Kosher Kitchen

Happily preparing special dishes for Shavuot


Shavuot is one of my favorite holidays. Yes, it is an excuse for making cheesecake and blintzes and my kids favorite mac and cheese, but it is also a day to reflect on Judaism and what receiving the Torah, the center of our religious law and wisdom and of the cycle we follow each week, has meant to our people for thousands of years.

Shavout also celebrates the valor of Ruth, one of the first converts, who took an unprecedented leap of faith to commit to the unknown. The Jews did the same. It is said that G-d offered the Torah to several different nations, all of which refused the sacred words. The Jews accepted without question. They took a leap of faith and that faith has endured through more than could have ever been imagined on that mountain in that desert.

In celebration of this joyous holiday we eat dairy foods. One midrash tells us that for three days before Moses returned with the Torah, the Jews refrained from slaughtering animals to ensure clean hands when Moses gave them the holy tablets. We are also told that the Promised Land flowed with “milk and honey,” so we eat sweet dairy foods to celebrate the sweetness of the Torah and the joy of the promise G-d made to the Israelites.

Enjoy this joyous, sweet holiday. Bring some beautiful spring flowers inside to decorate your table and add to the beauty of the holiday.

Vanilla Bean Never-Crack Cheesecake (Dairy)

The water below the cheesecake prevents cracking. Make the cake a day before to allow for cooling.


2-1/3 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/3 cup golden brown sugar

1/2 cup finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts (about 3/4 to 1 cup before chopping)

2/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

Place the graham crumbs and golden sugar in a bowl. Mix well. Place the nuts in a food processor and pulse until very fine. Add one-half cup to the graham cracker crumbs. Mix well. Melt the butter, add to the crumbs and mix. The mixture should hold together when pressed between your fingers.

Spray the bottom of a 9-inch spring-form pan with nonstick spray. Pour the crumb mixture into the pan. Press over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the pan. Place the pan on a piece of heavy foil. Press the foil up the sides. Place in the refrigerator to set.


2 lb. block-style cream cheese, softened

1 cup sugar

4 extra-large eggs

1 cup sour cream

3 Tbsp. whipping cream

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1/2 vanilla bean seeds

Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until creamy. Add the sugar and beat until blended. Add the eggs one at a time. Scrape the bowl as each is blended. Add the sour cream and mix just to blend. Set aside.

Slice open the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into a very small bowl. Add the vanilla extract and use a fork to break up the seeds and mix them into the extract. When the seeds are separated, pour the extract mixture into the cheese and blend briefly. Scrape down the sides once more.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Place the pan in a large roasting pan and place in the oven. Immediately add boiling water halfway up the side of the pan. Add the vanilla bean pod to the water to add a bit more vanilla essence to the cake.

Bake for 70 to 95 minutes. The cake will jiggle slightly. Remove from the oven and the water bath and let cool. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. Run a thin knife around the sides of the pan and then remove the ring. Serve with chocolate drizzle or fresh berries. Serves 10 to 12.

Dulce de Leche Cheesecake Bites (Dairy)

20 oz. jar of Dulce de Leche


2 cups graham cracker crumbs

3 Tbsp. dark brown sugar

3/4 cup butter, melted


2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1 lb. brick style cream cheese, regular or low-fat

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

CRUST: Line two muffin tins with cupcake papers, using two papers per cup. Combine crumbs, sugar and melted butter and press 1-1/2 tablespoon of the mixture into each cup.

Place in the oven for about 10 to 13 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Refrigerate for 20 minutes once cool.

Pour about 1 tablespoon of the Dulce de Leche over the cooled base and refrigerate while you make the cheese filling.

Break the eggs into the bowl of an electric mixer and beat to blend. Add the sugar and beat until well blended. Add the vanilla and the cream cheese and beat until smooth. Fill cupcake papers 2/3 full with the batter. Bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 14 minutes. The middles should still move a tiny bit when shaken gently. Remove from the oven and let cool.

