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May 21, 2015

Shavuos Specialties

Baking for Shavuos is our favorite kind of baking! Butter, cream cheese and heavy cream impart rich flavor to baked good that can never be achieved with parve substitutes.

8 ½ cups flour
3 heaping tablespoons instant yeast
3 sticks butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 yolks
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
16 ounces unwhipped cream cheese, softened
7 ounces farmer cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For assembly:
1 cup heat-proof raspberry jam (available at our store)
1 egg yolk
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon oil

Make the dough:
Place all ingredients in your mixer bowl. Knead for 10 minutes and remove from bowl. Allow dough to rise 30 minutes. Divide dough in half and work with one half at a time.
Make the filling:
In a medium-sized bowl, beat together the cream cheese, farmer cheese, sugar, and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
Roll one half into a 15 x 10-inch rectangle, and place on a Silpat or parchment-lined baking sheet. Spread half of the jam in a 2 1/2-inch-wide strip, lengthwise, down the center of each dough rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border at the top and bottom. Top the jam with half of the filling. Make 2-inch long slits every 3/4 inch down both long sides of the dough, toward the outer edge of the dough. Fold the top and bottom ends over the filling, folding up one inch. Starting at the top, pull one cut strip at a time up and over the filling, alternating sides so the strips overlap making it appear as though the dough is braided.
Repeat with the remaining piece of dough. Cover the braids and let them rise for 30 additional minutes, until they’re slightly puffy looking. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Beat egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water and brush gently over the braids. Bake the braids for 30 to 35 minutes, until they’re golden brown. Remove from the oven, and allow them to cool for 15 minutes.
Mix confectioners’ sugar, milk and oil until combined. Drizzle generously over braids and allow to dry.  Yield: 2 braids, about 16 servings.

Baking spray with flour
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 sticks cold butter, diced into small cubes
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract, divided
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup dulce de leche
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 large egg yolks
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chunks (available in our store)
3/4 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9-inch-square baking dish with foil, leaving a 2-inch overhang on two sides; coat the foil with baking spray.
Pulse 2 cups flour, the butter, confectioners’ sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla and the salt in a food processor or mixer until the mixture starts clumping together, about 1 minute. Press firmly and evenly in the bottom and 1/4 inch up the sides of the lined pan.
Bake until firm and lightly browned, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the dulce de leche, heavy cream, egg yolks and the remaining 1 tablespoon flour and 2 teaspoons vanilla in a medium bowl and whisk until smooth. Pour the mixture into the crust and sprinkle even with the chocolate chunks and pecans. Return to the oven and bake until set around the edge but the center is slightly jiggly 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely. Lift out of the pan using the overhanging foil. Cut into 1 ½ inch squares and serve.

Yield: 25 cookie bars 

May 17, 2015

I’ll Have Tuna

While we’re not quite sure how tuna salad became a seuda shlishis staple we can tell you how it became an indispensable American food. 
Culinary evidence from old cookbooks and restaurant menus confirms cooked chicken and mayonnaise-type salads were popular in America all the way back to colonial times. They were extremely popular in the mid-late 19th century.
Canned tuna was first introduced and mass marketed to the American public in 1903. It began as the sardine canning industry but quickly expanded to tuna when there was a dearth of sardines.  It was discovered that steam cooked tuna resulted in a hearty tasty dish.  Canned tuna quickly became popular as an alternative to salads made from chicken and turkey. During WWI its widespread use as the perfect protein for American doughboys helped the industry expand.
Ladies magazines in the early 1900’s touted canned tuna as a handy item for good housekeepers and offered some suggestions on how to serve it. Here is an early recipe:
Tuna fish salad
1 can Tuna fish
shredded lettuce
salt and red pepper to taste
1 tablespoonful vinegar
2 tablespoonfuls lemon-juice
Mayonnaise dressing
1 tablespoonful capers
1 hard-cooked egg
2 or 3 stuffed olives.
Line a salad dish with shredded lettuce. Break the fish into pieces and place it on top of the lettuce. Mix the salt, red pepper, lemon-juice, and vinegar together and pour over the fish. Chill, and when ready to serve, decorate with the capers, slices of hard-cooked egg, and the stuffed olives. Service with mayonnaise dressing. Another method.--Flake one can of Tuna fish with a silver fork, add one and one-half cupful of diced celery and one-half cupful of broken English walnut meats, mix with mayonnaise--or boiled dressing. Serve on crisp lettuce leaves."
---Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes [1916]

Of course you can stick with just a bit of mayonnaise to make your tuna salad; we think you will want to try some of our interesting options.

