Commemorating both when the first fruits were harvested and brought to the Temple, and the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, Shavuot is a time we are encouraged to give and reflect on the gift of Torah and the gifts that the earth provides. Shavuot is also an exciting holiday for vegetarians, since it is a tradition to eat at least one dairy meal on Shavuot. This makes Shavuot an excellent opportunity to educate about the benefits of limiting meat consumption, and consuming sustainable and ethical fruit and dairy.
Enjoy the educational resources below, and join the Shavuot retreat at Isabella Freedman.
Activities & Rituals
We’re Up All Night to Learn Torah – Tikkun Leil Shavuot – studying and learning Torah until the wee hours of the morning – is a Shavuot tradition, stemming from our ancestors’ mistake of sleeping in the morning we were to receive the Torah. This year, make sustainability a part of conversation during your learning session. Look through Food for Thought, Hazon’s sourcebook on Jews, Food, and Contemporary Life, for sources to use at your Tikkun or Shavuot table.
Reconnect with the Land – What can Shavuot teach us about the connections between Jewish tradition and agriculture? This text presents one farmer’s take on seeing Jewish rituals as they connect to the cycles of planting, harvest, and eating, which is useful to think about when considering the connection between Shavuot and Farming. Also, check out the Religious Action Center’s Shavuot program for Reconnecting to the Land and Produce. The entire family will enjoy these interactive programs.
Learn about sustainable dairy – Shavuot is replete with dairy foods, from cheesecake to blintzes to burekas. While this is great for Jewish vegetarians, the dairy industry isn’t always ethical or sustainable. Use this Shavuot as an opportunity to educate yourself and others about making better dairy choices for your health, animal welfare, and the environment. Our friends at Adamah have built a thriving dairy operation based on Jewish and sustainable food values. Check out these articles and podcasts on their amazing work and see what sustainable dairy operations look like:
Food & Recipes
- 2 cups of strawberries cut in half, stemmed
- 4 ounces of goat cheese
- 1/3 cup of bread crumbs (use Panko, if available)
- 2 T. fresh flat leaf parsley-chopped finely
- 1 T. fresh thyme-chopped finely
- Flour for dipping the cheese
- 1 egg-beaten
- 4 cups baby greens such as Mesclun variety
- 1 red onion, sliced very thinly
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
- Salt and pepper
Cut the goat cheese into coin shapes (about 1 ounce each coin). Place the coins in the freezer for about 30 minutes until firm and easy to handle.
Mix the herbs and the breadcrumbs together on a small plate. Salt and pepper as needed. Place the flour on a small plate.
Place a medium saute pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil.
Dredge a cheese coin in the flour. Then dip it into the beaten egg. And finally dip the cheese into the bread crumbs. Place the cheese in the saute pan and brown it on each side (about 3 minutes per side). Remove the cheese to a paper towel lined plate. Continue with remaining cheese.
Place the strawberries on a parchment lined baking sheet. Brush the strawberries with honey and sprinkle with freshly ground pepper. Roast the strawberries for about 10 minutes until they are lightly caramelized and very fragrant.
Toss the greens with Extra Virgin olive oil and salt and pepper as needed.
Mound the greens on four plates or a serving platter. Place the strawberries and red onion on the greens. Place the cheese croutons on top of the salad and drizzle with honey lavender vinaigrette.
- 4 6-ounce Wild salmon filets (from Alaska), skin off
- 1 tablespoon chopped flat leaf parsley
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh chives
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
Pat dry the salmon filets. Combine the fresh herbs in a bowl. Press the herbs on to the “presentation “side of the salmon (non-skin side). Salt and pepper the fish on both sides.
Place a large saute pan over medium high heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Place the salmon filets, presentation side down, in the pan. Here is the hard part-Don’t touch the fish for at least 3-5 minutes until the fish has browned and is not sticking to the pan. If it sticks, it has not browned enough. The browned fish will be crispy and firm and will loosen itself from the pan.
Turn the fish over and turn off the heat. Cover the pan and the fish will continue to cook for 3 more minutes. Your fish will be perfect medium rare. If you want it well done (I don’t recommend it) keep the heat on a bit longer and cook the fish until it is firm when lightly squeezed on the sides of the filet.
- 4 ounces unsalted butter
Place the butter in a small saucepan over medium high heat. Cook the butter until it has turned a medium golden brown and is very fragrant (about 10 minutes).
Drizzle the brown butter over the fish.
