Sausage hash brown latkes


Sausage Hash Brown Latkes

My favorite breakfast is a combination of eggs served with sausage and hash browns. When combined together and fried to crispy perfection it makes the perfect breakfast latke!

Ingredients:

  • 4 sausages, diced
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 20 oz. shredded hash browns (3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T flour
  • 2 scallions chopped up
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Saute onions until tender. Add diced sausage and cook until lightly browned. Combine with hash bronws, eggs, flour, scallions and season with salt and pepper. Fry up in batches and serve with spicy mayo. (mayo with sriracha combined)

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Nacho latkes with creamy cheddar sauce


Spice up the original potato latke this holiday! Skewer bite sized potato latkes together with a layer of creamy nacho sauce served on top.

Potato Latkes:

  • 20 oz. shredded hash browns about 3 1/2 cups (frozen works great!)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 T flour (add more if batter doesn’t hold together)
  • 2 scallions chopped up
  • Salt
  • Pepper

 

Combine, form into small patties and fry until golden.

Nacho Sauce:

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

 

Melt butter then add flour and whisk together until well combines and a paste forms. Add milk and over a medium flame whisk until sauce thickens then add shredded cheese and continue whisking until cheese melts and sauce is smooth.

Salsa:

  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1 red onion
  • Juice of 1 lime

 

Pulse together in a processor until smooth. Optional, add 2 jalapeno peppers without seeds for spice! Plate latke skewers over sliced avocado and salsa with nacho sauce on top.

This recipe originally appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Waffle latkes with bite sized crispy chicken


Waffle Latkes with Bite Sized Crispy Chicken

These are a personal favorite of mine. I love the sweet salty combo of latkes with maple syrup.

Ingredients:

                    Baked Chicken Bites:

  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of mayo
  • 1 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 2 cups corn flake crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

       

       Waffle Latkes:

  • 20 oz. shredded potatoes (3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • 2 T flour

     

       Optional:

  • maple syrup
  • western sauce (recipe below)

 

Directions:

Cut chicken into small pieces. Season corn flake crumbs with salt and pepper. Combine mustard and mayo. Coat chicken with mayo mixture then corn flake crumbs. Place on lightly greased baking sheet, spray with cooking oil and cook in oven on 350′ for 25-30 minutes until chicken is cooked.

While the chicken cooks combine waffle latkes and cook up in batches using a waffle maker (be sure to use a non dairy waffle maker!) Plate cooked waffle latkes with baked chicken bites and hold together with a tooth pick. Drizzle maple syrup on top or serve with western sauce (combine equal parts ketchup, mayo and bbq sauce) or spicy mayo (mayo with sriracha)

This recipe first appeared on Kosher in the Kitch!

Nigella Lawson keeps it simple


Nigella Lawson has achieved that ever-elusive balance other so-called domestic goddesses can only strive for. Gwyneth Paltrow’s eco-conscious Every Mom is often received with tepid skepticism at best, cynical hostility at worst. Ina Garten’s lifestyle empire is based on her version of bourgeois home comfort but doesn’t rest on presenting herself as an enviable vision of personal glamour. Martha Stewart is, well … Martha Stewart. And there are too many millennial-targeted personalities on Instagram and YouTube to go into here. 

In a world where women in the media are subject to increasingly punishing scrutiny at all levels, Lawson — or “Nigella,” to her fans — has mostly managed to sidestep these pitfalls and emerge victorious when faced with public challenges, such as her recent divorce or relentless gossip in the British press about her fluctuating weight. (A bizarre obsession, given that she always looks terrific and at ease in her own skin.) 

Nigella Lawson

With her soft features and dark hair that could qualify her as a Rachel Weisz stand-in, her practical yet stylish wardrobe and her posh London accent that reflects her Jewish family’s prominent standing in Britain, Lawson is a rare example of the accessible and the aspirational comfortably melding. 

Her latest book, “Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food” ($35, Flatiron Books), contains unfussy recipes, entertaining tips and an overarching take-it-easy-on-yourself philosophy that reveals where Lawson, 55, is at this point in her life. 

“The food in this book is what I’ve been cooking for myself and, although the impetus was certainly to seek out food that made me feel physically strong, I have always believed that food you cook for yourself is essentially good for you,” she states in the introduction. “This is not just because real ingredients are better for you than fake foods, but because the act of cooking for yourself is in itself a supremely positive act, an act of kindness.”  

The 125 recipes are organized into chapters with titles that reflect her philosophy of what she calls “mindful cooking” as well as more involved entertaining (“Quick and Calm” and “Dine”), along with headings that hew closer to standard cookbook formats (“Sides” and “Sweets”). 

