Nov 15, 2018

Is It Done Yet?

Knowing when your food is done is crucial to a delicious meal.  Experienced cooks rely on their senses to know when foods are done.  We’re not referring to “common sense,” although that plays an important role as well.  Taste, touch, sight, smell and yes, even sound will tell you that your food is ready to come out of the oven or off the stove. 

Less knowledgeable cooks will rely on recipe instructions.  Following cooking times religiously will give you the expected results unless your oven is drastically different than the one that was used to test the recipes.  Start checking on your food a few minutes before the time stated in the recipe.  Set a timer to ensure that you don’t ruin a dish you’ve never made before. 

Taking the internal temperature of cooked and baked foods is another fool-proof method for testing doneness.  Candy thermometers, instant-read thermometers and meat probes are extremely useful to both the novice and seasoned cook.  Thermometers are especially important when deep frying or making candy as specific temperatures are essential for success.  When deep fried at the correct temperature, foods will absorb less oil and stay crispy.  Candy and caramel must reach precise temperatures to harden or thicken properly. 

Taking the temperature of a roast or turkey is the most efficient way to know when they’re ready.  Poultry must reach an internal temperature of 170 degrees to be safe to eat.  Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh or breast.  If you have stuffing in the cavity, measure that as well.  It should reach 165 degrees to be fully cooked and free of bacteria. The outside should be well colored and the joints should move easily.

When roasting meat the cooking time will vary according to taste.  The internal temperature of 130-135 is rare while 160-165 is well done.  Keep in mind that when a roast is removed from the oven it will continue to rise in temperature.   Always allow a roast to rest for 15-20 minutes after removing it from the oven to allow the juices to redistribute themselves throughout the meat. 

A roast with bones will need to cook about 30 minutes per pound when slow roasted at 325 degrees.  A boneless roast will need an additional 10 minutes per pound.  Smaller cuts like skirt steak will benefit from higher temperatures and shorter cooking times.  A 2-3 pound roast cooked at 425 degrees will be done in less than an hour while a 4-6 pound roast will be done in just over 60 minutes. 

Fish can be temperature-tested as well, but most cooks will judge the fish by its appearance.  White fleshed fish should be opaque in the center.  Fattier fish like salmon should be somewhat translucent or just barely opaque for best flavor.  Internal temperature should range from 120 to 140 degrees.

This delicious snack is so easy to prepare at home. All you need is a candy thermometer to help you get the temperature right!

1 cup sugar

1 cup light corn syrup

2 ½ cups (12 ounces) dry-roasted, salted peanuts

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon baking soda

Line a jelly roll pan with a Silpat or parchment.  If you are using parchment, brush it with canola oil.  Combine sugar, and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Set over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly.

 Insert a candy thermometer. Continue boiling, without stirring, until temperature registers 295 degrees F, about 6 minutes. When the sugar begins to brown, add the nuts and stir gently to ensure even cooking. Once the nuts are coated with the sugar mixture remove saucepan from heat, and stir in the butter and baking soda; the mixture will begin to foam up, so mix quickly and carefully. Pour mixture onto the prepared baking pan. Using a spatula spread the mixture as thinly as possible on the pan. 

Allow the brittle to cool completely, about 45 minutes, and then break into bite-size pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 2 weeks.

Nov 8, 2018

Flavors of Fall

Maple syrup, like many delicious natural products was discovered by accident. Most legends claim that Native Americans thought the liquid dripping from trees that had been cut by their tomahawks was water. After all, it was clear and colorless. They used it to cook meat and discovered that it turned into a delicious sweet glaze. It added wonderful flavor to everything and they began using it to sweeten many different foods. They also boiled it down to thicken and become chunks of maple sugar that could be put aside for winter, sustaining them through the cold months.  

When settlers arrived with metal tools they began drillings holes and adding little wooden spouts to direct the sap into buckets and the “sugar maple” industry took off. Maple sugar was most popular in Vermont where there were lots of maple trees. In addition, its location far from the seaports where regular white sugar was imported made maple sugar the perfect alternative. Up until the 1930’s most maple syrup came from Vermont. In recent years things have changed and 80% of the world’s maple syrup comes from Canada.

Like sugar, maple syrup contains no vitamins; however, it contains small amounts of minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, copper and manganese. These minerals are not lost during production because there is relatively little processing.

