Monday, June 2, 2014

Dairy Meal for Shavuot

Most Jewish holidays are celebrated with meat: a roast chicken or brisket, to elevate the meal to represent the joyousness of the holiday and to separate it from the norm of everyday meals (this tradition started long before meat was the main focus of most American meals). But on Shavuot the tradition is to have a dairy meal. It is not because Shavuot is a sad holiday - the exact opposite. On this day we receive the Torah! Instead we eat a diary meal because the laws of kashrut were not fully known as the ancient Israelites waited for the Torah. There are other reasons why we eat dairy, such as Torah being likened to milk, "Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue" (Song of Songs 4:11). There is also gematria (numerical value) that supports eating diary. The gematria value for the word chalav, milk, is 40 and Moses spent 40 days on top of Mt. Sinai receiving the Torah.

Growing up, for our Shavuot meal, we had tuna fish salad and blintzes from the freezer.  Delicious, yes.  But I wanted something a little more gourmet and fun for this year.  In preparation for Shavuot (beginning Tuesday night, June 3, 2014), I started perusing different websites and cookbooks to come up with a new diary meal idea.  I came across a recipe on the Joy of Kosher website for grilled fish and polenta.  Polenta!  I had never made that before - that was going to be my Shavuot dish!  I did not follow the recipe I found online.  Instead, this is what I did:

Tilapia Filet with Creamy Polenta
Tilapia filets (1 per person)
1 tube of pre-made polenta
1 cup of milk (adjust based on your preference)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tsp garlic, diced
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
olive oil or butter for cooking
salt, pepper, and garlic salt for seasoning

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.  Spread asparagus on cookie sheet, top with olive oil and garlic salt and pepper and roast for about 15 - 20 minutes.  Slice the polenta and add to a sauce pan.  Mash the polenta and thin it out with the milk.  Add enough milk so the polenta has similar consistency to mashed potatoes, or as desired.  Add garlic and pepper to taste.  Before serving, add shredded cheese and mix together.  Prepared polenta is already a little salty and cheese also has salt, so do not add salt to this mixture. If you are making fresh polenta (ground cornmeal), then additional salt might be necessary.  Prepare the fish filets by lightly seasoning with salt/pepper.  Cook in a large frying pan with a small amount of oil or butter (or both).  Flip only once.  If making for a large crowd, multiple filets could be cooked in the oven together.   Assemble and enjoy!


Not only is this meal delicious, but it is light enough for you to be able to enjoy cheesecake for dessert without feeling too guilty.