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How can we reexamine this often-underlooked festival and apply it to our lives as Reform Jews? In this interview, Rabbi Matt Green of Congregation Beth Elohim (CBE) in Brooklyn, N.Y., talks a bit about what Shavuot means to him and how we, as Reform Jews, can apply it to our lives.

No story in the Bible better demonstrates than the Book of Ruth the extraordinary power of love that goes beyond the expected obligation.

Elegant Cheesecake

Jan Rood-Ojalvo

Rabbinic tradition suggests a number of reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot, and cheesecake is a classic dessert for the holiday. This decadent, dense cheesecake recipe can also adapt to any occasion. I made it once in three tiers (one lemon, one Kahlúa, and the top Grand Marnier) for the elegant cake at my friend's wedding. I've also served it for birthdays (of all my baked goods, this was the request) and family dinners. It is even a popular dessert at our Passover seder, with the crust ingredients adapted. It can be baked several days ahead and left uncovered in the fridge, easily served at a moment's notice. Leftovers would last well if they didn't disappear.

5 packages (8 oz each) cream cheese
1 3/4 cups sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
5 whole eggs
2 egg yolks
1/4 cup lemon juice (or lime juice, or flavored liqueurs)
12 ounces chocolate Oreo cookies or chocolate wafers
1 egg white (reserve the egg yolk for the filling)
Sliced fruit and berries, optional, to garnish

To make the crust

  • In a food processor, crush Oreos or chocolate wafers with one egg white.
  • Pat into bottom and 1/2 -inch up the sides of a well-greased 9-inch springform pan. Bake at 300°F for 20 minutes.
  • Remove from oven. Raise the oven temperature to 500°F while preparing the filling.

To make the filling

  • In a blender or food processor, cream the cheese and sugar.
  • Add the flour and vanilla, then the eggs, one at a time, and the egg yolks, blending until uniform.
  • Blend in the lemon juice (or liqueur).

To assemble, bake, and cool

  • Pour the filling into the crust.
  • Bake 10 minutes at 500°F, then reduce heat to 250°F and bake for another hour or until center just slightly wobbles, but is done. Note: If cake browns too quickly, lightly lay a sheet of aluminum foil on top. 
  • Let cake cool thoroughly on a rack. Refrigerate several hours, preferably overnight, before serving.
  • May be garnished with fruit, if desired.

Jan Rood-Ojalvo has longstanding ties to Congregation M'kor Shalom and the Katz JCC, both in Cherry Hill, NJ. Jan, who lives with her husband Steve in Haddonfield, NJ, loves baking, traveling, opera, and staying in touch with her six children – and two granddaughters.

South Indian Coconut Rice Pudding

Maunika Gowardhan

Did you know that India's Jews come from four distinct groups and can trace their roots there back to ancient times? As in all Jewish communities around the world, Indian Jews translated their culinary tastes and the laws of kashrut to embrace the foods of the region. Here's a recipe that's perfect for Shavuot and all year 'round.

My craving for a hearty rice pudding a few weeks back led to this gorgeous dish!

Rice puddings are a very common snack and dessert in Indian communities. My mum would cook us Indian rice pudding regularly with spices and toasted nuts. Southern Indian rice pudding, also known as payasam, is similar in ways to the kheer Indian rice pudding. Traditional payasam is made with rice and is a tad milky in consistency. There is a variety of ways to cook this dish and local communities also make a delicious version with broken or cracked wheat.

I have eaten ‘Thengai paal Payasam’ at weddings and pujas in the past. Coconut rice pudding is full of flavour, decadent, and almost always makes me go for second helpings! Topped with fried pistachios, cashew nuts, and puffy raisins; this pudding is a mouthful of gorgeousness. My favourite are the raisins, so asking mum to add extra raisins was the done thing. I have used jaggery to cook the payasam, which lends a lovely sweetness but also gives it that caramelly colour. Palm sugar or unrefined brown sugar would be a perfect alternative.

