Shavuot originally was a harvest festival celebrating the gathering of spring barley and early wheat such as farro. It is traditional to eat dairy foods during the holiday, which starts on May 30. In addition, with so many grains now available, it is easy to create delicious pilafs. Quick-cooking barley and farro are even available at Trader Joe’s.
Barley is wonderful as a side dish and can be prepared as a pilaf, or use farro. Porcini adds a depth of flavor to intensify the fresh mushroom juices. For a touch of color, add peas to the finished dish.
Be sure to use fresh, moist ricotta for this classic Roman Jewish cheese dessert. Serve with berries or other fresh fruit.
Barley and Mushroom Pilaf
1 oz. dried porcini (optional)
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 lb. assorted mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
Salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbs. butter or olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped, about 1 cup
2 tsp. salt or to taste
2 cups barley (or farro)
5- 6 cups hot vegetable broth, or a bit more if needed
1½ cups shelled English peas (optional)
Chopped Italian parsley or mint
Rinse the porcini, then soak in hot water to cover for at least a half hour. Strain liquids through a fine strainer and reserve. Chop porcini and set aside.
Melt 2 Tbs. of butter with the oil and sauté the chopped mushrooms quickly over high heat until they release some liquid. Stir in the chopped porcini and their liquid. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.
Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat, partially cover and hold at a simmer.
Melt 3 Tbs. butter (or oil) in a large sauté pan with high sides over moderate heat. Add onion and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until tender and translucent. Add salt and the barley (or farro) and stir until grains are coated with butter. Add hot stock and stir over low heat until the stock is absorbed. With slow-cooking barley or farro, cooking time may be as long as 30 minutes. During the last 10 minutes, stir in cooked mushrooms, chopped porcini and their liquids. Add peas during the last 5 minutes if using. Simmer until barley and peas are tender, then adjust seasoning. Serve hot, garnished with chopped parsley or mint.
Warm Ricotta Soufflé Pudding
Serves 8 to 12
1 lb. (2 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
4 eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. all-purpose flour
2 Tbs. cognac
Grated zest of 2 lemons
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon (optional)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Butter 12 (3/4-cup) ramekins or one 2-qt. soufflé dish.
Spoon the ricotta into a sieve placed over a bowl and let drain in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours.
In a bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together the egg yolks and sugar until very thick and pale. Add the drained ricotta, flour, cognac, lemon zest and cinnamon. Mix gently until well combined. In another bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir about 1/4 of the egg whites into the cheese mixture to lighten it, then fold in the remaining whites just until no white streaks remain. Pour into the prepared ramekins or soufflé dish. Place in a baking pan and pour hot water into the pan to reach halfway up the sides of the ramekins or dish. Cover the pan with aluminum foil. Bake until set but still a little jiggly, 25 to 30 minutes for ramekins and about 40 minutes for the large mold. Remove from the oven and place on a rack. Serve warm.
Garnish with sliced strawberries macerated in blood orange juice, if desired.