Many of us have seasonal associations with Jewish holidays. The High Holidays and Sukkot: crisp, fall weather, a perfect time for a spiritual cleanse before we head into winter, Hanukkah: dark and cold winter, and a holiday of light to brighten the darkness, and of course, Passover: springtime and rebirth to signify freedom from slavery. My personal associations with Shavuot were always about the end of the school year and summer being just around the corner.
As a child, my family usually headed to Atlantic Beach, NY to celebrate Shavuot with my grandparents and revel in the end of another school year. I have fond memories of walking home from shul with my Saba, salty breeze blowing, to devour my Savta’s famous blintzes. The streets in Atlantic Beach are ordered alphabetically and, stomach rumbling, I’d count down: Oneida, Putnam…I just looked at Google Maps, and it turns out the shul was only three blocks away
My grandparents have since passed away, and their house has been sold, but those memories live on. I’d like to think that my Savta would approve of these blintzes, though they are completely gluten-free (sorry, Savta!). The trick to these is a heavy, high-quality crepe pan, to ensure a thin and evenly cooked crepe. I use the DeBuyer Iron pan.
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For the crepes:
240 grams/2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour mix
90 grams white rice flour
50 grams quinoa flour
100 grams tapioca flour
1 tsp psyllium husk
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup milk (regular, soy, or almond milk will all work)
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp grapeseed or other vegetable oil, plus more for frying
For the filling:
3 egg yolks
1 lb farmer cheese (if farmer cheese is not readily available, you can also use ricotta)
1/2 lb cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup or more sugar, to taste
zest of 1 lemon
jam, sour cream, or your other favorite toppings
If you are mixing flours yourself, measure and mix ahead of time into a small bowl. Whisk milk, eggs, and tablespoon of oil together in a medium mixing bowl and add the flour slowly, whisking as you go. Whisk until the batter is smooth and has no large pieces.
Heat your crepe pan on high with about a teaspoon of oil.
Make your crepes with about ¼ cup of batter, spreading it around as quickly as possible to get it as thin as you can. Cook on each side for about 2 minutes apiece, flipping with a metal spatula. The timing of this will depend on the kind of pan you use and how hot it is. Each side should be just slightly browned. These crepes are sturdy and can be piled on top of one another as you finish cooking them.
Mix together all the ingredients for your filling.
Take each crepe, 1 at a time, spoon 2-3 heaping tablespoons of filling on the bottom third, fold the bottom edge of the pancake up and over the filling, fold the sides in, and roll up into a slim roll.
To bake, put the blintzes side by side in a greased oven dish and bake at 375 oven for 20 minutes. To fry, heat about half an inch of grapeseed or vegetable oil in a frying pan, and when the oil is hot, fry each blintz for about 4 minutes on each side, until browned.
Cool on a paper bag to absorb excess oil. Serve with jam, fruit, sour cream, or other toppings.
In Full Moon Feast, Jessica Prentice guides us through 13 lunar months and the foods grown and prepared within them in traditional cultures. At its core is the idea that food connects people to one another, to themselves, and to the natural world. Prentice describes the lifecycle of Pacific salmon, who in early autumn are born in freshwater streams, spend their lives in the ocean, and then journey back upstream to their birthplace to spawn the next generation.
The salmon’s natural lifecycle provides a metaphor for this time of year, when we are engrossed in our own “return.” On the High Holidays, we do teshuva, which is often translated as “repentance,” but literally means “return.” We return to ourselves in order to examine who we are and who we want to be.
Eating lox this time of year connects our own process of “teshuva” with salmon’s seasonal “return.” If you have never cured your own lox before, give this recipe a try, for Yom Kippur break-fast! It doesn’t require any special equipment, and is sure to delight. Thin slices of this buttery, moist gravlax will be delicious on your post-fast bagel or on a slice of homemade gluten-free challah. It tastes like no lox you have ever eaten before.