For the Marinade
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 jalepeno, seeded and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons peanut oil or veg oil
- 2 large mangoes, roughly chopped (note: you will need one more mango when cooking the tofu, see below)
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 cup white cooking wine (or vegetable broth)
- fresh black pepper to taste
- dash of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 2 tablespoon rice vinegar (use apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar if you dont have rice)
- juice of two limes
- 1 cup orange juice
For the Tofu
- 2 blocks tofu extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
- 1 mango, sliced in long thin slices
- 1 red pepper, seeded and cut in long thin slices
Make the marinade: In a medium sauce pan, heat the oil, add garlic, ginger and jalepeno, saute on medium heat 7 minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add 2 chopped mangoes and saute 5 minutes
Add pure maple syrup and wine, cover and simmer 35 minutes; Uncover and simmer 5 more minutes.
Add orange juice, vinegar, lime, black pepper, allspice and salt; Add mixture to blender, puree until smooth.
Prepare the tofu. Cut tofu blocks into 8 slabs each. Place tofu in marinade in a sealable plastic bag or tupperware. Marinate in the fridge for an hour and up to overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 – Reserve about half of the marinate. Lay marinated tofu in a single layer in baking pan. Cook for 20 minutes. Flip tofu over and add more marinade. Dredge peppers and sliced mangos in marinade and add them to pan. Cook another 15 minutes.
Heat up remaining marinade in a sauce pan and put in a bowl on the table (or floor, where ever you’re eating) so guests (or room mates, or who ever is eating) can pour it over the tofu. Serve over jasmine rice, with a steamed vegetable, such as aspararus or broccoli.
- 2 cups shelled English peas
- ½ cup heavy cream
- Olive oil
- 2 cups vegetable stock or water
- 1 Shallot, peeled and chopped finely
- 1 cup Arborio rice
- ½ cup white wine
- ½ cup heavy cream for the risotto
- ¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
- 1 teaspoon chopped mint
Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil. Cook the English peas until they are cooked through (about 8 minutes). Place the cooked peas in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process and keep the peas green.
Drain the peas and place in a medium mixing bowl. Puree the peas in an immersion blender with the heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Place a medium sauce pan over medium high heat and bring the vegetable stock to a simmer.
Place a medium saute pan over medium heat. Lightly coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil. Add the shallot and sweat for several minutes until the shallot is very soft but not browned. Add the Arborio rice and stir until each grain of rice is coated with the olive oil. Add the white wine.
Increase the heat and allow the wine to simmer for several minutes. Add the hot stock or water into the rice by ladle-fuls. Stir with each addition of stock before adding another. Continue until the liquid is completely added to the rice and the rice is soft and creamy but remains al dente.
Stir in the remaining heavy cream. Remove from the heat and stir in the pea puree. Adjust seasoning and sprinkle with herbs and Parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Nonstick vegetable oil spray
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
- 4 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
- 2 8-ounce packages cream cheese, room temperature
- 1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese
- 2 extra-large eggs
- 2/3 cup purchased lemon curd
Preheat oven to 425°F. Spray eight 3/4-cup ramekins or custard cups with nonstick spray. Using electric mixer, beat sugar, lemon juice, and lemon peel in large bowl until sugar dissolves, about 1 minute.
Add cream cheese and ricotta cheese; beat until smooth, about 1 minute (some small curds from ricotta may remain). Add eggs; beat until well blended.
Divide batter among prepared ramekins. Place ramekins on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until puffed, just set in center, and pale golden on top, about 18 minutes. Chill until cold, about 2 hours.
DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and keep chilled.
Spread lemon curd over chilled cheesecakes and serve.
This recipe comes from The Minimalist Baker
For the Cheese
- 2 cups (240 g) raw cashews
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (1 Tbsp or 6 g)
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder, plus more to taste
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2 lemons, juiced (1/4 cup or 60 ml)
- 3/4 cup (180 ml) water
- 2 Tbsp (6 g) nutritional yeast
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 Tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
- 2 Tbsp (8 g) finely minced fresh dill
Place cashews in a bowl and cover with cool water. Cover with plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator to soak for 12 hours. If you can’t get to them right away, drain, place back in bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. They will keep refrigerated for 24-36 hours.
Once soaked, drain cashews thoroughly and add to food processor. Add minced garlic, garlic powder, lemon zest, lemon juice, water, nutritional yeast, salt and olive oil.
Process until very creamy and smooth, scraping down sides as needed. Then taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more lemon zest for tartness, nutritional yeast for cheesiness, garlic for zing, or salt for flavor + balance.