As production methods have improved over time the quality of maple syrup has too. Maple syrup is graded according to color and flavor. It may range from golden to dark amber in color and from mild to robust in taste. Colors and flavor are not indicative of quality, rather they are used so you can choose which flavor suits your taste best.

Dark syrup is usually used in baking while light amber or golden is more often found at the table. Avoid using “pancake syrup” which is not maple syrup at all. It’s most often corn syrup with some artificial maple flavor added. For best flavor in glazes and baked goods choose good quality syrup with a nice aroma.

¼ cup light olive oil

½ cup maple syrup

1 teaspoon grated ginger

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 carrots, peeled

1 large sweet potato, peeled

2 bell peppers, seeds removed

1 red onion

1 lb. mushrooms

2 zucchini or yellow squash,

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Place all dressing ingredients in a container with a tightly fitting lid and shake to mix well. Let sit while cutting vegetables.

Cut all vegetables into 1-2 inch pieces. Place carrots and sweet potatoes in a foil lined sheet pan. Shake dressing and pour half of it over the carrot and potato. Toss to coat. Roast 20 minutes. Remove from oven.  Add remaining cut vegetables and drizzle with remaining dressing.

Put the pan back in oven and roast for an additional 25-30 minutes, basting once with the dressing.

Serve immediately.

4 oyster steaks, 10-14 ounces each

3 large onions, sliced thickly in rings

6 cloves garlic, cracked open

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

16 ounces maple syrup, divided

1 cup bourbon (Old Williamsburg or Wild Turkey)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place onion slices and garlic in a roasting pan. Place oyster steaks on top. Season well with kosher salt and pepper. Drizzle with ¼ of the maple syrup.

Place remaining maple, bourbon, ½ teaspoon kosher salt and ½ teaspoon ground pepper in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a boil and continue to cook until it is reduced to a sticky glaze. Stir occasionally so it does not burn.

Bake steaks, covered for 1 hour. Carefully remove from oven. Pour off most of the liquid accumulated in the pan.

Pour half the glaze over the steaks and return to the oven. Continue baking, uncovered 20 minutes or until it has form a nice crust.

Remove from oven and let the steaks rest 5 minutes. Slice across the grain and drizzle remaining glaze on the meat.  Serves 8.

Nov 1, 2018

Lean and Green

Green beans go by many different aliases.  They are referred as French beans, snap beans or squeaky beans in some southern parts of the United States.   Similar varieties include the yard-long bean; a very long cousin.  There are over 130 varieties of green bean.

While green beans are commonly referred to as string beans most varieties no longer actually have the fibrous “string” that runs down the length of the older species. In 1894 the first "stringless" bean was cultivated in New York, leading to lots of time saved for string bean lovers. 

Haricots verts are French green beans that are very thin and very tender. If your recipe specifies haricot verts and you are unable to find them, substitute with the thinnest green beans you can find.

When preparing string beans, snap off only the root end—leave the tapered tail as is.  That’s the pretty part! Green beans are delicious raw or cooked—but never overcooked.  Once they’ve lost their bright emerald color, lots of taste and nutrients go too.

Green beans are picked while still immature and the inner bean is just beginning to form. Although green beans vary in size they average about four inches in length. They are usually deep green in color and come to a slight point at either end. They contain tiny seeds within their thin pods.
Green beans are extremely low in calories—just 43 calories in a whole cup—and are loaded with nutrients. Green beans are an excellent source of vitamin C, vitamin K and manganese. Plus green beans are very good source of vitamins and minerals. Clearly we should be finding ways of adding green beans to our diets as often as possible. Try taking a bagful of green beans to work as a late afternoon pick-me-up. You can enjoy them with a techina or chummus dip.

Fresh green beans should feel smooth and have a vibrant green color, without any brown spots or bruises. They should be firm and snap when broken.  Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.

1 pound green beans
2 pounds red potatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1 medium red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 tablespoons fresh dill, checked and chopped
3 tablespoons vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons Dijon mustard or yellow mustard
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Trim green beans and steam for 5 to 8 minutes. Cook potatoes in boiling water until tender; about 15 minutes. Cool green beans and potatoes and place in a bowl.
Prepare the dressing by whisking all ingredients together in a small bowl or salad dressing bottle.

Add diced pepper and onion to the cooled green beans and potatoes; top with dressing and toss to combine.  Serve at room temperature.

