Of all the stories written in the Bible, none is more dramatic than that of Shavuot, the celebration of the receiving of the Ten Commandments and the Torah. This year it begins on the evening of May 18. As with most Jewish holidays, this one has many food traditions. They center on the idea that white symbolizes purity, that the Torah is pure and thus white foods should be served on this occasion.
Traditionally, Jewish homemakers prepare dairy dishes for Shavuot. Foods such as creamed soups, blintzes and cheesecake are the special foods. But for people trying to limit their consumption of foods high in saturated fat, dairy dishes like these are just the ones to avoid. If you are among the growing number of people choosing to restrict your intake of dietary fat and cholesterol, don't worry. You can celebrate Shavuot in a most traditional way, with lots of white, "creamy" foods, and keep to a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet. It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but it isn't.
Start with the soup. There are lots of ways to make soup look white and creamy that aren't cream. You can select from a variety of thickeners, such as arrowroot, cornstarch and rice, to name a few. Try "cream" of cauliflower soup for a change. It's easy to make. You just cook cauliflower, rice and onion in a delicious vegetable stock or water. Once the rice is tender, puree the mixture. It is delicious hot or cold. You can use this method of making creamed soup with almost any vegetable -- carrots, broccoli, asparagus. I selected cauliflower to keep the white foods theme of the holiday.
Blintzes come out just as delicious if you use egg substitute instead of whole eggs in the pancake batter and in the filling. Another way to reduce fat in this dish is to make the filling with non-fat cottage cheese instead of farmer cheese. If you're concerned that cottage cheese is too grainy, give it a spin in the food processor or blender with a little non-fat milk.
Making blintzes is time-consuming. If you're a plan-ahea person, consider serving a blintz casserole. On a day when you're not busy, prepare the blintzes. Freeze them, covered tightly, in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. The evening before Shavuot, remove them from the freezer. Cover them with a delicious mixture of non-fat milk, egg substitute and Parmesan cheese. Place the casserole in the refrigerator.
An hour or so before you want to serve them, pop them in the oven. Wonderful choices for salad dressing abound. Since the Shavuot meal is dairy, choose a non-fat yogurt dressing flavored with lemon juice and mustard. The key to making this tangy dressing is letting the liquid drain out of the yogurt. Best of all, next to its taste, this dressing had fewer than 10 calories a tablespoon.
For dessert, select a white, creamy delicacy I first tasted in a Middle Eastern restaurant in my neighborhood. The owner, Nelly Kalajian, kindly shared her recipe. It takes seconds -- it is just that easy.
This dessert contains only 180 calories per serving, with only percent fat!
(Cream of cauliflower soup
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 cup onions, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup rice
1 (2-pound) head of cauliflower, cored and broken into flowerets
6 cups water or vegetable stock
salt to taste
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
2 cups non-fat milk
finely chopped parsley, for garnish
Heat oil in a stock pot large enough to hold all the ingredients. Briefly saute the onions until they are tender. Then add the remaining ingredients, except the milk and parsley. Simmer, covered, until the rice and vegetables are tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Puree the soup in the food processor or blender. Add the milk, taste and adjust the seasonings.
To serve, return to the pot and heat thoroughly, but do not boil. Or chill and serve in iced bowls or cups. Garnish with chopped parsley.
Cheese blintz casserole
16 low-fat, low-cholesterol cheese blintzes (recipe follows)
2 cups non-fat milk
1 8-ounce carton egg substitute
2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with vegetable spray. Place the prepared blintzes in the dish. In a bowl, beat together the milk, egg substitute, 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Pour this mixture over the blintzes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese and paprika. Place pan in oven and bake until golden and bubbly, about 1 hour.
BLINTZ SKINS (CREPES):
Makes 17 or 18 skins.
1/2 cup egg substitute
2 cups water
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
In a medium bowl, beat the egg substitute. Add the water, flour, and salt. Mix well.
Over medium heat, warm a small skillet coated with a non-stick surface. Wipe it with a paper towel moistened by canola oil. When the pan is hot, pour in a scant 1/4 cup of the batter. Tilt the pan all around to cover the bottom with a thin layer of batter. Cook on one side, until the edges start to brown and curl. Slip out of the pan, browned side up, onto a clean cotton tablecloth or towel.