a small pastry sits next to a pickle on a plate with an image of an owl in a top hat on it
One of Shelly Butcher's Cheese Parcels. Also, a pickle. (Photo/Shelly Butcher)

What to do with your leftover Shavuot cheese

The holiday of blintzes, also called Shavuot, recently ended. This marks the occasion where the Israelites received the Torah on Mount Sinai and is celebrated as a harvest holiday in Israel, with heavy consumption of dairy foods.

For me as a child, though, it was the blintz holiday, and the one time of year our health-conscious ’80s household binged on high-fat, high-cholesterol blintzes filled with farmer’s cheese and topped with thick sour cream. These were frozen, but warm from the oven and wrapped in a blanket of sour cream, they were still so good.

How I loved that farmer’s cheese filling. Something about the contrast between the slightly chewy curds and the velvety sour cream tasted like perfection.

After Shavuot, it was back to low-fat drudgery. My dad would make a lasagna with fat-free farmer’s cheese and soy sausages. It wasn’t bad, but it lacked the richness and character of real dairy. It made the memory of those Shavuot blintzes that much more vivid. It would be years before I made blintzes from scratch.

These days, the medical establishment appears to have come full circle. The BMJ has sanctified saturated fats. It’s like that scene in “Sleeper,” where futuristic doctors tout the health benefits of cream pie.

I don’t eat fat-free anything anymore. I find it much more delicious and wholesome to eat smaller amounts of the real thing. If your cheese drawer is brimming with leftover Shavuot dairy, these full-fat recipes for mushroom cheese kugel and cheese parcels might help. Cheese parcels are basically borekas shaped like Chinese dumplings. The cheese melts down, leaving room for chopped pickles in the middle, Israeli style.

The cheese parcels go well with pickles and a fresh Israeli salad. The kugel pairs nicely with a nice Italian red.

Mushroom Cheese Kugel

Serves 4

16 oz. bag extra-wide egg noodles
3 Tbs. butter, plus extra to grease pan
1-2 Tbs. olive oil
1 small onion, halved and thinly sliced
8 oz. crimini mushrooms, stemmed and thinly sliced
⅓ cup fresh parsley, chopped
¼ tsp. each salt and white (or black) pepper
15 oz. farmer’s cheese (two 7½ -oz. pkgs.)
2 eggs, beaten
⅓ cup sour cream
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking dish. Cook noodles per package instructions, less 2 minutes. Heat butter and olive oil in a heavy skillet on medium. Sweat onions until soft and golden.  Add mushrooms. When mushrooms begin to sweat, sprinkle in parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drain and rinse noodles. In a large bowl, combine mushroom mixture, cheese, eggs, sour cream and noodles. Smooth into baking dish. Grate Parmigiano-Reggiano over top. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Cheese Parcels

Serves 4

1 (14-oz.) pkg. puff pastry, defrosted per instructions
3 oz. chèvre, crumbled
6 oz. semi-hard mozzarella, grated
1/2 tsp. fine-ground white pepper (optional)
Sesame seeds or nigella seeds

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine cheeses in a bowl. Mix in white pepper, if using. Refrigerate cheese mixture.

Cut puff pastry into 6 squares. Lightly roll out dough pieces so they are more square. Poke holes all over dough with a fork. Distribute filling among dough squares. Pull up dough over the filling. Pinch small creases of dough all around. The dough parcel should resemble a Chinese dumpling. Leave a small hole in the middle, like a chimney. Refrigerate on baking sheet until dough is cold and firm. Sprinkle with seeds. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden. Cool. Serve with pickles.

Shelly Butcher
Shelly Butcher

Shelly Butcher is a technical writer and a food writer. She enjoys exploring the fundamental interconnectedness of all things food, where kreplach meet wontons. She blogs at anopencupboard.com.