and the holiday doesn't tell you necessarily what to eat or where to eat it. Instead, the delicious tradition of dairy foods is more tradition and poetry ("land of milk and honey," etc.).

This is a holiday I can really get behind. I do some of my best entertaining with early summer's produce. The food tends to be light and brightly flavored, with endless possibilities.

For this Shavuot, I am taking my favorite Roman pasta dish, Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper), and turning it into a summer kugel. This simple staple highlights cheese, olive oil, pasta, and my favorite spice, pepper. Often overlooked and taken for granted, pepper is the hero ingredient here. Toasting the pepper in the olive oil adds a nutty note to the pepper and takes away some of the bite, though I like the bite. This important step really makes the dish. Go bold with the pepper and be sure to use the best quality olive oil you can find. 

For a fun and summery version, I have included the option of using zucchini noodles, or "zoodles." Light and delicious, zoodles will allow you that extra slice you are craving. 

For dessert, I am making a simple, sophisticated, and timeless Pots de Crème (pronounced "poh da crem"). This easy, make-ahead dessert will make you question the usual cheesecake. Much simpler, but equally decadent, this custard is a mouthful of velvety yum!

I chose to make the custards with white chocolate and my favorite dessert herb, lavender. The lavender adds a subtle flavor that will haunt your palate. Pairing beautifully with berries, the elegant dessert can be served very simply or dressed up with berries and a crispy sugar cookie. 

Cacio e Pepe Kugel

  • 1 pound dried spaghetti or zoodles
  • 1½ cups whole milk 
  • 3 large eggs, room temperature 
  • 1½ teaspoons sea or kosher salt 
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper (don't skimp here!) 
  • Pinch crushed red chilies (optional) 
  • ¾ cup finely grated parmesan cheese 
  • 3 cups grated Swiss cheese 
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella, or a similar semisoft cheese
  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the spaghetti just until it's very al dente. Do not cook until completely tender. For zoodles, skip this step.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Wrap the bottom very securely in one large sheet of aluminum foil. Set the pan on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. 
  3. When the pasta is done, drain it well and let cool slightly. 
  4. In the pot, whisk together the milk, eggs, salt, and black and red peppers. Set ½ cup of each of the Swiss and mozzarella cheeses aside. Stir the rest of the grated cheese, as well as the parmesan, into the milk and egg mixture. 
  5. Stir the slightly cooled spaghetti or zoodles into the milk and cheese, until it is completely combined. 
  6. Transfer the mixture to the prepared spring form pan. Smooth the top so it's relatively even and sprinkle the reserved grated cheese over the top. 
  7. Bake for 30-35 minutes, until the cake feels just set in the center and is slightly bubbling around the edges.
  8. Turn on the broiler and brown the top of the torte on the upper-third rack of the oven until well-browned. 
  9. Remove from oven and run a knife around the inside of the cake pan to loosen the pie from the sides. Let sit and release and remove sides of springform pan.
  10. Serve while still warm, cut into wedges.

White chocolate and Lavender Pots de Crème

Effortlessly delicious and very spring! This dessert is a snap to pull together and can be make ahead of serving and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. 

A velvety custard is gently poached in a water bath, which keeps the custard at a cozy 212 o F. This coddling of custard keeps the texture soft and creamy. 

Serves 6

  • 1¾ cups of heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons dried lavender
  • 6 ounces white chocolate
  • 6 egg yolks
  • Zest of 1 lime
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean scraped
  • Pinch of sea salt

*Special equipment: 6 4-ounce ramekins, 1 or 2 pans that the ramekins can fit into.

  1. Heat cream, milk, and lavender over medium heat until steaming. Cover and allow to steep for 10 minutes. Strain out lavender.
  2. Return cream mixture to medium heat and add white chocolate. Stir until smooth and melted completely.
  3. Very slowly add cream mixture, drop by drop to yolks to gently temper the yolks. (Too fast, and you will have scrambled eggs.)
  4. Add zest, vanilla, and salt. Stir to combine.
  5. Divide custard between ramekins.
  6. Add boiling water to container with ramekins to create a hot water bath.
  7. Cover snugly with foil and place in preheated oven for 30 minutes. Remove the whole set up from the oven and allow the custards to cool in the water bath until they are cool and can be easily handled.
  8. Refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. Serve alone or with berries and crisp sugar cookies. 

Laura Frankel is a kosher chef and author. Previously, she was the Culinary Director for Jamie Geller's Test Kitchen and Kosher Network International. Frankel is the author of two Jewish cookbooks, with a third forthcoming. She is the founder of Shallots Restaurant and served as Executive Chef for Wolfgang Puck.

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