The 50 days between Pesach and Shavuot are called the "Counting of the Omer." Thirty-three days into the counting of the Omer, Jews celebrate a minor holiday called Lag B'Omer. (The word "Lag" means 33 because it is composed of the letters lamud and gimmel, corresponding to the numerical values of "30" and "3.")
These first 33 days are considered a time of mourning for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died for not showing each other proper respect. There are no weddings or other kinds of celebrations during these 33 days because the epidemic was suspended on the 33rd day (Lag ). Lag B'Omer has become a joyous day of celebration filled with picnics, bonfires and lots and lots of fun.
My son once asked me why bonfires were always associated with Lag B'Omer. The best explanation I could come up with was that after his students died, Rabbi Akiva began teaching other students.
One of his students was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, the author of the Zohar. The word Zohar translates into "The Shining Light," and the best way to celebrate a shining light is a bonfire.
Here are some salad recipes to try at your Lag B'Omer picnic.
Low-Fat Dijon Potato Salad
Tastes even better the second day!
11/2 lbs. red potatoes, cooked
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsps. coarse mustard
1/2 Tbsp. cider vinegar
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
1 tsp. white pepper
Cut potatoes into 1/2-inch slices. In large bowl, whisk yogurt, mayonnaise, mustards, vinegar, parsley and pepper. Add potatoes; toss until coated. Cover; refrigerate until well chilled, at least 30 minutes.
Smoked Chicken Potato Salad
1 lb. new small potatoes
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. vinegar
2 tsps. Dijon mustard
4 large black olives
1 cup diced celery
1/2 small sweet red pepper, slivered
6 oz. diced or sliced cooked smoked chicken
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh parsley
salt and pepper
lettuce leaves and tomato wedges for garnish
Scrub potatoes, but do not peel. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with water and cook, covered, just until tender, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, in serving bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar and mustard. Stir the pitted, sliced olives into dressing. Add the celery, red pepper, smoked chicken and parsley. Toss.
When potatoes are cooked, drain and cut into bite-sized pieces. Add warm potatoes to salad. Season mixture with salt and pepper; toss to blend. Serve on lettuce leaves with tomato wedges.
Makes 3 main course servings.
Southwestern Potato Salad
This potato salad looks and tastes delicious. I also leave the skins on the potatoes for extra color.
5 lbs. red potatoes
1 and 1/2 cups mayonnaise
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
juice of 1 lime
1-2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 medium red onion, finely chopped
2 scallions, chopped
2 Tbsps. chopped fresh cilantro
1-2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
In a large stock pot cook the potatoes until they are tender, then drain and cool them. Peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices.
In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, lime juice, tomato, red onion, scallion, cilantro, jalapeno and cayenne and mix well. Add warm potatoes and toss gently. Cover and refrigerate several hours for the flavors to blend.
Serves 8 to 10.
Crispy Crunch Potato Salad
Wonderful way to use garden fresh veggies. I absolutely love this salad.
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/8-inch thick
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
8 medium potatoes, cooked and peeled
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 cup onions, minced
2 Tbsps. fresh parsley, minced
1 and 1/2 tsps. fresh dill, minced
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
In a large stock pot, cook beans and carrots in enough water to cover for 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for 2 minutes; drain and rinse in cold water; cool; transfer to a bowl
Cut potatoes into 1/2 -inch cubes and then add them to the vegetables. In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, onions, parsley, dill, and salt and pepper. Pour over salad and toss to coat. Cover and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.
Serves 10 to 12.
Eileen Goltz, a professional chef and caterer, is the author of the new cookbook, Perfectly Pareve.