2 pounds fresh center-cut wild salmon fillet, skin on
½ cup kosher salt
½ cup sugar
2 tbsp peppercorns
2 tsp crushed juniper berries (can be purchased at Whole Foods, Fairway, or specialty food stores)
7-8 large sprigs fresh dill
1-2 shots of gin or vodka
In a bowl, combine the salt, sugar, peppercorns, and juniper berries. Line a glass dish that will fit your salmon fillet with two large pieces of plastic wrap and sprinkle half of your salt and sugar mixture onto the bottom. Lay half of your dill sprigs down, then cover with your salmon fillet. Sprinkle the remaining mixture on top of the fillet, then cover with the remaining sprigs of dill and your shots of alcohol, and then wrap everything as tightly as you can in the plastic. Leave it in the dish as the salt will create a brine for the fish. Refrigerate for 3-4 days, depending on the thickness of your filet. The lox is finished when the salmon’s hue has transitioned from pink to deep orange. Before serving, discard the dill and rinse the fillet of the brine, peppercorns, and juniper berries. Slice thinly against the grain with a sharp knife. Serve with sliced lemon and capers.
Variation: try a layer of shredded raw beets on the non-skin side of your fillet before wrapping. After the lox is finished curing, each of your slices will have a purple or dark pink edge to it.
The first bread I ever learned to bake was challah. My grandmother was a rebbetzin famous for her glorious displays of baked goods, including challah. Once I started baking myself, my favorite time of the week was Shabbat dinner, when we’d lift the cover to reveal my braided loaves. We would all sigh, stomachs rumbling.
After a year of exploring the wonderful world of baking bread, my one-woman gluten fest came to a rather rude end. I’d been ignoring my chronic stomach pains and bloating, and though I tested negative for celiac, I decided to try a gluten-free diet just to see. Both to my dismay and relief, my pains subsided, my energy level increased, and I began to feel more like myself again. I swore off bread and wallowed in self-pity until I took a shot at baking gluten-free bread. I soon discovered wonderful and tasty gluten-free flours, some made from grains I’d never even heard of.
After crafting this basic gluten-free bread recipe, I went off to create a challah recipe that would make my grandmother proud and would even be worthy of hamotzi and hafrashat challah, the blessing over separating and ritually burning a small piece of bread, also known as “taking challah.” (See “Challah Back,” my rabbinic source sheet all about challah baking!)
According to Jewish law, challah can only be “taken” if made from one of the 5 grains named in the Bible: barley, rye, wheat, oat, spelt. Bread made from other grains can be kosher, but you cannot say hamotzi over it, nor can you take challah from it. Guess what? Those 5 grains are the grains that gluten-free eaters avoid. Oats, however, can be gluten-free if grown, harvested, and processed away from wheat.* A rabbi I consulted suggested that while no teshuva, or responsum, has been written on the topic, the oat flour must be at least 51% of the flour in the bread.
1 package active dry yeast (about 1 Tbsp)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup honey (85 grams)
2 eggs (egg-free version: 2 tbsp flax seeds blended with 6 tbsp warm water until frothy)
1/4 cup (50 grams) grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 cup (140 grams) tapioca flour/starch
1⁄2 cup (40 grams) coconut, quinoa, brown rice, teff, or other gluten-free flour (note: if you use teff flour, you can reduce your xanthan gum to 2 tsp).
Place the yeast and honey in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the warm water and whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve the yeast.
Let the yeast foam and bubble for a few minutes. Mix in wet ingredients first (eggs, oil, vinegar) and then add the flours, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix well. Add raisins if you like. Pour into a lightly oiled 9×5 loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
15 minutes before it’s finished rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dishtowel and bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes out of the oven in the pan before removing. Turn it out onto a cooling rack and let cool 30 minutes before slicing.
Gluten-free bread dough is usually a similar texture to cake batter, which is not braidable. I have this braided loaf pan to trick people into thinking I actually braided this challah. But any loaf pan will do!
*Note: There are some celiacs who cannot digest oats, so I realize this recipe will not work for those folks.
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