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Spring bounties

Celebrate Shavuot with the best of the season

With its tradition of dairy meals, Shavuot is one of my favorite holidays. Arriving later in the spring — an ideal time to find delicious fruits, herbs, and vegetables — it’s perfect for using fresh and seasonal ingredients.

The dishes I have selected for a Shavuot menu not only are perfect for dinner or lunch, they also reflect my philosophy on eating well: good planning, portion control, and nutrition. Each dish can be prepared in advance, is not too difficult to make, and doesn’t require many ingredients.

Ziti With Herbs and Mozzarella has a lovely combination of herbs and cheese. And in late spring and summer, there is an abundance of fresh basil, parsley, and arugula, all of which add wonderful flavor to the dish.

For my fish, the Seared Tuna With Two Sauces also can be served at room temperature.

Finally, instead of the obligatory highly caloric cream cheese-based cheesecake, try Ricotta Flan with Raspberry Sauce. The ricotta and almonds make the cake much lighter (and healthier) than a traditional cheesecake, and it can be served warm, cold, or at room temperature.

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ZITI WITH HERBS AND MOZZARELLA

4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1 cup tightly packed flat-leaf parsley
1 cup loosely packed arugula leaves
4 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 pound fresh mozzarella
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
Kosher salt
1 pound imported ziti
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper

Wrap garlic cloves in foil and bake in a toaster oven at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes, until soft. Cool.

Peel cloves and place in a food processor along with basil, parsley, and arugula. Adding the oil in a stream through the feed tube, pulse until semicoarse. Transfer to large bowl.

Cut the mozzarella into half-inch cubes. Add cheese, along with crushed pepper, to the herb mixture and combine.

Bring five quarts of water to boil in a large pot. Add two tablespoons salt. Add ziti and stir. Boil briskly, uncovered, until the pasta is al dente.

Drain in a colander, refresh with cold water, and drain well again. Add ziti to the herb and mozzarella mixture. Season to taste with the lemon juice, salt, and pepper.

Makes six appetizer servings or four main-course servings

SEARED TUNA WITH TWO SAUCES

1 tsp. kosher salt
2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds sashimi-quality tuna
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Julienned daikon, sliced seeded cucumbers, and strong-tasting salad leaves like arugula or watercress, for garnish
Ginger Sauce or Piquant Asia Sauce, to serve (recipes follow)

Combine salt and pepper in a small bowl.

Pat tuna dry with paper towels. Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Sear tuna on both sides, then remove from heat and rub both sides with salt-pepper mixture.

When cool, wrap the tuna tightly in wax paper, then in foil. Refrigerate for at least four hours or overnight.

To serve: Cut the fish against the grain in thin slices and serve accompanied by the suggested vegetables. Serve either of the sauces separately.

Makes six servings

GINGER SAUCE
Makes about 1/2 cup

2 shallots, finely chopped
3 Tbsp. low-sodium soy sauce
2 1/2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
2 tsp. water
1/2 tsp. sugar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
1 generous Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. sesame oil
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Combine ingredients well and season to taste.

PIQUANT ASIAN SAUCE
Makes about 1 cup

1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
2 tsp. wasabi powder
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp. powdered mustard
3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup frozen shelled soybeans (edamame), defrosted
1/2 cup vegetable broth
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Season to taste.

RICOTTA FLAN WITH RASPBERRY SAUCE

FLAN

1 Tbsp. unsalted butter, for greasing the pan
1 cup blanched almonds
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Grated zest of 2 lemons
One 15-ounce container ricotta cheese, at room temperature
Confectioners’ sugar, for dusting the flan
Fresh raspberries, for garnish

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10-by-one-and-a-half-inch flan dish with butter.

Roast the almonds in a toaster oven at 350 degrees for five minutes, until golden. Cool. Finely grind in a food processor.

In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, adding sugar gradually until well combined. Add vanilla, lemon zest, ricotta, and almonds. Mix well.

Pour mixture into prepared dish; bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the center feels slightly springy to the touch. Place on wire rack to cool.

RASPBERRY SAUCE

One 12-ounce package unsweetened frozen raspberries, defrosted
1 Tbsp. Cognac (optional)
2 Tbsp. confectioners’ sugar, or to taste

Puree raspberries in blender until smooth. Strain through a medium-mesh sieve. Push solids through sieve with the back of a spoon to obtain as much puree as possible. Stir in cognac; sweeten to taste with sugar.

To serve: Spoon raspberry sauce on individual plates and place slices of the flan on top. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and garnish with fresh raspberries.

Makes eight to 10 servings

 

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