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
Salt and pepper
2 cans water-packed tuna, well drained
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1½ teaspoons minced fresh ginger
1½ tablespoons Asian sesame oil
3 tablespoons canola oil
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
5 scallions, minced
½ cup finely chopped nori (about 2 sheets)
1½ tablespoons black sesame seeds

Toss cucumber with ½ teaspoon salt in a strainer or colander set over a bowl. Drain for at least 1 hour. Rinse cucumber, dry with paper towels, and place in medium bowl (you should have about 1¼ cups).
In another medium bowl, use a fork to stir the tuna, 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, flaking tuna as you stir. In a small bowl, whisk remaining 1 tablespoon rice vinegar, garlic, ginger, and pepper to taste to combine. Vigorously whisk in sesame and canola oils. Add dressing, celery, scallion, nori, sesame seeds, and cucumber to tuna mixture and stir until well combined and tuna is evenly moistened.

1/3 cup finely chopped red onion
2 cans tuna, well drained
2½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Salt and pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 red radishes, finely chopped
1 15 ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
3 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and chopped
2 cups baby arugula leaves, roughly chopped

In a medium bowl, use a fork to stir tuna, 1½ tablespoons lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste, flaking tuna as you stir. In a small bowl, whisk mayonnaise, oil, garlic, remaining 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper to taste until smooth and uniform. Scrape the dressing mixture into the tuna, add radishes, chickpeas, capers, and onions, and stir until well combined and tuna is evenly moistened. Add the arugula and stir to combine.

May 7, 2015

Crunch Time

Crudités are traditional French appetizers consisting of sliced or whole vegetables dipped in vinaigrette or dressing. Crudités most often include raw vegetables although some prefer to blanch things like string beans or wax beans. Crunchy crudités are as satisfying as chips any day and offering them with a tasty homemade dipping sauce will keep your guests coming back for more.
Crudites platters are perfect for summer entertaining when you don’t want to serve a hot appetizer. They are often the prettiest thing on a buffet! They can be prepped in advance and assembled on Shabbos for seuda shlishis.
Start with an assortment of vegetables; seven to ten different types in a variety of shapes, colors and textures.  Wash, trim, peel and store in separate bowls before you start. Cut or break your larger vegetables into smaller pieces that can be eaten in 2-3 bites.
Use any large platter or tray. Place the dip bowl in the center. Leave the actual dip in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
Start in the middle and build out. Try to alternate colors so that it's well balanced and appealing. You want an over-abundance of vegetables. Layer the vegetables so that it not only looks plentiful, but if you take one thing, you won't be left with a hole. Place the dip or dressing in the bowl just before serving.
Adding edible flowers gives your platter a little burst of color.
Alternately, you can serve individual crudités “shooters.” Place a tablespoon of dressing in the bottom of a shooter or narrow shot glass. Stand a variety of vegetable strips in it and serve on a pretty tray.

3 medium onions, 2 left in their skins, and 1 peeled
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups mayonnaise
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 scallions, checked and chopped

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
In a roasting pan, rub the 2 onions in their skins with the 2 tablespoons oil. Bake until squishy soft, turning them once, about 45 minutes. Cool, peel the onions and set aside.
Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining onion. Preheat a large skillet. Add the remaining oil and heat until hot. Add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to lightly brown, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 20 minutes more.
Strain the sautéed onions through a sieve. Reserve 1/4 cup of the onion oil and let it cool completely. Set aside.
Puree the roasted onions in a food processor. Add the mayonnaise, vinegar, and salt, and pulse until smooth. While the motor is running, drizzle in the 1/4 cup of reserved onion oil until incorporated. Transfer the onion dip to a serving bowl and stir in the scallions. Refrigerate until very thick, about 3 hours or overnight.  When ready to serve top with the sautéed onions.

