Good Mourning

I have always had a love affair with Jerusalem, even before I first came into contact with what is one of the most beloved cities in the world.  My first time was at the age of 16.  My family was here for the summer to celebrate my brother’s Bar Mitzvah, and my favorite uncle, Abi, rented a car and drove us to Jerusalem, taking us first to the Kotel.  My first reaction was very emotional.  This wall, for me, is the symbol of how high we have risen, how low we have fallen.  In the countless times I have paid a visit to this wall since that bright summer’s day in 1979, my emotional state has wavered between joy and sadness, but those white stones with the tiny bits of paper stuck in the cracks, messages to Hashem, always evokes a tear, an intaking of breath, a special beat to my heart.

This Monday night we begin the fast of Tisha B’Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av.  This day is the culmination of a three-week period of mourning which began with the fast of 17 Tammuz, the date on which the outer walls of the city of Jerusalem were breached during the siege. On the 9th of Av, the temple was destroyed.

My father taught me that this date is the Jewish Friday the 13th, when so many horrible things have befallen the Jewish people.  It is the date that the stronghold of Beitar fell to the Romans during the Bar Kochba revolt.  It is the date of the expulsion of Jews from Spain in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition.  It is the date when the Nazis began the deportation of the Warsaw Ghetto.  Any Jew who feels the collective emotion of our people cannot help but mourn on this day.

On Tisha B’Av we fast.  In Judaism, the purpose of a fast is to lower the volume on our physical pursuits in order to focus more acutely on our spiritual selves.  This doesn’t work for me.  I find myself thinking of food.  What will I serve to break the fast?  How much longer until we break the fast?  I find myself drawn to foodie blogs, cookbooks, even the Food Channel on television.  I have a one track mind.

In my previous life, my girls and I would break the fast on pizza.  We would call the local pizza place half an hour before it was time to eat, the pizza would arrive five minutes before the fast was over.  I believe that in those five minutes all the agony, the suffering of the Jewish people, was felt.  No amount of Bible study, no amount of keening for what once was, could rival the emotions of those last five minutes.  It sounds horrible, doesn’t it, that in the last five minutes something as trivial as pizza could cause us to feel the collective suffering of our people. 

Now that we are living in Chapter Two, we have adopted Ju-Boy’s family traditions (although I believe Shy-Boy would like us to keep with the pizza tradition).  We first break with some fresh orange juice, then a cup of tea (with milk, Brit style), together with a piece of cake or a boureka.  Only later do we start digging around to find leftovers from the meal we ate before the fast, and whatever else we can find in the kitchen.  There is no set dinner for after Tisha B’Av in our house, we become the scavengers our people must have become when the Temple was destroyed. 

This year I will be home during the day of Tisha B’Av.  Normally I am in the office, but there is no office for me this year.  I will have no distractions except the worst ones:  what will we eat later after the fast is over?  I think I am going to occupy myself with cheesecake, I have been told I have a commitment to cheesecake.  I have one cheesecake in my repetoire that usually makes people cringe, until they taste it — Smoked Salmon Cheesecake.  This is not something you serve for dessert, it’s an appetizer, a salmon/cheese pate that, once you get used to the idea, is perfect for a hot summer’s night when you need to break a fast. 

Have you ever eaten something heavy after not having eaten all day?  Horrible feeling, no?  That’s why this is a perfect meal for Tuesday night, after we haven’t eaten since the evening before.  Try to wrap your head around it.

Smoked Salmon Cheesecake

  • 2 cups savory cracker crumbs
  • 100 grams (half a stick, half a cup) melted butter
  • 200 grams (1/2 pound) smoked salmon
  • 1 cup fresh dill
  • 500 grams (16 ounces) cream cheese (I use 5% fat white cheese)
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon flour or corn starch
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C (400 degrees F).
  2. Crush the crackers to fine crumbs.  Add the melted butter and then pat into a springform pan.
  3. In a food processor, using the steel knife, puree the smoked salmon.  It won’t come out like paste, more like salmon granules.  Add the dill and give it a whirl until it has reached a spreadable consistency.  Place this mixture into a large mixing bowl.
  4. Add the cream cheese, eggs and sour cream and mix until all is just combined.  Then sprinkle over the flour, salt and pepper.  I use a sifter for this so I don’t get clumps of flour.  Mix again until all is just combined.  You don’t want to incorporate air into the mixture, this will just cause your cheesecake to puff up and crack in the oven.
  5. Pour this into the cracker crust.  Bake this in the hot oven for 10 minutes only.  Then turn the oven down to 110 degrees C (220 F) and bake for another hour.  Set a timer!  When the timer dings, turn the oven off and let the fishy cheesecake rest in there for another 45 minutes to one hour.  Then transfer it to the refrigerator, and let it hang out in there for at least 4 hours.
  6. Serve cold, or even at room temperature.  It makes a good nighttime snack a few hours later as well.

