Shavuos Sides

If you serve a milchig seudah on Shavuos, you may begin your menu planning at the end — with cheesecake. That’s the easy part! But many get stuck when it comes to appetizers or side dishes.

Here’s a little help.

Savory Spinach Cheesecake

This is not your mother’s cheesecake – Not a drop of sugar in sight!

  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup panko crumbs
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
  • 1 16 ounce container ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 8-ounce package feta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 large eggs
  • 4 cups fresh baby spinach, checked and shredded
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 tablespoon fresh dill, checked and chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9” springform pan with parchment paper.

Process the pine nuts in a food processor until they are ground. Stir together pine nuts, crumbs, salt, pepper and melted butter. Press into bottom of prepared pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool in pan on a wire rack.

Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees F. Place the cream cheese in an electric mixing bowl and beat at medium speed until creamy; add the ricotta cheese, feta cheese and eggs, beating until blended. Stir in the spinach, garlic, flour and dill, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper Pour the batter into the prepared crust. Bake for 45 minutes.

Turn oven off; leave cheesecake in oven 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack 10 minutes. Gently run a knife around edge of cheesecake, and carefully remove sides of pan; cool 10 more minutes. Garnish with sliced tomatoes and dill, if you like. Serve warm or cold.

Potato & Cheese Pancake

The over-sized crispy treat can be served in wedges with a dollop of sour cream for an elegant appetizer.

  • 2 pounds Idaho or russet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick), divided
  • 2 tablespoons oil, divided
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups (packed) shredded cheese
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Cook potatoes in their peels in a large pot of boiling water until soft, about 25 minutes. Drain and refrigerate until cold. Peel potatoes and shred using a large-hole grater.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil in a 10” skillet over high heat. When the oil is hot, lower flame slightly. Sprinkle half the potatoes evenly over the bottom of the skillet. Season with salt and pepper.

Sprinkle cheese evenly over potatoes. Sprinkle remaining potatoes over cheese and season once again. Press gently with a large spatula to compact layers. Cook until bottom is browned, about 7 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat. Invert a dinner plate over the skillet and, using oven mitts, flip skillet and plate over, turning the pancake onto the plate.

Return skillet to flame and heat remaining butter and oil. Slide the pancake back into the pan with the brown side up. Cook 7 minutes longer until brown on the bottom and the cheese is melted.

Pesto Potato Puffs

  • Flavorful basil and garlic wake up basic potatoes in this easy side dish
  • 2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (about 6)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 3/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves, finely chopped, or 8 cubes frozen basil
  • 1 egg plus 1 yolk
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 12-cup muffin pan with baking spray.

Peel potatoes, then shred them through the large holes of a box grater into a large bowl. Squeeze in small batches between your hands over the sink to remove excess moisture. Grate onion into the bowl through the same holes in the box grater. Alternately, the potatoes and onions can be shredded in your food processor, then squeezed dry. Stir in garlic, basil, egg and yolk, cheese, oil, salt and pepper.

Place a generous 1/2 cup of the potato mixture into each muffin cup, packing the mixture firmly. Bake the latkes until lightly browned and firm, 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

(May be prepared in advance and reheated at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes.)

Many ingredients are prone to infestation. Please consult a local Rav for specific guidelines on how to avoid transgressions related to insects.

Readers may submit questions to the Culinary Connoisseur, c/o Hamodia, 207 Foster Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. 11230 or via e-mail to This weekly column has been brought to you by The Peppermill, the world’s first kosher kitchenware store, located at 5015 16th Avenue, Brooklyn, N.Y. (718) 871-4022. You can also read a selection of previous columns in their comprehensive cookbook, The Culinary Connoisseur, available now at your local Judaica and kitchenware stores. Jam-packed with delicious recipes, insightful food information and helpful cooking tips, this book is certain to become your constant companion in the kitchen.