2 1/2 pounds green beans, trimmed 
Kosher salt 
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 pound pastrami (preferably well marbled) 
1 small onion, finely chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans 
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Bring a 6 quart pot of water to a boil with 2 tablespoons kosher salt. Toss the green beans into the pot and cook until bright green in color and crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Drain the beans and shock in a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain the beans again and pat dry.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large fry pan over medium heat.  Slice the pastrami into thin strips. Cook the pastrami until crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the pastrami to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Add the onion to the pan and sauté until soft and very tender, 4 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle in the garlic and red pepper flakes and sauté until just fragrant, about 1 more minute. Add the reserved green beans and the pecans and cook until heated through, 3-4 minutes more. Return the pastrami to the pan, pour in the lemon juice and toss. Season with additional salt as desired.

Oct 25, 2018

What’s in Your Pot?

Once upon a time there was a single brand of cookware that every kallah bought.  It was so universally popular that the very name became a household word.  It featured stainless steel pots with a thin coating of aluminum on the bottom.   It was thought to be the ultimate in quality cookware. 

Today we know that there are better options when it comes to cookware.  The single most important feature of cookware is its ability to conduct heat.  The better the heat conduct the more quickly and evenly your food will cook.  It will also allow you to use lower cooking flames, saving energy and keeping your kitchen cool.

Among metals, the best heat conductor is gold with copper and aluminum running a close second and third.  Of course, gold is way too expensive for cookware so we have to stick with second best.  Aluminum and copper conduct heat so well that at one time they were used exclusively to make cookware.  However, being soft metals, they were easily dented.  Also, both these metals react easily with food, something best avoided since the taste and color may change dramatically.  That brings us back to the more stable stainless steel. Unfortunately, stainless steel is not good heat conductor at all.  It will not spread heat from the stovetop flame, causing hot spots on the surface of the pot directly above the fire.  Hot spots lead to burnt, stuck-on food. 

The practical solution is to combine the two.  Use aluminum or copper to spread heat and stainless steel for the cooking surface to prevent reactions to many foods.  Clad cookware does just that.  It sandwiches an aluminum core that extends to the top rim of the pot, a stainless exterior and an 18/10 stainless interior cooking surface to give you the benefits of both.  

Clad cookware can be used in your oven at temperatures up to 500 degrees.  It’s perfect for recipes that call for food to be seared in a hot pan on the stovetop and finished in the oven. 

In bonded, or layered, cookware most foods can be quickly cooked at medium heat.  Use high heat only for boiling water.  High heat will cause discoloration of the stainless exterior that will detract from the beauty of your cookware.  Also remember to add salt once the liquid in the pot has come to a boil because salt sitting at the bottom of a pot may cause pitting. 

Lifting a large piece of bonded cookware for the first time may give you a shock.  Good cookware is heavy!  The heavier the pot the better the heat conduct.   

Some clad cookware features non-stick interiors for those who prefer to cook with less added fat. Better brands will use non-stick coatings that are durable enough to stand up to the same high usage as the cookware itself.  Today many manufacturers are using ceramic coatings instead of plastic-based coatings.

While all this technical information is fascinating, what does it actually mean to the cook?  Especially, the Jewish cook?  Without a doubt, we use our cookware more than any other sector of cookware consumers.  We cook daily for large numbers; we cook often for Yomim Tovim and simchas, and we eat out less than the average American.  Therefore, we can certainly benefit from hardworking, long-lasting, quality cookware.  Cookware should last for years; it should not need replacing every time we clean for Pesach.  Choosing the right type will mean years of cooking enjoyment.

2 thick cut fillet steaks

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons cracked peppercorns

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1/4 cup diced shallots

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup cabernet sauvignon (red wine)

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat a heavy skillet (not nonstick) over medium-high heat. Once the pan is very hot add the oil.  Season steaks well with salt and pepper.  Sear steaks 1 to 2 minutes on each side. Place in oven about 5 - 10 minutes for medium rare or until steaks reach desired doneness. Allow steaks to rest 5 minutes before serving.

After removing steaks from pan, add shallots and garlic; cook for 2 minutes on medium heat. Whisk in wine and mustard and scrape up any crusty bits sticking to the pan; cook until reduced to half.  Add parsley and season to taste. Serve over steak.

Oct 18, 2018

Move over Quinoa

The new kid on the block is actually an ancient grain that has made a comeback. This Italian-born grain dates back to ancient Rome. While it's sometimes confused with barley or spelt, farro has its own unique flavor and texture.