A few years ago my daughter Sassy taught me that it is not the right thing to do to wish someone a good fast.  You are meant to suffer.  So I wish those of you that will be fasting on Tuesday a צום מועיל (tzom mo’il), a meaningful fast. 

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About Miriyummy

All I want to do is live happily ever after.

Posted on 18 July 2010, in Cheesecake, Dairy, Family Life, Fish, Holiday cooking, Jerusalem, Shavuot and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 21 Comments.

  1. First of all, I love the idea that not having a set meal after the fast is symbolic and not my laziness, so thanks for that!!
    Second, I really don’t enjoy smoked salmon, but I am quite intrigued by the concept of a savory cheesecake. Do you have any ideas of other non-sweet things that I could work into your recipe?
    Have a meaningful fast! Or, as my eldest posted recently on facebook, have a fast fast!

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    • I always turn my lazy customs into something symbolic. It’s the antithesis of being machmir on Pesach…

      Some other savory cheesecakes that I have made over the years:

      Spinach and feta — kinda like a spanikopita cheesecake with filo crust
      Cream cheese, kashkaval and fried peppers and onions
      Sour cream, mashed potato and green onion — with a potato chip topping
      Cauliflower cheese cheesecake
      Cucumber and nana — this is a no bake gelatined cheesecake

      I also remember an avocado cheesecake somewhere in the blogosphere but I can’t remember now where I saw it.

      If you need more detailed recipes just email me.

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  2. I wonder what it would be like to make the top mixture and then bake it without the base (I tend to avoid carbohydrates – not that it is easy).The other recipes you mention seem quite nice too.

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    • It would probably make a very nice fish pate. You could also try making a bottom crust of very thinly sliced courgettes dipped in egg and some herbs.

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  3. Oooh, those sound good. Have you tried the Cauliflower Cheese Pie from the Moosewood cookbook? It’s heavenly!
    I will try patchkie-ing around with these – thanks!

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  4. oh, mirj, i don’t have to wrap my brain around any of it– cheesecake? good. salmon? very good. together? sounds like pure yum! also, the spinach and feta is just plain cruel to mention without a recipe. sometime soon, oki doki? 🙂

    your writing is divine and *meaningful,* as always!

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  5. Years ago at university we had a competition to find who made the best / most interesting crumble. Not just apple crumble or blackberry crumble. They were too easy. The idea was to make other varieties that would wow the tastebuds.

    In the second year some people came along with savoury crumbles and we started a second section: best savoury crumble. So things like onion and carrots went well together if I remember. (ONE rule was that the crumbles had to be strictly vegetarian so all could come and eat).

    For the third year there were discussions on whether it would be possible to make a soup crumble so that we could have a 3-course meal with each course consisting of crumble. Nobody could come up with a recipe for soup crumble but we had lots more savoury varieties.

    So savoury cheesecake just makes a lot of sense. (And I did once have a recipe for avocado ice cream – a good starter course).

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    • Soup crumble sounds divine! I see something oniony, melted cheese within, oregano-flavored crumble on top, all served in little individual bowls. You just sparked something here, Arthur! Watch this space!

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  6. The savory cheesecake looks very good and I enjoyed reading your story.

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  7. Looked at the spinach feta cheesecake – what can I use instead of feta – bulgarit maybe and can I do 9% cheese instead of the ricotta and can I use frozen spinach??? OR would this turn into a mess?

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    • Definitely bulgarit, or maybe half and half with tzfatit, and if you want to sub for the ricotta better to use the Tuv Taam cheese, it’s firmer. Make sure the frozen spinach is completely drained, not too watery. Go for the leaves instead of those frozen little turds that Sunfrost makes.

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  8. Irmgard Upmanis

    Your smoked salmon cheesecake sounds divine, something Peter and I would both enjoy. And savoury cheesecakes are not that unusual. I posted on Zaar a few years back a recipe for a Fiesta Cheesecake. It has a ground tortilla chip crust and the cheese mixture is flavoured with chopped peppers and Mexican spices, topped off after baking with salsa. It is so good!

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  9. Sounds delicious and different.
    But there is no way I would eat it after the fast! No, my stomach couldn’t take salmon, cheese and sour cream at that point. I drink sweet tea for the first few hours, with some dry plain cookies. I usually only have my first bit of dairy in the morning (coffee with milk).
    But you don’t seem to be so sensitive, if pizza was your fast breaker….
    Anyway, hope you had an easy (ok, and meaningful) fast.

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    • Your way sounds a lot healthier. We did the pizza thing first, and here it is, two in the morning, and I woke up about half an hour ago and can’t sleep. I can’t help but wonder if I had done it your way, would I be snoring away peacefully now?

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  10. You’re in the me-ander: The Pre-Holiday Kosher Cooking Carnival. Visit and spread the word! Chodesh Tov. If you’d like to host one, please let me know. Thanks

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