An Israeli and Palestinian Dessert for Shavuot
Shavuot commemorates God’s giving of the Torah to the people of Israel. It is also the time when people would bring their first fruits to the Temple. People decorate their homes with greenery or flowers, read the book of Ruth in synagogues, eat a large dairy meal, and participate in all-night Torah study. In secular Israeli society, the holiday is celebrated with a meal of quiches, blintzes, lasagnas, and cheesecakes. Additionally, agricultural communities like the kibbutzim have big, earthy festivals. There are also all night marathons of academic lectures and round tables mirroring the religious community's all night Torah study. Israeli kids, however, think of it mostly as “water day” - a time for massive water fights involving all the kids on the block.
In honor of this holiday, we share a Palestinian and Israeli dairy dessert, celebrating the freshness and warmth of the season as we soon make the transition from spring to summer. Either of these desserts will make a lovely addition to your table. Sahteen! B'tayavon! (Two healths to you, with good appetite.)
As a Palestinian, I don’t celebrate Shavuot, but I am excited about any opportunity to share a dessert recipe, especially “Layali Lubnan,” which is my all-time favorite Arabic dessert! “Layali Lubnan” is very common in the Middle East, especially in the Levant area. It literally translates to “Lebanese Nights.” It’s a summery and smooth dessert that is full of flavors like rose water, Arabic gum and pistachio.
There are three basic steps to making this delicious dessert.
- The dairy base: Heat 4 cups of milk with 1 cup of semolina wheat. Add 3 tablespoons of rose water and crush 1 teaspoon of Arabic gum in it (be careful not to overdo this as it has an overpowering taste). Heat until it begins to gently boil, stirring often until it thickens (about 3-4 minutes after it starts boiling). Set it aside until it cools a little.
- The dairy topping: Whip 1 cup of Nestle cream. Once the dairy base and cream are ready, pour the base in a 9x13 glass dish. Add the whipped cream on top and place in the refrigerator to cool overnight.
- The syrup: In a sauce pan heat 1.5 cups of sugar, 1.5 cups of water and 1 squeeze of lemon juice. Let it come to a boil and heat until it thickens into a syrup (8-10 minutes).
- Once the dessert is cooled and ready to be served, pour the syrup on top, and sprinkle crushed pistachios over it. And voila, you can enjoy this cool dessert on a warm night, just like any Levantine family.
Enjoy with a cup of mint tea or Arabic coffee for a truly authentic experience :)
A traditional Israeli cheesecake is quite different from its American counterpart. It’s often no-bake and is sandwiched in between two layers of crumbs. It is a light, refreshing and sweet finale to a heavy Shavuot meal. Recipe adapted from Osem.
- For the base: Crush the cookies into crumbs and add the melted butter. Set ½ cup of cookie/butter mix on the side for decoration at the end. Press the remainder of the cookies into a 8-10 inch round cake base lined with parchment paper (preferably a springform pan).
- For the filling: Using a mixer, combine the whipping cream, sugar, lemon zest and vanilla pudding until the cream stiffens. Gently stir in the white cheese and cream cheese. Pour over the cookie crumb base.
- Sprinkle the ½ cup of remaining cookie crumbs over the cake. Cover and place in the refrigerator overnight until it sets.