Top with more Dulce de Leche Sauce or Caramel Sauce (from 20 oz. can or jar) and refrigerate.

Makes about 24.

Chocolate Cheesecake (Dairy)

You can use very dark chocolate for a less sweet flavor or add some espresso powder to the melted chocolate to enhance the rich flavor.


1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs

3/4 cup finely ground chocolate sandwich cookies (recommended: Oreo), chocolate cookie part only, no white filling

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) butter, melted

2 Tbsp. sugar

Place the oven rack in the center and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Place the graham cracker crumbs and chocolate cookies in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until crumbs are fine and even. Add the melted butter and sugar and pulse until the crust is the consistency of wet sand.

Press the cookie mixture into the bottom and an inch up the sides of a 9-inch spring-form pan. Bake the crust until fragrant, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool for at least 15 minutes before adding the filling.

Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.

Make the FILLING:

6 oz. excellent quality semisweet chocolate

2-1/2 lb. cream cheese, softened

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 tsp. vanilla extract

2 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

4 large eggs

1/2 cup sour cream

1 (1-1/2-oz.) milk or dark chocolate bar

Place semisweet chocolate in a microwave-proof glass bowl or measuring cup and cover with plastic wrap. Microwave the chocolate on high power for 30 seconds and stir it. Continue to microwave the chocolate on high, stopping to stir every 15 seconds, until it is just barely melted. Stir until smooth. Set aside to cool. Stir every 20 to 30 seconds to cool the chocolate evenly.

Place the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla extract in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on medium speed until creamy and smooth, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping the sides as needed. Sift the cocoa powder into the cream cheese mixture and beat to incorporate.

Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream and the melted chocolate. Beat until smooth and evenly blended, scraping the bowl as needed. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the batter to the prepared pan with the baked crust. Smooth the top.

Place a roasting pan half filled with hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. Place the cake above it on the center rack. Bake at 350 degrees until the cake rises and puffs and the center is just set but still slightly wiggly, 60 to 75 minutes.

Turn off the oven and slightly open the door. Let cool for at 60 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool completely. Grate the chocolate bar over the top of the cheesecake while it’s still warm.

Let the cheesecake cool for 1 hour more. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight before serving.

When you’re ready to serve the cheesecake, gently run a thin sharp knife around the inside edge of the spring-form pan to loosen the cake’s sides, then unhook and carefully remove the outer ring of the pan. Drizzle with some good hot fudge and/or top with some whipped cream if you like. Slice and serve. Serves 10 to 12.

Fresh Blackberry Swirl Chocolate or Graham Crusted Cheesecake (Dairy)

I always make one cheesecake for Shavuot. The fresh blackberries this season have been remarkable and this was just gorgeous and naturally sweet. I have included an alternate graham cracker crust if you do not like the chocolate.


3 cups chocolate wafer cookie crumbs (about 60 cookies or 30 Oreos, centers removed)

9 Tbsp. butter, melted


1-3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs

2 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 to 1 stick butter, melted


2 to 3 cups blackberries, divided

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract (for blackberries)

2 to 3 tsp. sugar, depending on sweetness of berries


1 cup sugar

3 pkgs. (8 oz. each) brick style cream cheese softened, at room temperature

1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract

3 extra-large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Break the cookies and place them in the bowl of a food processor. Process until fine crumbs form. Add the melted butter over the crumbs and pulse several times until blended and a few clumps form.

Grease the bottom and sides of a 9-inch non-stick spring-form pan. Pour the crumbs into the pan and press on the bottom and about an inch up the sides.

Place in the oven and bake for about 12 to 15 minutes or until firm and fragrant. Remove from the oven and let cool completely.

For Graham cracker crust, mix crumbs, sugar, and melted butter together in a large bowl, using a fork. Press into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the spring form pan. Bake as above.

Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees.


