No-Bake Blueberry Cheesecake

This story and recipe were originally published in The Jewish Food Experience on May 19, 2014, but the site no longer exists, and with it, all my articles, stories, and recipes disappeared. I've tried to access the JFE's website through WayBack Machine without much success. Luckily, I found the document on my computer drive. I am also repurposing the old photo published in my teaser for the article. Click on it to learn a bit about the history of Shavuot, the holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai. Cheesecakes are the traditional food Israelis everywhere make on Shavuot. 

Speaking of teasers, my editor at the time came up with a couple cute ones:

"SHORT TEASE: Proust had his madeleine; Shulie has Kapulsky’s cheesecake."

"LONG TEASE: Growing up in Israel, Shulie didn’t eat out much, but the blueberry cheesecake at Kapulsky, the legendary café chain, left lasting memories, so she recreated it at home." 

Nostalgia Tastes Like Blueberry Cheesecake

When I had my first bite of the blueberry cheesecake at Kapulsky, Israel's legendary first café and restaurant chain, it wasn't my first cheesecake, but it was a novelty nonetheless. We rarely dined out. It wasn’t just a question of economics—dining out just wasn’t part of our culture. Homemade food was considered superior in flavor and quality. Besides, other than falafel, shawarma and "street food" stands, in those days, unlike today, cafés and restaurants were few and far between in Israel.

As a young adult who dined out on only a handful occasions, if that, I savored Kapulsky's cheesecake and what was, to me, an exotic ingredient: blueberries. I had never had them before, but they popped with tartness, which I was predisposed to liking, rather than syrupy sweetness.

It's a wonder that Israel had blueberries, which are indigenous to cooler northern climates, at all at the time. But as one recipe I saw indicated, they may have, in fact, come from a can. 

Little did I know that my beloved cheesecake was no-bake and super easy to make. With Shavuot, the holiday celebrating Matan Torah, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, during which dairy foods are typically consumed, around the corner, Kapulsky's blueberry cheesecake was a shoo-in. 

Israel, the land of milk and honey, is known for its gvina levana (white cheese), which is used here in this cheesecake recipe. It is unlike anything with which we are familiar here in the US. It's soft, spreadable, creamy and slightly tangy. If you've been to Israel, you’ve probably tried gvina levana at hotel breakfast buffets or in Israeli homes. 

Surprisingly enough, gvina levana, or what's more commonly known here as quark cheese, was brought to Israel by a Christian society, the German Templers, back in 1868, an interesting historical discovery shared by Janna Gur, chief editor of Al HaShulchan, a leading Israeli gastronomic magazine, in her book The Book of New Israeli Food and on her site.

Nowadays when I visit Israel and I walk or drive by Kapulsky, just across the Tel Aviv boardwalk, I am tempted to stop and have a slice of blueberry cheesecake. But, hoping to preserve my nostalgic memories of this slice, I don't. Instead, I opted to make it myself at home, with quark cheese made by Vermont Creamery, which is usually available at Whole Foods and Wegman's. Kosher stores also carry the authentic Israeli version. If you’re especially adventurous, you might even try your hand at making quark cheese from scratch as shown by The Splendid Table. 

My homemade version lived up to my memories and would make Kapulsky proud. 

Prep time: 20-25 mins + overnight freezing 
Cook time: 20 mins
Yield: 12-15 servings

No-bake Blueberry Cheesecake


Cake Ingredients:
¾ ounces kosher gelatin 
1 cup boiling water
2 cups whipping cream
2.2 pounds (1 kilogram) quark cheese
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Tree-Nut-Free Granola

I am revisiting this "Snowy Day Granola," published in February 2010. Over time I tweaked the recipe and improved and simplified the technique. It's an easy recipe, and you can whip it together quickly. Serve it in a yogurt bowl, as cereal, or as a snack. I snapped this image on my iPhone. I last picked up my Nikon several months ago, and my Lightroom isn't reading my external drives. It's a mess, but I plan to sort it out and pick up the camera soon.

I have barely posted here for several years. I wonder if I shared with you that I am a Junior in college which somewhat explains my absence. :) I am enrolled in the BIS, Bachelor of an Individualized Studies Program, a part of the Integrative School at a local university studying Nutrition and Health Communication and Management. The beauty of the program is that I can take several courses in two or more disciplines and tailor my degree based on my interest. I can also take a couple of graduate school courses within this program and a couple as reserves for grad school. 

I was surprised how much I enjoyed designing the mechanics of an 'Obesity Treatment Program for 4 - 10 Year Old Children' in a 'Nutrition and Weight Management' course I took his past semester (Spring 23'). I now want to dive into the scholastic and pedagogy materials involved in the multidisciplinary therapy approach of this treatment. The multidisciplinary therapy approach involves family, sensory, play, behavioral, and group therapies. 

In an English course (Spring 23') literature review paper, I wrote about "The Effects of the Mediterranean Diet and Fermented Foods on Gut Microbiome Health." I now have yogurt daily for its probiotic effects on gut health, even though yogurt is not one of my favorite foods. :) Keep in mind that not all yogurts are created equal. Choose yogurt with probiotic bacteria strains. 

In the third course, I processed life and grief through writing. It was sort of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy, for me. The professor was super supportive and, as a fiction writer herself, appreciated and encouraged my creative non-fiction writing. Atomic Habit by James Clear, The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, and Detox Your Thoughts by Andrea Bonior were quite helpful in the process. I listened to them on my daily walks on Audible. 

