It’s Lag B’omer 5773 (2013) today. It’s a day of bonfires and get-togethers. Last night we began dancing in the streets and then brought the party home until 3:00 AM.
It might seem odd that today we celebrate the yartzheit, or anniversary of the death, of the Rashbi, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the 2nd century sage, who authored the Zohar (Radiance), the world-changing Kabbalastic text.
But it’s not a somber occasion. We passionately celebrate the radiant light the Rashbi released into the world.
In the introduction to the Zohar, he tells us: With this book [Zohar] of yours, the people will be redeemed from exile with mercy.
The Rashbi also informs us that: In the sixth century of the sixth millennium, the gates of the supernal wisdom will be opened, as will the springs of the earthly wisdom, preparing the world to be elevated in the seventh millennium. —Rashbi, Zohar HaKodesh.
In between all the excitement, I’m posting some Shavuos recipes.While you read, listen to this addictive version of the Shimon bar Yochai song.
On Shavuos it is customary to eat dairy. Sara bas Hedva who sponsored this post asked for vegan (free of all animal foods including eggs and dairy) recipes. The fava bean recipe and the fennel recipe can be vegan; the Greek yogurt recipe, not. Fava beans are in season now; fennel is just ending its season, and the herbs required for this recipe are either in season or are available greenhouse grown.
HJC’s Fava Bean, Pecorina Romano, and Arugula Salad
This is a simple, classic Italian salad perfect for Shavuos, as fresh fava beans (sometimes called broad beans) are in season (from California) and available at most supermarkets this time of year. This makes an excellent starter or a vegetarian main course. Serve warm or slightly chilled.
3 pounds fresh fava beans in shell
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably organic
Juice of one lemon
8 mints leaves, wash and chiffonade (optional)
2/3 pound (approximately) chunk of aged Pecorino Romano, shaved into thin pieces with vegetable peeler or cheese slicer
1 pound Arugula or mesclun mix (washed and checked for insects and dried)
Black pepper (optional)
Bring large pot of water to boil with 1 teaspoon salt. Meanwhile, remove fava beans from shell. Drop into boiling water and boil for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, until just done (depends on size of beans.) Drain immediately and plunge into icy-cold water to stop cooking.
You may refrigerate, well-covered, at this point for up to 24 hours.
Drain well and gently mix with olive oil, lemon juice, and mint leaves if using, optional.
To assemble: Place arugula in large shallow bowl, spoon beans on top, and top with shaved cheese. You may top with freshly ground black pepper, optional. Serves 6.
Note: A very small percentage of Jews have G6PD, a potentially dangerous genetic deficiency which is also called Favism because sufferers are unable to digest fava beans.
Licorice-flavored anything is very popular in our house. Anise seed, fennel seed, star anise, real licorice root tarragon, (there are several others, but these are the most popular.) Fennel is one of our favorite vegetables. It is great for the digestion, an appetite suppressant, and an anti-carminitive. Often mis-labeled as anise, it is a slightly licorice-flavored bulb with the texture of chewy celery. It is equally good cooked or raw and popular in Mediterranean countries.
A classic salad is raw sliced fennel with orange sections and black olives, drizzled with olive oil. Fennel also goes well with roasted bell peppers, shaved parmagiano regiano or pecorino romano. The fronds are used in pasta con sarde (or pasta con le sarde), a Sicilian dish traditional in my husband’s family. Since the fronds are very difficult to check for insects, we generally place them in a bouquet garni bags and augment the flavor with fresh, chopped fennel bulb.
Here’s a recipe for fennel with olives and tomatoes. It’s a rustic but satisfying side dish, also good tossed with pasta, or as a topping for fresh grilled fish. Fennel and fish are a perfect shidduch.
HJC’s Fennel with Olives and Tomatoes
2 bulbs fennel, cleaned and sliced
6 organic plum tomatoes, ripe, sliced into quarters lengthwise (or 24 cherry tomatoes)
1 cup small, flavorful Israeli green olives, pitted
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Prepare vegetables. Heat oil in stainless steel pot or frying pan and add fennel and tomatoes, stirring gently until crisp-tender. Stir in olives. Serve hot or warm.
Presently, the only *kosher yogurts available in the United States are made with highly-processed skim milk, food starch and/or other additives. If you can make your own yogurt from raw (or at least not homogenized) whole milk, it’ll be a revelation in taste, texture, and health benefits.
This dip or spread can be served as a first course or used to stuff vegetables like mini-peppers or tomatoes.
HJC’s Herbed Greek Yogurt Dip or Spread
32 oz. (4 cups) plain yogurt, chilled, preferably homemade with whole cow’s or ewe’s milk, but you can use store-bought yogurt
6 sprigs parsley, with stems, washed,dried, and minced
4 dill sprigs with stems, washed, dried, and minced
6 mint leaves, washed, dried, and minced
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 scallions, washed and trimmed
1-2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/4 teaspoon unrefined sea salt or Himalyan salt
Juice of one lemon, or to taste
Line a large strainer with a double-thick layer of cheese cloth. Rest on bowl. The bottom of the strainer should not touch the bottom of the bowl, it should be at least 2 inches above the bottom. Spoon yogurt into lined strainer, cover with a plate or kitchen towel, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or until as thick as you like.
Drain liquid whey and reserve for another use (good in high-protein smoothies).
Stir in remaining ingredients. Serve as dip or spread with crudites, spread on crusty bread, or use as stuffing in mini-bell peppers.
Makes approximately 2 cups thick Greek yogurt dip or 1 1/2 cups thicker spread.
Other Shavuos Posts:
Cheese and Tigers (What’s out there in the world of kosher cheeses and more)
Mediterranean Shavuot Recipes (Recipes from Greece, Southern Italy, Bulgaria, Israel, Turkey)
Not So Vanilla Shavuot (Dairy Free and Gluten Free Chocolate Cream Pie recipe in the spirit of Shavuos)