Rinse and dry the food processor bowl and add 1-1/2 cups of the blackberries. Reserve and refrigerate the rest. Purée and pour into a fine mesh strainer over a medium sized bowl. Press the liquid through the strainer using the back of a spoon to get all the liquid through. Discard the seeds. You should have about 1/2 cup of puree. Add the vanilla and 2 teaspoons of sugar, more if the berries are not too sweet. Mix well and set aside to allow the sugar to dissolve.


Place the cream cheese and remaining 1 cup of sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed until blended, scraping the bowl often. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sour cream and mix well. Spoon half batter into the cooled crust and smooth the top.

Drop spoons of the blackberry mixture evenly around the cheese mixture, using about half the purée. Use a toothpick or thin bamboo skewer to swirl the blackberry throughout the batter.

Gently spoon the rest of the cheese mixture over the blackberry swirl and smooth the top.

Drop the remaining blackberry purée onto the cheese and swirl in a pretty pattern being careful not to place the skewer too deep.

Place a pan filled with about 2 inches of boiled water in the bottom shelf of the oven. Place the cheesecake on the rack above and bake for 50 to 70 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center jiggles just slightly when you move the pan.

Turn off oven and open door a few inches or prop with thick handled wooden spoon. Leave cheesecake in oven 60 to 90 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely. Cover and place in refrigerator. Chill several hours or overnight.


Slide a thin knife around the cake and remove the ring. Mound the remaining blackberries on the center of the cake and add some pretty mint leaves. Serves 10 to 12.

‘S’Mores and More’ Cheesecake Cupcakes (Dairy)

Remember s’mores from camp? These are a bit more elegant and don’t include mosquitoes!


2 packages graham crackers

1/2 to 1 stick melted butter

2 Tbsp. sugar


2 extra-large eggs

1/2 cup sugar

2 tsp. vanilla

1-1/4 lb. brick style cream cheese, softened


2 cups semisweet chocolate chips, or several chocolate bars broken into 2-inch square pieces

1 package kosher mini marshmallows

Line 24 muffin cups, 2 tins, with doubled cupcake liners. Set aside. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Place graham crackers in a food processor bowl and pulse to produce fine crumbs. Add sugar and melted butter and mix until the crust holds together, using only as much butter as needed.

Press about 1 to 2 Tbsp. of crumb mixture into each cupcake liner. Reserve the rest.

Place the softened cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until creamy. Add the sugar and eggs and vanilla and mix well on low speed. Scrape the bowl and increase speed, mixing until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Spoon into cupcake liners, filling each 2/3 full. Bake at 375 for 10 to 13 minutes, until just a tiny bit golden at the edges. Let cool and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place a few chocolate pieces on each cupcake and top with several mini marshmallows. Place back in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes, until the chocolate is melted and the marshmallows are browned. Let cool and serve. Makes 20 to 24 s’mores cheesecakes.

Note: You can top some of the cheesecakes with strawberries or cherry pie filling or another favorite topping or eat them plain, for those who do not like s’mores.

Mount Sinai Dessert (Pareve)

A very simple meringue recipe for the younger members of the house to make and decorate.

6 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature

Pinch salt

2 cups sugar

1-1/2 tsp. vinegar

1-1/2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 tsp. pure almond extract

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

several kinds of berries and cut up fruits

OPTIONAL: Food coloring

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of the electric mixer. Beat on high speed until frothy. Add the salt and cream of tartar. When the whites reach soft peak stage, add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time. When the whites are very stiff, add the vanilla and the vinegar and blend.

Draw circles 2 to 3 inches in diameter on a piece of parchment placed on a cookie sheet. Keep circles 2 to 3 inches apart. Spoon the meringue onto the circles, heaping each about 3 to 4 inches high. Keep the sides uneven with “ledges” in places.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees. Carefully place in the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave for several hours until the oven is completely cool.

Note: Add a tiny drop of any food coloring to the meringue.

Assembly: Place the mountains on plates and surround with fruit and berries.

Variations: Mix some confectioners’ sugar with lemon juice and a tiny drop of blue food coloring. Let children paint some blue clouds on the mountain. Makes about 10 to 14 mountains.