The holiday table at Shavuot looks completely different from that any other festive feast. The table is bursting with color, chock-full of brightly hued salads, baked goods containing cheese, white desserts and fancy cheesecakes. Shavuot is a holiday of real plenitude. It is an excellent opportunity to whip out those vegetarian recipes that have waited patiently to celebrate and dine with us.

Using freshly made ricotta cheese with its soft and pleasant consistency will upgrade most holiday recipes. Ricotta is, more than anything, a subtle cheese and will therefore blend gracefully with all the rest of the flavors and dishes on the table. Here is an all-ricotta menu for a joyous Shavuot feast - which in the eyes of many is the best of the lot.

Hot salad of cherry tomatoes, olives & baked ricotta

The following will make 6-8 servings.

500 g. cherry tomatoes

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. coarse salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 block of ricotta (250 grams)

1 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 tsp. Atlantic salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

1 tbsp. grated Parmesan

1 cup large pitted green olives

Panko bread crumbs:

1 1/2 tbsp olive oil

3 tbsp. Panko bread crumbs

1/2 tsp. Atlantic salt

1 tbsp. grated Parmesan

1 tsp. reduced balsamic vinegar

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Arrange the tomatoes in an oven tray, sprinkle with olive oil and seasoning, and roast for 1 hour. Add a block of ricotta facedown (move the tomatoes to make room ), drizzle olive oil on top and season with salt, pepper and Parmesan. Spread the olives around between the tomatoes and roast for 25 minutes. In the meantime, heat a frying pan with olive oil and stir-fry the Panko bread crumbs until golden brown. Turn off the flame and season with salt and Parmesan. Promptly transfer the contents of the oven tray onto a platter, sprinkle the bread crumbs over the ricotta and salad, drizzle with balsamic vinegar and serve immediately with bread and a ramekin of olive oil and tomato seeds.

Spinach quiche

A French classic at its best. This crusty and subtle quiche will go beautifully with your holiday meal along with a tart salad and yogurt or sour cream. The following will make 8-10 servings.

Crusty dough:

200 g. sifted flour

100 g. well-chilled butter, cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp. each: salt, black pepper, ground coriander seeds

1 tsp. white sugar

1 beaten egg

1-2 tbsp. ice water

Filling:

1 kg. baby spinach leaves, well rinsed

2 eggs

1 tub heavy cream (250 ml )

1/2 tsp. each: salt, black pepper, ground nutmeg

150 g. ricotta cheese

Chill the butter cubes in the freezer for 10 minutes. In a food processor with a metal blade, pulse the flour, salt and butter for about half a minute. Continue pulsing as you add 1 egg, and then immediately drizzle slowly 1-2 tablespoons water, until the dough comes together in little balls. Put the dough in a plastic bag and flatten by hand into a round disc. Seal tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours (it will keep for up to 2 days ). Bring a big pot of water to a boil and blanch the spinach for 30 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. Chop the spinach into wide strips, squeeze out the excess water with your hands, and leave to drain for at least 2 hours. Grease a 24- or 26-centimeter pie pan (with removable bottom ) with melted butter. Flour a work surface and quickly roll out the dough (to keep it from growing warm ) into a thin sheet. Pad the pie dish with the dough and make sure to fasten it snugly along the seam between the sides and the base. Cut off the leftover edges.

Prick the crust with a fork and chill in the freezer for 30 minutes. Heat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

In a bowl, beat eggs, heavy cream and spices.

Remove the crust from the freezer. Spread the squeezed and drained spinach on the bottom and pour the cream-egg mixture on top. Crumble ricotta cheese on top. Bake for 40 minutes. Take the quiche out of the oven and wait 15 minutes before taking the base apart.

Quinoa & ricotta patties

The following will make 6-8 servings.

1 cup quinoa

1 tbsp. oil

1 large onion, minced

1 carrot, grated

1 zucchini, grated and squeezed well

4 eggs

1 cup chopped nana mint leaves

2 tsp. dried nana mint

200 g. ricotta (preferably buffalo ricotta ), strained

2 tbsp. pine nuts

2 tbsp. dried blueberries

4 tbsp. bread crumbs

1/4 tsp. turmeric

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. black pepper

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, pour in the quinoa and cook for 8 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

In a frying pan, fry the minced onion in 1 tablespoon of oil until translucent. In a large bowl, combine the quinoa, fried onion and the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and chill in the fridge for 1 hour. Shape into slightly flat patties, which can then be fried, grilled or steamed.

Frying: Fry in a pan with a little olive oil for approximately 5 minutes on each side, until brown and crispy.

Steaming: Bring a large pot of water to a gentle boil, place a steamer over the pot (taking care it does not come into contact with the water ) and pad with wet paper towel. Arrange the patties on the paper towel, leaving space between them. Put the lid on the pot or the steamer and steam for 10 minutes.

Grilling: Grill in the oven for 10 minutes at 220 degrees Celsius.

Serve with a tart salad and yogurt-tahini dressing.