1 red bell pepper, cut in half, seeds removed
1 medium onion, sliced into thick rings
4 cloves garlic peeled
1 small zucchini, sliced thick
4 tablespoon light olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 475 degrees.  Line a sheet pan with parchment paper a silicone mat.
Place the vegetables in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper; toss to coat. Place the vegetables on lined pan and roast until they are slightly charred, about 30 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from oven and cool.
Place in a food processor and process until slightly chunky. Stir in the mayonnaise. Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.

Apr 30, 2015

Bring on the Flavor

Last week we discussed using oils and fats in our diets and the fact that fat imparts flavor to every dish. At the same time we all want to keep fat to a minimum while adding as much flavor as possible. One delicious way of doing that is by flavoring your oil.
Add extra flavor and aroma to cooking oils with herbs, spices, citrus, nuts, and aromatics. With just a few ingredients, you can create delicious flavored oils that are bursting with color, taste terrific, and have amazing aromas. Not only are these infused oils quick and easy to make, they're perfect for jazzing up salad dressings, drizzling over pasta and seafood, dipping bread into, stir-frying, sautéing, and so much more.
Olive oil is a natural choice, given that it's most likely in your kitchen already. Use light olive oil so that the added flavor characteristics will come through in the final product.  You will need about 2 tablespoons of flavoring per cup of oil.
Always keep flavored oils refrigerated. Infused oils last about 1 month when stored properly.  Allow flavored oils to sit out at room temperature for approximately 20 minutes before each use. Don't use flavored oils for deep-frying—leftover particles will burn.
To prepare infused oil, heat in a medium saucepan with the whole spices, washed and dried fresh herbs or sliced aromatics like shallots or garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes, until the mixture is lightly bubbling. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool completely and strain into a bottle.
To prevent any cloudiness, take care when straining the infused oil.  Be aware that if you put herbs into the bottle with the cooled oil for a pretty presentation, it will result in slightly cloudier oil.
Combining herbs and spices in the infused oil results in complex flavors that will enhance many dishes.

1/2 cups fresh parsley, checked
1/2 cup packed fresh basil, checked
1/2 bunch fresh thyme, checked
Zest of half an orange
1 whole dried chile pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
2 cups canola oil
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place herbs, zest and peppers into a medium sauce pan. Add oils and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook 6-7 minutes and remove from heat. Allow to cool and strain through cheesecloth into a pretty jar or bottle. Store oil in the refrigerator for up to one month. Allow oil to come to room temperature before using.

Another flavorful cooking method which uses oil for maximum flavor is poaching. Intrepid chefs have hove come up with this technique recently and it has become wildly popular. Put simply, this method involves submerging a piece of fish in warm olive oil and then cooking it in the oven at a low temperature to perfect doneness. The fish emerges with an incredibly tender, silky texture and pure flavor that’s hard to achieve with any other cooking method.

3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 small bunch fresh dill
1 lemon, sliced in half circles
½ teaspoon rosemary
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 bay leaves
1 quart light olive oil
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets, skin removed
Kosher salt

Place the garlic, dill, lemon slices, rosemary, peppercorns and bay leaves in cheesecloth or mesh bag. Tie closes. Add the oil to a large straight-sided sauté pan and toss in the sachet. Bring the pan to a medium heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.

Let the salmon come to room temperature and season generously with salt. Add the salmon fillets to the pan with the olive oil. Cook the fish in the oil for 15 to 17 minutes. Remove from the oil with a fish spatula to a plate before serving.

Apr 23, 2015

Fat of the Land


Fat is an important part of all our cooking. But in the past few years, fats have been the main target of doctors and dietitians simply because too much fat is not good for us.
Does that mean we should we stop using oil or other fats? Not at all; some fat is needed to digest food and to improve its taste as well. The solution lies in the type of fat we use and the amount we include in our diets. Foods without fat will never have the same rich flavor as those containing some portion of fat.

Fats and oils are essentially the same; fat refers to those that are solid, such as butter or margarine, while oil is liquid. Fats make food smoother, creamier and more tender; they also keep us from feeling hungry because they take longer to digest. In addition, fat carries certain vitamins such as A, D, E and K, which are soluble in fat, not water. So don’t discount it totally; just choose moderation and healthier varieties for your daily intake.