You can find additional academic work I've written on the "Rise of Abuse and Violence Against Women During COVID-19 Lockdown," "February, 2021 Oil Spill in Israel; Environmental Effects, Eco-Terrorism, and Politics," "The Foods and the Foodways of Pompeii," "Sigd, an Ancient Ethiopian Jewish Holiday," among others on this website

I will hit a whopper of a round number this August, so I hope to graduate by the end of 2024 within that year of that round number. Realistically, it will probably be at the beginning of 2025 before I graduate (what's the rush?). I take three courses a semester and two in the summers, but it feels like a full-time schedule, especially since this is my first time in school in decades. :) My brain is so oversaturated with information that it feels like I blew up a fuse. In all seriousness, I wholeheartedly embrace and enjoy the academic learning process, and I am getting so much out of it, enhancing my experience and the knowledge I gained over the years. Many professors don't know what to make of me since I am so inquisitive.  
Tree-Nut-Free Granola

Note: I usually double this recipe when I make it. You can customize the ingredients based on your preference. You can make a combination of the seeds you have at home. In the last batch, I didn't have flax seeds. I recently lowered the amount of honey from 1/2 cup to 3/8 cup, but both work. I took out maple as an alternative since honey works better. I do not use a turbo setting. Cooling the granola before storing will create the clusters.


2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup of a combination of sunflower, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, and flax seeds
3/8 - 1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup shredded dry unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
Dash of salt

Oven-Baked Zaatar Naan

Zaatar Naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

In Sanskrit, tandoor, a cylindrical clay oven, was referred to as kandu. 

The word originated from the middle Persian tanûr is traced back to the Akkadian (2334 - 2218 BCE) word "tinūru, which consists of the parts tin "mud" and nuro/nura "fire" and is mentioned as early as in the Akkadian Epic of Gilgamesh.

It's a Semitic word known in the Dari Persian as tandūr and tannūr, in Armenian as t'onir, in Georgian as tone, in Arabic as tannūr, in Hebrew; tanúr, in Turkish; tandır, in Uzbek; tandir, in Azerbaijani; astəndir, and in Kurdish as tenûr, according to a Persian dictionary. 

Breads, chicken, and other foods are commonly cooked in tandoors, reaching 900 F/480 C, throughout Central Asia and the neighboring regions and Southeast Asia, including India and Pakistan. 

"Small mud plastered ovens with side openings closely resembling present-day tandoors have been excavated at Kalibangan, an Indus valley site" from the 1550 BC -3500 BC Harappan civilization period in northwest India," writes K.T.Achaya in 'A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food.

While naan and the terminology/word tandoor were brought to India by the Muslims in the 13th and 16th centuries, the archaeological excavations point to the earlier use of clay ovens as a method of baking and cooking in India. 

Left: Naan puffed on a pizza stone inside 550 F/288 C oven Right: oven-baked naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick


Peek into Cast-Iron Garlic Naan, the first post in the naan series. It might help with understanding the stove-top technique and naan's history. The cast-iron naan post also gives different visuals and links that might be helpfu in making the oven baked naan belowl.

The oven-baked naan doesn't have the dramatic blisters it forms when the naan cooks on the cast iron like in this Cast-Iron Garlic Naan, but it puffs beautifully in the oven without much fuss. 
 If you keep kosher, serve naan with parve, non-meat vegetarian or fish, dishes, like daal.

Oven-Baked Zaatar Naan
makes 8

this is recipe can be doubled


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup yogurt

Cast-Iron Garlic Naan

Cast Iron Naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Naan in Persian means bread. The name goes by several variations, including non and nān, throughout central and southeast Asia. It's a leavened flatbread made with yeast and white flour traditionally baked in tandoor, a rounded cylindrical clay oven with a round opening at the top. The rolled-out dough is slapped onto the tandoor walls, puffs, and beautifully blisters from the coal embers at the bottom radiating 900 F/480 C heat throughout.

Naan was first mentioned in English in a 1780 travelogue,  'Russia: Or, A Compleat Historical Account of All the Nations which Compose that Empire,' written by the English clergyman William Tooke. In his travelogue, Tooke covered central Asian eating habits where he wrote, "The most common dishes are onoschi, or vermicelli; plav, or boiled rice; nan, pancakes, and the meats which the law permits."

Earlier, in 1300 AD, "naan-e-tanuk (light bread) and naa-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven) at the imperial court in Delhi" were noted in Amir Kushrau's, an Indo-Persian poet's writings. 
Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

The naan arrived in India with the Muslim conquerors. First in the 13th century with the Sultanate and in the 16th century with Mughals. It was un-refutably the beginning of naan's massive popularity today. However, the naan was first the food of sultans, royals, and imperial Mughals. It was consumed in the mornings with kheema (minced, no sauce, meat) and kebobs.When the royals were done with their feast the leftovers were distributed to the poor.
 Copyright ©ShulieMadnick


The naan dough is more supple and sumptuous, enriched with milk, ghee (clarified butter), and yogurt. It comes in many regional variations, oven-baked, traditional teardrop-shaped, and modern twists, which I will share in upcoming posts in this naan series.

The round-shaped naan fits the cast iron better. You can use a non-cast-iron pan. Ghee (clarified butter) is a traditional Indian ingredient, but often I like to use olive oil. If you keep kosher, serve naan with parve, non-meat vegetarian or fish, dishes, like daal.

Cast-Iron Garlic Naan
makes 8

This is recipe can be easily doubled 


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)