“Simply Nigella” carries on Lawson’s comforting image and brand that’s found adoring audiences on both sides of the Pond. (“Simply Nigella” is also a BBC program that might find its way to U.S. airwaves.) Even if you don’t cook any of the recipes, you’ll enjoy the Oxford alumna and former journalist’s prose for its personal, well-informed, engaging and — perhaps best of all — completely unpretentious manner. 

The two following healthful recipes, from “Simply Nigella,” are ideal to serve alongside latkes during a spirited Chanukah meal. Her Chicken Traybake With Bitter Orange and Fennel reminds me of a Yotam Ottolenghi “Jerusalem” recipe I’ve found to be wildly successful — and easy to prepare — for group dinners. And the cauliflower is cooked with some oil, adding an appropriate thematic tie-in. 

During the holidays, hopefully, you can relax while taking pride and pleasure in your efforts to be a great, mindful host. But don’t obsess over perfection. This is a particularly difficult balance, but if anyone can help show the way, it’s Nigella. 

WARM SPICED CAULIFLOWER AND CHICKPEA SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE SEEDS

  • 1 small head cauliflower
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups chickpeas, home-cooked or drained from a can or jar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons harissa, to taste
  • 4 small ripe vine tomatoes (approximately 6 ounces total)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes or kosher salt, or to taste
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons pomegranate seeds
  • 2 1/2 cups Italian parsley leaves

 

Preheat the oven to 425 F. 

Trim the cauliflower and divide into small florets. Pour the oil into a large bowl, add the cinnamon and cumin seeds, and stir or whisk to help the spices disperse. Add the prepared cauliflower and toss to coat. Pour the contents of the bowl into a small oven pan (a 12-by-8-inch disposable foil baking pan works well) and place in the oven for 15 minutes. Don’t wash out the bowl just yet.

Add the chickpeas to this bowl, then add the harissa, tasting it first to see if you want both tablespoonsful, then toss to coat. Quarter the tomatoes, add them to the bowl, and shake or stir to mix. When the cauliflower has had its 15 minutes in the oven, remove the pan, quickly pour the chickpeas and tomatoes over the cauliflower, and toss to combine before returning to the oven for another 15 minutes, until the cauliflower is tender.

Remove from the oven. Sprinkle the salt over the vegetables, then toss to combine with half of the pomegranate seeds before dividing between 2 bowls. Divide the parsley leaves — without chopping them — between the 2 bowls and toss to mix. Scatter with the remaining pomegranate seeds.

If you have leftovers, let them cool, then cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days. Serve leftovers cold.

Serves 2 heartily, or 1 with leftovers.

CHICKEN TRAYBAKE WITH BITTER ORANGE AND FENNEL

  • 2 large bulbs fennel (approximately 2 pounds total, though less would also be fine)
  • 7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 1 tablespoon or so for drizzling on the chicken when cooking
  • Zest and juice of 2 Seville oranges (scant 1/2 cup juice), or zest and juice of 1 eating orange and juice of lemon
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt flakes or kosher salt
  • 4 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 12 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in, preferably organic

 

Remove the fronds from the fennel and put them in a resealable bag in the refrigerator for serving. I discard (that’s to say, eat) the tubey bits of the fennel, but if you have a roasting pan big enough, use everything. Cut the bulbs of fennel into quarters and then cut each quarter, lengthwise, into 3 pieces. Leave on the cutting board while you make the marinade.

Place a large resealable bag inside a wide-necked measuring cup or a bowl, add the 7 tablespoons oil, the orange zest and juice (and lemon juice, if using), and spoon in the salt, fennel seeds and mustard. Stir briefly to mix.

Remove the bag from the cup and, holding it up, add a quarter of the chicken pieces, followed by a quarter of the fennel pieces, and so on until everything’s been used up.

Seal the bag tightly at the top, lay the bag in something like a lasagna dish, and squelch it about so that you make the small amount of marinade cover as much of the chicken as possible. It will look as if it isn’t enough, but it is, I promise. Leave in the refrigerator overnight or up to 1 day.

When you’re ready to cook, remove the marinating chicken and fennel from the refrigerator and pour the contents of the bag — marinade and all — into a large, shallow roasting pan (I use a half-sheet pan with a lip of 1/2 inch). Using tongs, or whatever implement(s) you prefer, arrange the chicken pieces so that they are sitting, skin-side up, on top of the fennel. Leave it for 30 minutes or so, to come up to room temperature while you heat the oven to 400 F.

Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon oil onto the chicken, and cook in the oven for 1 hour, by which time the fennel will be soft and the chicken cooked through and bronzed on top.

Place the chicken and fennel on a warmed serving plate and put the pan over medium heat (use a saucepan if your pan isn’t stove-friendly) and boil the juices, stirring as you watch it turn syrupy; this should take about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in the pan, or about 5 minutes in a saucepan.

Pour the reduced sauce over the chicken and fennel, and then tear over the reserved fennel fronds.

