Snack on dairy dishes at a Torah all-nighter

For those who do well staying up at night — parents of infants, health care providers, taxi drivers, students during finals and, of course, lovers of Torah — Shavuot cannot come soon enough.

The tradition of enjoying a dairy snack while studying the book of Ruth may come from the promise of the land of milk and honey. Another view on the custom of dairy meals during Shavuot is that Israelites had just been given the Torah and the laws of kashrut, so they eliminated the meat altogether.

Whatever the reason, everyone agrees that onion soup and cheesecake are two delicious dairy indulgences that can be savored at midnight or any other time. I included crème brulee, as well — another luscious treat, as delicious as the knowledge in our Torah.

This year, Shavuot begins Thursday evening, June 1 and continues through sunset Saturday, June 3.

Onion Soup with Cheese | Serves 6

2 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/2 lbs. onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 Tbs. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup dry white table wine
6 cups hot vegetable stock
6 slices stale baguette
6 oz. (about 1 1/2 cups) shredded cheese — preferably Swiss or French Gruyere
Melt the butter in a large skillet. Add the onions, sugar and salt, and sauté over a moderate heat until onions are very soft, about 40 minutes. Add the wine, and reduce by half.
Distribute the onions in six oven-safe soup bowls; pour the hot stock over the onions; place the bread over the soup, and some grated cheese over the bread.
Place the soup bowls under a hot broiler, and broil until cheese is melted and slightly browned. Serve immediately.

New York Cheesecake | Serves 12 to 14

For the crust:
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/4 cup sugar
4 oz. melted unsalted butter
For the filling:
1 lb. cream cheese
3 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
For the topping:
2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Make the crust by combining the crumbs, sugar and melted butter. Press them into the bottom and up the sides of a 10-inch springform pan.
Make the filling by beating the cream cheese until very smooth and fluffy. Beat in the eggs until the mixture is smooth. Beat in the sour cream, sugar and vanilla until the batter is perfectly smooth. Pour the batter into the springform pan, and bake the cheesecake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for 30 minutes. Turn off the oven, but leave the cheesecake in the oven for 1 hour.
Make the topping by stirring the sour cream, sugar and vanilla together until smooth. Spoon the topping over the top of the cheesecake, and bake in a pre-heated 375-degree oven for 5 minutes. Cool the cheesecake completely, then refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve well chilled.

Crème Brulee | Serves 8

4 cups cream
8 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. vanilla
Whisk together the cream, egg yolks and sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Continue to cook, stirring until thickened just enough to coat a wooden spoon with a light creamy layer. Stir in the vanilla and pour through a fine strainer into 8 small, oven-safe ramekins. Chill completely.
Sprinkle each custard with a tablespoon of fine sugar. Place the custards under a pre-heated broiler for a few minutes to caramelize the sugar, watching carefully to prevent burning. You can also use a blowtorch to caramelize the sugar. Serve chilled.

Rebecca Ets-Hokin is a certified culinary professional. Visit her Web site at She can be reached at [email protected].