Ah, Shavuot… Cheesecake, blintzes and lasagna—what’s not to love?
A lot, it turns out, if one half of your household is lactose intolerant and the other half has Celiac disease.
Unlike every other holiday, which seems to have its assortment and appropriate substitutions, Shavuot has always felt like a dead-end for me, even before I met my lactose intolerant-husband.
But as someone who eats a mostly vegetarian diet, I love the idea of a holiday that doesn’t include meat, and since Shavuot often rolls around in peak spring or early summer, it seems a shame to focus exclusively on dairy and heavy casseroles. Where’s all the produce?
That’s why this year I’m determined to make it friendlier to the Celiacs, the lactose intolerant and the plant lovers among us—without turning it completely vegan. After all, the Torah is for all of us—whether we can (or choose to) digest milk (or wheat) or not.
Here’s how to make your Shavuot spread “inclusive” (by the way, this works for brunches, too):
Something Bready: Instead of bagels and cream cheese or pasta, put out an assortment of bready things: sweet (challah and muffins), rustic (olive bread), crunchy (breadsticks and/or crackers)—you get the idea. Make sure to put any gluten-free breads and crackers (and maybe even cheesy Brazilian pão de queijo) in a separate basket away from the regular breads to prevent cross-contamination. I also like to make something slightly sweet and wholesome that works for everyone, like vegan, gluten-free banana bread or muffins (like blueberry or carrot).
Something Spread-y: Cheese is a must, but if your table is a Venn diagram of dietary restrictions, go for both dairy cheeses (salty, hard, creamy, soft—see more here) and vegan options (these days there are plenty, including the popular Kite Hill and Miyoko’s), all in different textures and shapes. Supplement them with small bowls of vegan spreads that everyone can eat, like good fruit preserves, hummus (plain, cauliflower and/or black), tahini sauce, eggplant caponata and herby green dip. (Here, too, set aside a separate set for the gluten-free eaters.)
Feeling fancy? Turn this into an Instagram-able “grazing table”! Lay out a big board or even brown paper on a table, set down your “anchors” (the cheeses and small bowls) and then fill in the spaces with cut-up veggies and fruit and handfuls of nuts and dried fruit—it’s edible art! (See here for a guide—obviously skip the charcuterie.)
Something Green: If you’re going the grazing table route, you might have your veggies covered. If not, throw together a few salads with different textures—for example, a crunchy chopped Israeli salad, a wild rice salad with lots of herbs and something leafy with fruit and avocado. This, to me, is what’s always missing from the all-white Shavuot spreads.
Something “Heavy”: Swap out the blintz casserole for a more summer-appropriate frittata, crustless quiche, pasta-free layered vegetable casserole or cheese-stuffed peppers. And for the non-dairy eaters, go for shakshuka: the green version often tastes creamy even without the dairy, and the red feels like a twist on traditional Shavuot lasagna. For vegans, take out some of the filling before you add the eggs and top with roasted eggplant slices for some heft.
Something Sweet: Dessert is where we circle back to the Shavuot you’re used to! This year, I’m determined to make a non-raw dairy-free cheesecake for my cheesecake-loving husband (stay tuned…). You might try a light goat-cheese cheesecake for non-lactose-eaters who can handle goat cheese (be sure to ask first!), swapping out the flour for a gluten-free option to make it Celiac-friendly, too. Or try this Israeli-style cheesecake, which is naturally gluten-free (but full of lactose). Creamy coconut malabi, on the other hand, is a perfect decadent dessert for all. And you can never go wrong with lots of ice cream—many brands now have great creamy non-dairy/vegan varieties that are a lot more fun than sorbet! Finally, don’t forget a beautiful fruit platter or fruit salad; add mint to either for extra freshness.