What Is Farro? Think of brown rice, only with a nuttier flavor and pleasantly chewier texture. Cook it in water or broth and it's ready in about 25 minutes. One cup of cooked farro contains 220 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 8 grams of protein. It will also give you a hefty dose of vitamins A, E and minerals like iron and magnesium. Farro is a whole grain, like barley, quinoa, and wheat berries. Farro is a specific type of common wheat, and like wheat, never gluten-free.

Cook up farro and it's ready to go in dozens of different directions. In soup, as a side dish or a main course salad mixed with vegetables, nuts, or fresh or dried fruit. Combine with beans, roasted veggies or chicken.

Farro looks quite a bit like a more oblong and larger barley grain and has a similar taste and texture. Like barley, farro is still a bit chewy when cooked, rather than soft and mushy. Farro and barley can be used interchangeably in most recipes. 

Like quinoa, farro is referred to as an ancient grain, which means that it's been around for generations. 

Keep in mind farro does contain more carbs than quinoa, but it makes up for that by offering a higher amount of calcium and supplying more than 10 different vitamins and minerals.

Adding porcini powder ramps up the deep mushroom flavor

½ ounce porcini powder*

1 ½ cups farro

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

1 pound mixed mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced

kosher salt to taste

2 large garlic cloves, crushed

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped or 2 cubes frozen

½ cup dry white wine

5-6 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock

 Freshly ground pepper to taste

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley for garnish, optional

 *available at The Peppermill

Place the farro in a bowl, and pour on enough hot water to cover by an inch. Let soak while you prepare the remaining ingredients, about 15 minutes. Drain.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy sauté pan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about three minutes. Add the mushrooms. Sauté until they begin to soften and sweat; add salt to taste, the garlic and parsley. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about five minutes. Add the farro and porcini powder. Keep stirring until the grains of farro separate and beginning to crackle, about two minutes. Stir in the wine and cook until the wine has been absorbed. Add 5 cups of the stock, and bring to a simmer. Cover and gently cook until the farro is tender, 50-60 minutes; Remove the lid, and stir to combine all ingredients.

Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. There should be a little liquid remaining in the pot but not too much. If the farro is completely submerged, raise the flame and cook until there is just enough to keep it moist. If there is no liquid remaining, stir in the remaining stock. Place in a serving platter or bowl and sprinkle with parsley.

This dish can be prepared in advance and warmed gently over low heat.

4 cups water

10 ounces farro (about 1 1/2 cups)

1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

1/2 sweet onion, chopped

2 Persian cucumbers, diced

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 l garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup olive oil

Combine the water and farro in a medium saucepan. Add salt. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the farro is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain well, and then transfer to a large bowl to cool.

Add the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and parsley to the farro, and toss to combine.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss to coat. Serve

Oct 11, 2018

Overnight Oats

We all know breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Start out right and you will be more likely to stick with a healthy routine. Yom tov may be only a memory but many of us are left with reminders of all the delicious food we consumed over the past month. Getting into good eating habits will help drop those few extra pounds so we can enjoy a few Chanukah treats without worry.

For most of us, mornings are busy and we don’t take the time to eat a satisfying breakfast.  Start thinking about breakfast the night before with one of the hottest food trends—overnight oats. Prepare your breakfast before your go to bed and getting a healthy start will be easy. This ever-growing trend is one of the most sensible new food ideas we’ve seen. Soak heart-healthy oats in a jar or container; add your favorite fruit or flavors and a few hours later you’ve got a delicious breakfast that can be enjoyed at your kitchen table or on the go. You can use milk or non-dairy options; you can add nut butters for protein; seeds and fruit add fiber without lots of calories. Always use regular rolled oats not instant. Overnight oats will keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 days, although they taste best within the first 12-24 hours.

All in all a super smart way to start your day!

Made with just 5 ingredients and 5 minutes prep time, this recipe is naturally sweetened, gluten-free, and so delicious.

1/2 cup unsweetened plain almond milk 

3/4 tablespoon chia seeds

2 tablespoons peanut butter or almond butter (creamy or crunchy)

1 tablespoon maple syrup, honey or brown sugar

1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats

Optional topping:

1 sliced banana, blueberries or strawberries, checked and sliced

Flaxseed meal or additional chia seed


Place almond milk, chia seeds, peanut butter, and maple syrup (or other sweetener) in a glass jar or container and stir with a spoon to combine. The peanut butter doesn't need to be completely mixed with the almond milk. Swirls of peanut butter will look appealing the next day.