Place a fine mesh strainer (or colander) over a large mixing bowl, and lay down two layers of cheesecloth (or a clean, fine, absorbent towel).
Use a spatula to scoop all cheese over the cheesecloth, then gather the corners and twist the top gently to form the cheese into a “disc.” Secure with a rubber band.
Place in refrigerator to set for at least 6 hours, preferably 12, or until excess moisture has been wicked away, and it holds its form when released from the cheesecloth.
To serve, unwrap from cheesecloth and gently invert onto a serving platter. Reform with hands or cheesecloth as needed, then coat with chopped herbs and a bit more lemon zest (optional). It is fragile, so handle gently.
Enjoy chilled with crackers or vegetables. Cheese will hold its form for 1-2 hours out of the refrigerator, but best when chilled. Leftovers keep well covered in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
Buy Fair Trade Coffee – Check out the Religious Action Center’s Shavuot program on Fair Trade Coffee, complete with a text study and suggested actions – perfect for keeping you and your late-night study companions caffeinated!
Buy Fair Trade Judaica – Look around Fair Trade Judaica for ways to make smart purchases this Shavuot.
Initiate sustainable eating at your synagogue – Download the complete Hazon Food Guide & Food Audit Toolkit. This guide will help you navigate food choices in your synagogue or JCC. It offers practical suggestions for combining our ancient tradition of keeping kosher and our modern environmental and sustainable eating habits.
Go Vegan – Although dairy is traditionally a part of Shavuot meals, there are many reasons to go dairy-free. Many people have a dairy intolerance, and environmentalists and animal welfare activists are opting out of both meat and dairy products because of animal cruelty and the contribution to global climate change by the meat and dairy industry. Learn more about Jewish perspectives on animal welfare by checking out the Jewish Initiative for Animals.
Check out this website full of dairy free dessert recipes for more inspiration. Try making vegan whipped cream to put on any dessert, or adding dairy-free peach pudding or dairy-free sorbet to your dessert menu. Fruit is also an authentic Shavuot food, so adding fruit to your meals is a healthy and delicious way to work tradition into your holiday festivities.
Got Ethical Milk? – If you choose to use dairy, use the most ethical and sustainable dairy products possible. Check out Hazon’s list of Kosher Sustainable Cheeses, and read up on the sustainability and the dairy industry.
Learn About Shavuot
Shavuot 101 (My Jewish Learning) – Shavuot, the “Feast of Weeks,” is celebrated seven weeks after Pesach (Passover). Since the counting of this period (sefirat ha-omer) begins on the second evening of Pesach, Shavuot takes place exactly 50 days after the (first) seder. Although its origins are to be found in an ancient grain harvest festival, Shavuot has been identified since biblical times with the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai.
First Fruit Challah for Shavuot – In ancient times, the challah eaten on Shavuot was the first taste of the new year’s wheat. During the counting of the Omer, first barley, and then wheat, were counted in anticipation of the Shavuot festival. When the other first fruits were offered in Jerusalem, two large challot were made of the first fruits of the wheat plant. Like the first wheat plants, the challot were also big, fluffy and delicious.
Shavuot on the Farm – “On our farm, the house is bedecked with fragrant lilacs and green branches we’ve cleared from the woods. Tonight, we’re making chevre blintzes drizzled with rhubarb sauce for a sweet supper…”
A Fruitful Lesson – On Shavuot, when we celebrate receiving the Torah, we also celebrate the offering of the first fruits in the Temple, the bikurim. The offering was a supremely humble gesture: the fruits which form first on a tree are often smaller, less perfect, only hinting at the abundance to follow. In ancient Israel, these offerings were gussied up, surrounded by the more beautiful fruit which grew later, brought sometimes in gold baskets, accompanied by flutes, processions. All the trappings of art and wealth were used to beautify the offering. Yet without the small, perhaps wrinkled fruit of the bikurim, there could be no offering.
What the Dessert Teaches – Mostly, on shavuot, we study Torah and giving of the laws. But aren’t all those dairy desserts also worthy of our analysis? Food, after all, is where all laws, values, and psychological dispositions are enacted. There are reasons that the giving of law is linked to eating a dairy meal, not the least of which being that milk sustains the body the way Torah maintains the soul.
- From Charity and Dependency to Dignity and Sustainability from On1Foot
- Shavuot a Green Holiday? Let me Count the Ways from COEJL
- Sleepless for Shavuot from The Forward
- Ruth and Lovingkindness from My Jewish Learning