Olive oil is considered to be the best oil for health. It is full of unsaturated fat and vitamins that are extremely good for us. Olive oil is also very beneficial for the heart, as it controls cholesterol. It is also much easier to digest than other oils.

Canola oil is pressed from canola seeds, a relative to the rapeseed. It is a fairly new invention, having been bred in the 1970s. At just 6 percent, this mild-flavored oil has the least amount of saturated fat of all oils and is rich in omega-3 fatty acids.

Sunflower and safflower oil are very similar, with just a little more saturated fat.

Grapeseed oil is next on the scale of saturated fat, with 12 percent. Grapeseed oil is mild flavored and suitable for all cooking and baking, but more pricey than canola as it is not widely available.

Sesame oil, popular in Asian cooking, has approximately 14 percent saturated fat and adds delicious flavor to a variety of dishes.

Corn oil is also used in cooking in many countries, but this oil is not the healthiest option. Corn oil has loads of polyunsaturated fats, which are very harmful for the body.
Vegetable oil is one of the most widely consumed oils. Even though vegetable oil is not as healthy as olive or canola oil, it is still a much healthier option than corn oil.

Flaxseed oil has the highest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids of any food other than fish. This oil has a nutty flavor and is usually found in health food stores. Use it in salad dressings only, since heating destroys its omega-3s.

Peanut oil is great for frying, as it has a high smoking point. It is low in saturated fat and high in fatty acids, making it a good choice for healthy cooking.

Walnut oil contains omega-3s and vitamin E.

Butter is best suited to baking, as its milk solids brown and burn above 250°F — too low for cooking or frying. It is high in saturated fat — about 66 percent — so use it in moderation.

Margarine is extremely high in saturated fat, at 80 percent. Initially margarine was manufactured with a huge amount of trans fats to ensure long shelf life. Lately, with the increased awareness of trans fat’s dire effects, manufacturers have come up with trans-fat-free products.

Shortening is a fat used in baked goods, and is so called because it promotes a “short” or crumbly texture such as in shortbread. It is 100 percent fat with no water added. In keeping with today’s demands for no trans fat, Crisco has recently reformulated its shortening to contain little or none at all.


Apr 21, 2015

Plenty of Pasta

When thinking of chametz many folks have the same thought—we love our pasta! And, please don’t confuse pasta and noodles—there is a difference! Pasta is made from flour and water while noodles almost always contain eggs.  Other dry pasta shapes do not. By federal law, a noodle must contain 5.5 percent egg solids to be called a noodle. So without egg, a noodle really isn't a noodle—it’s pasta.

Pasta is believed to have originated in the Middle East and was brought to Italy by Arab traders.  Pasta is even mentioned in the Talmud, referred to as “itriyya” or boiled dough. In 2005, Chinese archaeologists claimed to have found the oldest noodles in the world.  But while this find is disputed by some experts, noodles have been proven to have been part of the Chinese cuisine for almost 4000 years.  Others credit noodles to Marco Polo, who traveled to China and brought noodles back to Italy to add to his country's repertoire of pasta. So while the history of pasta may be confusing, its popularity is definitely not in dispute!

Top-quality pasta is made from durum wheat. Most durum wheat grown in the U.S. is grown in North Dakota. American-grown durum wheat is considered among the best in the world and is primarily used by the pasta manufacturing industry. Durum is a high gluten wheat, making it too tough for cakes and bread but perfect for pasta. 

Always cook pasta according to the directions on the package. Never overcook. It should be firm to the tooth or “al dente.” Overcooking pasta will make it mushy and starchy.

Most kids will eat pasta for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It comes in so many shapes and sizes, making pasta appropriate for countless sauces and recipes.  This recipe is sure to become a family favorite!


For the crumbs:

3 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs from leftover challah

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 cup parsley, checked and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

2 ounces grated Parmesan cheese, divided


For the mushrooms:

1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 cup)

1 cup hot water

4 tablespoons butter

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1 1/4 pounds fresh white mushrooms, trimmed and quartered

1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, checked and chopped

1/2 kosher teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 cup milk

1 pound farfalle (bowtie) pasta or fusilli (corkscrew)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch or other 3-quart glass or oven-to-tableware dish.