Add oats and stir a few more times. Then press down with a spoon to ensure all oats have been moistened and are immersed in almond milk.

Cover securely with a lid or plastic wrap and set in the refrigerator overnight (or for at least 6 hours).

The next morning, open and sprinkle with desired toppings.

You can substitute other fruit in the simple version

1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 cup low-fat or skim milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon honey

1/2 cup blueberries

1/3 cup banana, sliced

Place oats in your container of choice and pour in milk and vanilla. Press down once to twice to be sure the oats are submerged. Add a layer of blueberries and then a layer of banana slices. Top with a drizzle of honey and cover. Place in fridge and enjoy in the morning. You can heat in the microwave for 30 seconds if you prefer your oats warm.

This recipe is even thicker and creamier thanks to the addition of yogurt. And, added protein too!

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup low-fat or skim milk

1/4 cup plain, nonfat yogurt

1/2 cup apple, chopped

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon honey

A handful of dried apple pieces

Add Quaker® Oats to your container of choice and pour in milk and low-fat yogurt. Add in a layer of chopped apples, and top off with cinnamon, drizzle of honey, and cover. Place in fridge overnight. In the morning, add the dried apple pieces and enjoy.

Sep 27, 2018

The Wild Side

One of the questions we often get from customers is “Have any good side dish ideas that can be made in advance? No kugels, please.”  How about wild rice? It can be prepared 2-3 days before yom tov and kept in the refrigerator, then easily reheated before serving. It lends itself to man flavors from sweet to savory so go ahead and try some this yom tov season.

Did you know wild rice is not actually rice?  It is an aquatic grain that grows "wild" in isolated lake and river bed areas mostly within North America. This species is found primarily in areas west and north of the Great Lakes. In addition, there are several other species that grow in limited quantities in other isolated locations from New Jersey to Florida. 

 The nutty taste of brown and wild rice is paired with fresh orangse which gives this dish an extra burst of flavor. It is great as a side dish or add shredded cooked chicken and serve as a main dish!

1 package (6 oz.) brown and wild rice mix

2 oranges, peeled, separated into segments, then halved

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup sliced red onion

1/2 cup each bite sized strips red and green bell peppers

1 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest

1/4 teaspoon dried sage or parsley

freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare rice mix according to package directions, cooking in unsalted water.

In a skillet heat a few tablespoons of chicken broth. Sauté onion in broth 3 minutes, add bell peppers and more broth if necessary, stir in orange zest, sage and pepper. Sauté 3 to 4 minutes more or until vegetables are tender.

When rice is done, stir in orange half segments and vegetable mixture, heat through and serve.

for the rice:

1 cup wild rice

3 cups water

 for the vinaigrette:

2 tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/4 cup orange juice

1/4 cup olive oil

1 Tablespoon Dijon or yellow mustard

1 teaspoon dried rosemary

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

for the vegetables:

 4 firm plum tomatoes, cut in quarters

2 small zucchini, sliced 1/4" thick

2 medium red or yellow peppers, cut in 1" squares

1 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 pound chopped pastrami 

Bring water to a boil and add rice.  Cook 50 minutes at medium heat and turn off the flame. Allow to rest, covered, for 10 minutes.

Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients; set aside.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Line a 15" x 10" jelly-roll pan with parchment paper or a silpat.

In large bowl, combine tomatoes, zucchini, bell pepper and olive oil; toss to coat. Spread in single layer in prepared pan.  Roast 15-20 minutes, or until crisp-tender and lightly browned.

In large bowl, toss roasted vegetables with wild rice, pastrami and vinaigrette. 
 This dish can be made erev Yom Tov and reheated, covered, in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes

1 1/2 cups wild rice

kosher salt 

1 tablespoon light olive oil

2 cups diced celery, about 5 stalks 

1 large Vidalia onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced 

2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme, or ½ teaspoon dried 

1/2 cup shelled salted pistachios, crushed 

8 ounces chestnuts, roasted, roughly chopped (I use bagged)

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley 

Combine the wild rice with 2 teaspoons salt and 3 cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, and reduce the heat to low and steam until the rice is tender and curling into a C shape, and all the water is absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables are limp but still bright, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme, and cook for 5 minutes.

Pour the vegetables over the rice, scraping the pan for the juices, and stir to combine. Add the pistachios, chestnuts and parsley and mix thoroughly. Serve hot.