1/3 cup Basmati rice
1/2 cup full fat milk
1 cup coconut milk
1/3 cup jaggery or unrefined brown sugar
5 cardamom pods; seeds only - pounded to a fine powder
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon cashew nuts
1 tablespoon pistachios
1 tablespoon raisins
Pinch of saffron

To prepare the pudding

  • In a wide, heavy-bottom saucepan add the rice, full fat milk, coconut milk over medium heat and bring to a boil. Stir frequently.
  • Reduce to a simmer and add the jaggery and cardamom powder.
  • Cook for an hour, stirring often and scraping the bottom and sides of the pan making sure it doesn’t stick. Once the rice is cooked and the pudding is a creamy consistency turn the heat off and cover with a lid. Leave to cool slightly.

To prepare the topping

  • In a frying pan heat the butter and add cashew nuts and brown slightly. Add the pistachios and raisins and fry for a few seconds.
  • Pour the fried nuts and butter over the payasam and serve warm.

    Raised in Mumbai, Chef Maunika Gowardhan's food influences stem from traditional home cooking, and creating authentic and delicious Indian dishes full of flavour and spice. She is the author of Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian Home CookingMaunika’s career in Indian food, spanning over a decade, has stemmed from her love for authentic flavours, cooking techniques, and being able to share a fresh perspective on the cuisine. She regularly contributes to a number of publications, including the Sunday Times, Telegraph, and Jamie Magazine, and is the contributing editor for Vogue India where she shares all the latest on the global Indian food scene. Maunika has cooked curries with TV chef Jamie Oliver and Heston Blumenthal. 


Apple and Honey Ice Cream

Heather Lorgeree

Try a tasty new twist on apples and honey this Rosh HaShanah!

2 Granny Smith apples, cored, peeled, and chopped
1/3 cup apple cider
2 tablespoons honey
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup milk
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons honey
3 large egg yolks
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Apple Purée

  1. Put apples, cider, honey, and cloves in a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until it begins to boil.
  2. Cover pan, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 10-12 minutes or until apples are tender when poked with a fork.
  3. Turn off heat. Using a potato masher purée the apples until smooth.
  4. Set aside to cool while you make the ice cream base.

Ice Cream Base 

  1. Separate eggs and place yolks in a medium size mixing bowl, set aside. Discard the whites or save them for a different recipe.
  2. Pour milk, sugar, and honey in a medium saucepan. Heat until warm and sugar has dissolved.
  3. Add 3 tablespoons of milk mixture, one at a time, to egg yolks, whisking. This keeps them from "scrambling." 
  4. Slowly pour the remaining milk mixture into the egg yolks while whisking constantly. 
  5. Pour the entire mixture back into the saucepan.
  6. Heat the mixture on low, stirring continually with a spatula until it thickens and coats the spatula. You will know it is thick enough when you can scrape a spoon down the center of the spatula and the mixture doesn’t fill back in the scraped line. Note: Do not let the mixture come to a boil!

Cooling and Freezing

  1. Create an ice bath by putting ice cubes, water, and a handful of salt into a large bowl.
  2. Set a medium bowl into the ice bath being careful not to let any water get into the medium bowl.
  3. Pour heavy cream into the medium bowl and place a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.
  4. Pour ice cream custard through the mesh strainer so it catches any eggy bits.
  5. Remove the mesh strainer.
  6. Stir ice cream custard and heavy cream together. Add the apple purée and vanilla and stir until the mixture cools down.
  7. Remove the bowl from the ice bath and place on a towel to dry off the outside.
  8. Chill the mixture in the refrigerator for 4-6 hours before freezing the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Heather Lorgeree is the Manager of Programming & Affiliate Services for Women of Reform Judaism. She is an active member of Temple Beth Or in Washington Township, NJ

Tina's Tidbits: 

Heather's Tips

  • If the egg mixture curdles or breaks, use an immersion blender to mix it back together.
  • This recipe can be made up to 5 days in advance and stored in the freezer.

Fire up the grill, it’s cookout season! Take family's weekend meal to the next level with these recipes for Jewishly inspired foods that are perfect for the grill

Making ice cream seems daunting and a little crazy. Why try to make it, when you can get very good ice cream in any grocery or convenience store? Making ice cream demands patience and creativity and can be a lot of fun, which makes it the perfect Shavout activity for you and your kids

Whether you stay up all night or have other plans, these recipes will make your Shavuot observance as sweet and delicious as the words of the Torah.


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