Spread out crumbs in a shallow baking pan and bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 6 minutes. Cool completely in pan on a rack, then toss with garlic, parsley, olive oil, pepper, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.

Soak porcini in boiling-hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes.

Drain porcini in a sieve set over a bowl and reserve soaking liquid, then rinse porcini. Pat dry and finely chop.

Heat butter and olive oil in a large heavy skillet over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion and garlic, stirring, until onion is golden, about 8 minutes. Add mushrooms, oregano, parsley salt, and pepper and sauté, stirring occasionally, until liquid mushrooms give off is evaporated and mushrooms are browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in chopped porcini, reserved soaking liquid, and milk and simmer 1 minute.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in a 6 quart pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, until al dente. Drain in a colander, then transfer to baking dish and stir in mushroom mixture and remaining cheese.

Mmmm….hearty appetite!

Apr 2, 2015

Perk up your Pesach!

With the plethora of prepared products for Pesach one can almost make the same dishes as you would cook for a festive dinner year round. However, if your family does not use many purchased products coming up with tasty dishes requires a bit more ingenuity and creativity. Here at The Peppermill we aim to do just that! Spice up your fare with some of our delightful recipes below.

4-5 pound brisket
20 cloves garlic, optional
1/2 cup sugar
1 quart chicken stock (set some aside when you make your large pot of soup—it comes in handy in many recipes)
3 large onions, sliced
3 tablespoons olive or cottonseed oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.
Using a paring knife, cut small slits in the brisket. Stuff brisket all over with garlic, if using. Rub sugar on both sides of the brisket. Place brisket in a baking pan or casserole and bake until browned on top, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven, turn brisket and return to oven until browned on both sides.
Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees F. Add enough chicken stock to the pan to come up 1 inch on sides, cover with foil and bake one hour.
While brisket is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium high heat and sauté onions in oil, stirring occasionally, until caramelized and most liquid has evaporated, about 20 minutes. Set aside.
Remove brisket from oven after one hour and add caramelized onions. Season meat generously with salt and pepper. Cover and continue to bake until very tender but not falling apart, another hour. Remove from oven and cool.
Place brisket on a carving board and slice. Strain reserved cooking liquids and pour over sliced meat.
Brisket is better if made a day in advance so return it to the pan, refrigerate and reheat before serving.

1 whole chicken
1 orange, peeled
3 whole garlic cloves, optional
1 cinnamon stick
2 tablespoons olive oil or cottonseed oil
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
For the sauce:
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 teaspoons potato starch
Orange slices for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Rinse and pat chicken dry inside and out.  Place orange, garlic cloves (if using) and cinnamon stick inside the cavity of the duck. Tie legs and wings for nice presentation. Place breast-side down in a 9”x13” roasting pan. If you use a disposable pan, double it for stability as the chicken will release liquid and it will be difficult to remove it safely from the oven. Rub chicken with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Roast chicken 45 minutes and remove from oven.  Turn chicken over using two wooden spoons or spatulas. Return to oven and roast 45 minutes longer.
In medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook the orange juice, broth, pepper and ginger for about 15-20 minutes. Whisk in the potato starch until smooth. Continue cooking until the gravy thickens and begins to bubble.
Place the whole chicken on a platter remove the orange, garlic and cinnamon stick from the cavity.  Pour the sauce over all. Garnish with the orange slices. Serve immediately

3-4 pound boneless veal roast
½ cup olive oil, divided
2 to 3 onions, sliced
4 to 5 carrots sliced
1 small knob celery, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoon sweet red wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon potato starch

In a large frying pan, heat 3 tablespoons oil. Sear  veal roast, turning to brown each side. Remove veal from pan and place in a roasting pan.  Add 3 tablespoons oil, vegetables and seasonings. Sauté vegetables until lightly browned.  Add 1/3 cup wine. Boil 5 minutes or until cooked down and concentrated. Add to veal, cover pan and roast in a 325 degree oven for 2 hours.

Remove veal from oven, remove from pan  and allow to rest 20 minutes.  Mash vegetables well. Add 1 cup stock and 1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 2 remaining tablespoons wine. Whisk into vegetables in the pan. Slice veal into quarter-inch slices and serve with warm sauce.