Cool leftovers, then cover and refrigerate within 2 hours of making. Will keep in refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Note: The chicken can be marinated 1 day ahead. Store in refrigerator until needed.

Serves 6. 

From savory to sweet, latkes for all


Chanukah, which begins the night of Dec. 6, has always been a joyous holiday celebrated more in the home than in the synagogue. Every year, we invite a minimum of 25 family members and friends to our celebration, and it is always a festive occasion. 

When our guests arrive, we begin with platters of Crispy Potato Latkes that are served with sour cream, applesauce and sugar. Latkes fried in olive oil act as a reminder of the ancient miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple.

With each course during dinner, we serve a different kind of latke. The Romanian Noodle Latkes, similar to a pasta dish, seem to be everyone’s top choice and are always a special request. We’ll see how they stand up to Salmon Latkes, a new addition to our celebration this year. 

After serving dinner, we take a break before dessert to exchange presents, which usually takes at least two hours. In the past, everyone had lots of gifts to open, but this year, the family has rebelled and decided to have a Chanukah grab bag, for which everyone will bring one present. (Of course, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren will receive more!)

For dessert, serve my Sweet Potato Latkes, a family favorite enriched with dates, raisins and nuts. Or make Apple Latkes dusted with cinnamon and sugar — a suitably sweet way to end the evening.

CRISPY POTATO LATKES

  • 4 potatoes
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 4 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Ground pepper to taste

 

Peel potatoes or scrub and use unpeeled. Grate potatoes, using food processor or fine shredder.

In large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, lemon juice, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Blend well. Stir in flour. Add salt and pepper. Mix well.

In a heavy skillet or an electric frying pan, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil. Drop potato mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening with back of spoon. Brown well, on both sides, turning once. Cook 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Serve latkes crisp and hot with applesauce, sugar, sour cream or preserves if desired.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

ROMANIAN NOODLE LATKES

  • 1 (8-ounce) package fine egg noodles
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 eggs
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

 

Cook noodles according to package directions; drain well. Transfer to a large bowl, add margarine and blend well.

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat and sauté onions until tender, about 5 minutes. Add onion to noodles. Blend in eggs. Add salt and pepper.

In a large, heavy skillet, heat remaining 4 tablespoons oil over medium heat. Drop noodle mixture by tablespoons into hot oil, flattening each spoonful with back of spoon to form thin latkes. Fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes per side. (Do not turn latkes until first side is golden and firmly set.)

Makes about 2 dozen latkes. 

SALMON LATKES

  • 1 (15-ounce) can pink salmon
  • 2/3 cup chopped onion 
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs or matzah meal
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

In a mixing bowl, place salmon and its liquid in a bowl. Add onion, eggs and bread crumbs. Add salt and pepper. Mix well. Set aside for 15 minutes.

With wet hands, shape mixture into latkes. In large, heavy skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add latkes to skillet and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels. Serve hot or cold.

Makes about 12 latkes. 

CARROT AND ZUCCHINI LATKES

  • 2 cups grated carrots
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 eggs
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

 

In a large bowl, combine carrots, zucchini, onion and eggs; blend thoroughly. (This can be done in food processor with metal blade, using a quick on-and-off motion, just enough to blend, then transfer mixture to a large bowl.) 

Add flour, baking powder, salt and pepper; mix well.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Drop carrot-zucchini mixture by large spoonsful into hot oil. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 3 dozen latkes.

SWEET POTATO LATKES

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and finely grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons ground almonds
  • 2 tablespoons golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons chopped dates
  • 1/4 cup chopped pecans
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/8 to 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Powdered sugar

 

In a large bowl, combine sweet potatoes, eggs, granulated sugar and enough ground almonds to make a thick batter. Mix well. Fold in raisins, dates and pecans. Add salt.

In a large skillet, heat oil. Spoon heaping tablespoonsful of potato mixture into oil, flattening with back of a wet spoon. Brown on both sides, about 3 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. Just before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar. 

Makes about 12 latkes. 

APPLE LATKES

  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 cup milk or liquid nondairy creamer
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted margarine, melted
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 to 4 apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Powdered sugar 
  • Ground cinnamon

 

In a large bowl, beat egg yolks until light. Blend in milk. Stir in flour, granulated sugar, margarine and lemon juice. Add salt and beat until smooth. Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form, then fold into egg yolk mixture.

In a large skillet, heat oil to about 375 F. Dip each apple slice into batter. Lift out with fork or tongs, drop into hot oil and fry until brown on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen latkes. 

Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Chanukah: Lior Hillel’s family pastry project


Every year before Chanukah rolls around in Israel, everyone gets very excited. They can’t wait to start to enjoy the holiday spirit — and, of course, the food. In the past few years, talented pastry chefs in Israel have made very creative sufganiyot, the holiday’s traditional jelly doughnut. They’ve played with the dough, the fillings, added crazy garnishes on top, and obviously tacked on a price to match. 

