Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cheesecake for Shavuot

When you are talking about being a "Gastronomic Jew" there are some holidays where the moment you think of them, you immediately know what you are going to eat.  When it comes to Shavuot, its cheesecake and blintzes all the way.  And since I have not yet mastered (or tried for that matter) to make the thin crepes to roll blintzes, I made a cheesecake.

Shavuot is the the holiday that commemorates when HaShem gave the Jews the Torah.  The word Shavuot means weeks, because of the 7 weeks that we count (called the Omer) between the second day of Passover until Shavuot.  One explanation for why it is traditional to eat dairy meals during Shavuot because the laws for kashrut were given in the Torah.  While the ancient Israelites waited for the Torah, they did not want to eat traif, non-Kosher, so they refrained from eating meat.

My very good friend from college is famous for making cheesecake.  Every holiday or family gathering, she makes one.  So when I was planning my Shavuot menu, I went straight to her for the recipe.  She did not disappoint.  This cheesecake was delicious and very easy to make.

I know that this posting is a little late (Shavuot ended yesterday!) but the recipe is so good that I needed to share it.  Bookmark it for next year, or make you next Shabbat dinner dairy so you can serve this for dessert. 

Ingredients for crust:
1 3/4 C. graham cracker crumbs
3/4 C. melted butter
1 T. brown sugar

Ingredients for filling:
24 oz. cream cheese (at room temperature)
4 eggs
1 C sugar
1 tsp. vanilla

Ingredients for topping:
1 pint (16 oz) sour cream
3/4 C. sugar

Preheat oven at 325 degrees.  Grease 9 inch spring form pan.  Combine ingredients for crust and firmly line the bottom of the pan with the mixture.  In large mixing bowl (either with a stand mixer or a hand mixer) begin to whip the cream cheese.  Then add eggs, sugar, and vanilla.  Mix very well until smooth.  Pour over crust and bake for about 50 minutes.  Cake should be just a little loose.  If very loose, cook for another 10 minutes, or until cake firms up more.  Cool cake for about 15 minutes and turn the oven up to 400 degrees.
Meanwhile, mix sour cream and sugar very well.  Pour over slightly cooled cake.  Bake again for about 20 minutes.  Watch carefully so that the mixture doesn't bubble over.  Increase cooking time if the mixture looks too loose.  Turn off oven and let cake begin to cool in the oven.  This will help to prevent cracking.  Cool cake completely overnight.  Decorate with fresh fruit.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Arroz con Pollo

Last week, for Cinco de Mayo, I themed my Shabbat dinner.  I wanted to combine the Mexican celebration with Shabbat.  But what was I going to make??  I did not want to make tacos or chips.  I wanted the meal to still fit in with Shabbat.  Then I thought of it: Arroz con Pollo!  Literally means rice with chicken.  It is a great one pot dish that is filled with fragrant spices, vegetables, rice and chicken.  Now the challenge was trying to make it kosher.  Many authentic Mexican recipes call for pork fat.  And here is where I found a little (a lot!) of help from a box.   I found the idea on the Joy of Kosher website.  I made some small changes to the recipe, mostly to increase the spice-factor.  The original recipe can be found here.  Below is my version. 

Arroz con Pollo

1 tablespoon oil
1 large onion, diced
2 bell peppers, diced (preferably different colors)
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
1 can diced tomatoes with green peppers
1 chicken - cut into 8 pieces* (I think you could add a few more pieces, there is plenty of rice to accommodate more for leftovers)
2 boxes Near East Spanish Rice
2 1/2 cups of water
2 teaspoons turmeric
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 teaspoons of paprika

Preheat oven to 375 degrees
In a large pan saute onion, peppers, and mushrooms in oil.  Add can of tomatoes.  Cook down for about 7 minutes, until vegetables are soft.  In a large pot, pour in Near East rice and spice-mix in.  Add vegetables and water.  Stir.
Season chicken with turmeric, garlic and paprika.  Nestle chicken on top of rice.  Place in oven.  Cook for about 1 hour, 20 minutes. 

It serves between 6-8 people, depending on how much chicken.  I served this with a side of black beans (spiced up with chili powder) and zucchini flavored with cumin.  It tied the flavors together perfectly.  Although originally for Cinco de Mayo, this is a dish that I will be making more frequently.  It was delicious!