Yogurt & raw tahini dressing

250 ml. yogurt

4 tbsp. raw tahini

1/2 tsp. salt

1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice

lemon zest

Mix the ingredients together well, adjust the seasonings and serve alongside the patties.

Ricotta tiramisu

In Italy, it is customary to make tiramisu from mascarpone cheese. Substituting ricotta for mascarpone produces a lighter and more refined version. The tiramisu comes out soft and airy, with an intoxicating aroma and addictive taste. You can make half a batch and assemble a single-layer cake. You will need a rectangular 30x25 cm. baking dish. The following will make 10 servings.

2 tubs heavy cream for whipping (500 ml.)

6 egg yolks

1/2 cup (100 g.) sugar

500 g. drained ricotta cheese (preferably ricotta fresca )

3 tbsp. Amaretto (almond liqueur )

35 biscotti (ladyfingers )

250 ml. espresso or 250 ml. boiling water and 7 tsp. good instant coffee

5 tbsp. liqueur (chocolate, coffee, Vino Santo, Port )

3 tbsp. sifted cocoa powder

50 g. bittersweet chocolate, grated

In a food mixer, whip the heavy cream, egg yolks, sugar and ricotta, until the mixture turns puffy, thick and creamy (whip for at least 10 minutes ). Add the Amaretto and whip for another minute. Refrigerate for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, put half of the ladyfingers in the baking dish, arranged close together with their sugared side down. Combine the coffee and liqueur and drizzle half of the mixture over the ladyfingers. Spoon half of the cream on top. Dip the remaining ladyfingers in the coffee-liqueur and arrange them on top of the cream layer. Spread the rest of the cream over the ladyfingers, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (you can cut the waiting time in half by freezing for an hour and then refrigerating for another hour ). Before serving, top with the sifted cocoa and grated chocolate.

Ricotta cheesecake

This cake came into being after countless experiments in my kitchen. Ever since I first baked it, there have been no other cheesecakes in my life. To my mind it is the ultimate cheesecake: soft, airy, just the right degree of sweetness and incredibly delicious. If you make sure to use pale yolks (from organic eggs ), the cake will come out lily-white. Take into account that this cake has to be refrigerated for 12 hours before serving. You will need a 26-cm. springform pan.

Base:

180 g. petit beurre crumbs (24 cookies)

60 g. melted butter

1 tbsp. honey

Filling:

250 g. ricotta

600 g. ricotta fresca

2 tubs (400 ml.) sour cream

4 separated eggs

3 tbsp. sifted flour

1 cup (200 g.) sugar

1 tsp. vanilla extract or, alternatively, the zest of 1 lemon and 1 tbsp. lemon juice

pinch of salt

Topping:

2 tubs sour cream

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

Grease the pan with butter. In a thin cloth arranged in a strainer, drain the cheeses and sour cream in the refrigerator for 1 hour. Melt the butter and honey in a microwave oven or frying pan. In a food processor with a metal blade, crumble the petit beurre biscuits. Continue to pulse as you add the melted butter and honey. Press the crumb crust onto the bottom of the baking dish and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Meanwhile, in a big bowl combine the sour cream, ricotta, yolks, vanilla extract or lemon zest and juice, and 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well until the mixture is smooth and there are no lumps. Add flour and mix slightly.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites with salt. When they start to turn into soft foam, add 1/2 cup sugar and continue beating until you get a stable foam. Gently fold the foam into the cheese mixture. Pour the cheese mixture over the crumb crust. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven to 100 degrees Celsius and continue baking (without opening the oven door ) for 80 minutes. Take the cake out of the oven and set it aside to cool for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven back up to 150 degrees Celsius. In a bowl, combine sour cream, sugar and vanilla extract, and pour the mixture on top of the cake. Bake for 7 minutes. Refrigerate for 12 hours before serving.

Hot dessert of ricotta with white chocolate, caramelized pears & almonds

The following will make 6-8 servings.

2 blocks of ricotta

30 white chocolate coins

2 tbsp. fine sugar

Caramelized pears:

3 pears, peeled and sliced into eighths

6 tbsp. sugar

2 tbsp. room-temperature butter

1 cinnamon stick

3 tbsp. roasted slivered almonds

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Press 15 white chocolate coins into each block of ricotta. Place in a baking dish, sprinkle sugar on top and bake for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare the caramel: In a thick-bottomed frying pan, melt the sugar over a medium flame until it turns into a dark caramel. The caramelizing process takes 4-7 minutes (depending on the quality of the skillet ). Refrain from stirring with a spoon. Instead, give the pan a shake periodically.

Once the sugar turns dark brown, carefully (the caramel is boiling hot ) add the butter one spoonful at a time and give the pan a little shake. Place a cinnamon stick in the center of the pan, add the pear wedges and cook for 15 minutes, giving the pan a periodic shake. Transfer the hot ricotta onto a serving platter, arrange the hot pears on top, garnish with almond slivers and serve immediately.