Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrates the harvest season in Israel and the anniversary of the giving of the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat dairy food on Shavuot for a number of reasons. One reason is that Shavuot is linked to the Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land, and it is written "From the misery of Egypt to a country flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8-17).
The following is a traditional Shavuot lunch or dinner menu with links to kosher dairy recipes.
Shavuot Dinner Menu
- Lettuce Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pecans -- This Lettuce Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Pecans was inspired by one Giora Shimoni enjoyed at Bonofait, a kosher cafe and patisserie in Israel.
- Lemon Herb Baked Halibut -- Giora Shimoni likes to serve this Lemon Herb Baked Halibut as a gefilte fish alternative for holiday dinners. It also makes a nice, light main dish for summer.
- Barley and Roasted Vegetable Salad -- Barley is one of the Seven Species of Israel, and its harvest features prominently in The Book of Ruth, which is read during Shavuot, so it's a perfect menu addition for the holiday.
- Steamed asparagus or Green Beans with Pecans and Date Syrup
- Cheesecake -- Take your pick from this collection of delicious cheesecake recipes to cap off the meal.
Shavuot Lunch Menu
- Blintz Souffle -- Baking the cheese-filled crepes into a sweet egg and sour cream-based custard is an ingenious way to doctor them into a crowd-pleasing casserole; starting with frozen blintzes cuts down on the fuss and makes this a quick dish to prepare.
- Heirloom Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese and Arugula -- Heirloom tomatoes come in a staggering array of colors, sizes, and flavor profiles. You can make this lovely composed salad with large or small tomatoes (or both!) -- the fun is in the interplay between lush summer tomatoes, the creamy tang of goat cheese, and the peppery bite of arugula.
- Crustless Cheese and Vegetable Quiche (Dairy) -- Think of this light and cheesy kosher dish as a cross between a frittata and a quiche, made sans crust, of course. Filled with mushrooms and topped with tomato rounds, it's perfect for a summer lunch.
- Roasted Pistachio-Crusted Salmon -- In her much-loved cookbook Hip Kosher, author Ronnie Fein writes "Mustard and pistachios bring out the best in salmon. This recipe is so easy and the fish so flavorful that it’s probably the one I make most often."
- Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting -- Instead of a super-rich cheesecake, go for a wholesome carrot cake. The Cream Cheese Frosting will still give you that cheesecake fix!
Need more ideas? Check out these Shavuot Menus for Busy Cooks.
It is customary to eat dairy on Shavuot for the following reasons:
- Shavuot is linked to the Exodus from Egypt into the Promised Land. "From the misery of Egypt to a country flowing with milk and honey..." (Exodus 3:8-17)
- After the Israelites received the Torah at Mount Sinai, they ate dairy food. Before they received the Torah, they did not keep kosher as they did not yet have the laws of kashrut. Immediately after they received the Torah, they did not yet have the tools to prepare kosher meat.
- The numerical value (Gematria) of chalav, the Hebrew word for milk, is 40. Eating dairy foods on Shavuot commemorates the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving the Torah.
- When the Israelites accepted the Torah, they committed themselves to following God's commandments, which requires showing restraint. Likewise, eating dairy instead of meat is seen as exhibiting restraint.