The way I see it, Shavuot menus are an opportunity to showcase vegetables.
Like the rest of Israel, I willingly succumb to cheesecake on Shavuot. Here’s apricot swirl cheesecake, cheesecake with dulce de leche, and New York cheesecake. Plenty to conquer that craving for cheesecake that creeps over us at this time of year. I love cheese, more than what’s good for me. But I know that the entire country is going to suffer the day after Shavuot, because we’ve all been hypnotized by ads showing gorgeous closeups of cheese blintzes, lasagna, ice cream, rich kugels, quiches – and obediently fix them all for one dairy-overloaded, artery-clogging meal.
There’s plenty of dairy on my table over the year. Just not all those delicious cheesy dishes at once. To keep things in balance over Shavuot, I plan menus around vegetables and whole grains with cheese or butter as an accent. Spinach is a natural for me because it’s Husband’s favorite vegetable.
This spinach fritter recipe may look familiar. I introduced it at Hannukah, but have adapted it since then, adding walnuts and Parmesan. Each fritters gets topped with a dollop of quickly-made fresh tomato sauce . The word “fritter” brings deep frying to mind, but happily, these rich-but-light patties need only a little olive oil in the skillet.
You can pull everything together quickly on the day if you prepare the fritters ahead of time and keep them in the fridge, well covered, for up to 2 days (or freeze them). The sauce can also be prepared ahead. Then just put everything together and heat it up.
Parmesan Spinach Fritters in Fresh Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Olive Trees and Honey by Gil Marks
Yield: about 10 fritters
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large, chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, mashed to a paste
570 grams – 20 oz. frozen spinach, thawed, chopped, and squeezed dry
1/2 cup fine, dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup ground walnuts
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon thyme
3 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
3 additional tablespoons grated Parmesan, for garnishing
Use a large frying pan. Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Sauté the onion till golden. Add the garlic and stir, cooking about 1 more minute.
Scrape the onion and garlic into a food processor. (No need to wash the skillet now). Add the spinach, bread crumbs, ground walnuts, cheese, salt, pepper and thyme. Add the beaten eggs and process a few seconds to obtain a rough batter.
- If you prefer to blend by hand, simply make sure that the spinach is very finely chopped, and proceed.
- If using fresh spinach, finely chop 1 kg. – 2 lbs and cooked till wilted. Squeeze it dry.
Cover the bottom of the frying pan with more olive oil and place it over medium heat.
Spoon tablespoons of spinach mixture into the skillet and flatten them into patties. Don’t crowd the patties in the frying pan; cook in batches.
Fry about 5 minutes, turning them over when the bottoms have acquired a brown crust. Fry another 5 minutes to make sure both sides are well crusted. Remove from heat. The patties should not be greasy, but if you like, set them to drain on paper towels.
Fresh Tomato Sauce:
Yield: 2 cups
1 kilo – 2 lbs. ripe, juicy tomatoes, any kind
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 – 1 teaspoon teaspoon salt, to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper
1 teaspoon brown sugar if needed
Cut the stem end out of each tomato in a triangular plug. Chop all the tomatoes, reserving the juices.
Put all the ingredients except the brown sugar in a blender or food processor. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan.
Stir well, cover, and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes. Taste the sauce. If it’s more tart than you like, add 1/2 – 1 teaspoon brown sugar. Stir well, then taste again.
Spoon dollops of sauce over the spinach fritters and bake the ensemble at 350° F – 180° C till all is heated through. Sprinkle grated Parmesan over each one just before serving, and serve hot.