I grew up in a middle-class home in Moshav Sday Hemed near Ra’anana, a small community of about 80 families, a beautiful pastoral place. My mother wasn’t, and still is not, the biggest fan of sweets. So every Chanukah, she’d put aside a sufgania and say, “Too big. … Too fried. … Too much. … I’ll eat half and save for later.” I can still hear her voice saying that in my head. 

But she has a recipe for mini-sufganiyot that takes just 15 minutes. It’s easy and fun to prepare as a family activity, and you feel better about eating it because it’s small. The filling can be anything you want, from jelly, nut butter or chocolate ( my favorite). 

I choose to keep them as is, without filling, and I toss them in powdered sugar mixed with cardamom and dip them in caramel sauce — yes! It’s straight up delicious! I hope you find this recipe fun, easy, delicious and an activity that brings smiles and light to your family.

Chag sameach.

Sour cream and cardamom sufganiyot

  • 1 quart cooking oil (grapeseed or canola)
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspooon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 8 ounces sour cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground cardamom 

 

In a deep, narrow pot, heat the oil slowly to 350 F.

In one bowl, thoroughly mix the flour, granulated sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda.

In a second bowl, thoroughly mix the sour cream, eggs and vanilla extract.

Combine the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients and mix well.

Drop batter by spoonsful into the hot oil. When the sufganiyot is golden, flip it to the other side, and fry until it is a deep caramel color.

Place the finished sufganiyot on paper towels.

In a mixing bowl, combine the powdered sugar and cardamom. Add the sufganiyot and toss gently until coated.

If you have a good caramel sauce, dip the fresh sufganiyot into the caramel and enjoy.

Makes  about  25 mini sufganiyot. 

Lior Hillel is executive chef and owner at Bacaro LA.

My Spanish-Venezuelan Chanukah


I never had a latke until I moved to the United States 24 years ago. Don’t get me wrong; I’m 100 percent Jewish — three-quarters Sephardic and one-quarter Ashkenazi, to be precise. However, I grew up with some different traditions.

My paternal grandparents are from Melilla, Spain, a Spanish city located on the north coast of Africa, bordered by Morocco. My maternal grandparents come from Tangier and Moldova. Similar conditions of political unrest, anti-Semitism and instability caused both sets of grandparents to end up in Caracas, Venezuela. Needless to say, I grew up with a colorful and culinarily diverse Shabbat spread every Friday night. Our table was an edible manifestation of every country my family has lived in.

No table was complete without ensalada cocha, a briny salad of roasted red and green peppers cut into rustic slivers (always with scissors, never a knife), marinated in a simple vinaigrette that allowed it to become more tender and vibrant as more time passed. Another staple I have vivid memories of is charmila (or charmoula), a bright, vinegary type of relish also made of sweet, roasted red peppers — this was the kind of thing we had always had on hand to slather on steaks, tortilla espanola or empanadas — basically, our version of ketchup.  

At every Jewish holiday table, there is a recipe that has traveled through different countries and generations. For the holiday of Chanukah, I can trace my grandmother’s buñuelos back to her native Spain. Her recipe is the bridge to my heritage and a link to the roots I’m so proud to have. The recipe is perfect as is — lightly sweet, fluffy and with a kiss of orange zest. When my grandparents immigrated to Caracas, they also adopted new dishes, and one of them, dulce de leche, accompanies these buñuelos beautifully.

BUÑUELOS DE NARANJA

  • 2 teaspoons dry yeast
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 3 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • Zest of 1 orange
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 4 tablespoons cooking oil plus additional for frying
  • Powdered sugar
  • Honey

 

In a large bowl, combine yeast, 1 teaspoon sugar and orange juice (heated to 110 F); allow the mixture to froth. Add flour, remaining sugar, orange zest, eggs and 4 tablespoons oil to the yeast mixture. If mixing by hand, knead until you have a soft dough. You may need to add more orange juice to make the dough soft. If you are using a stand mixer, knead with dough hook for approximately 12 minutes, or until the dough is uniform, elastic and soft.

Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, let stand at room temperature, and allow the dough to rise until doubled in size (about 1 1/2 hours). Then punch the dough down to get rid of the excess air bubbles, and roll out to 1/2-inch thickness. Using a cookie cutter or the rim of a glass, cut out rounds approximately 3 inches in diameter. Then, using your finger, make a hole in each round and pull the dough outward to form rings. Let the dough rings stand on an oiled baking sheet for 30 minutes.

In a large pot or deep fryer, heat oil to 350 F, then fry dough rings until they are golden brown. Carefully remove rings from hot oil; drain on paper towels. When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar or drizzle with honey.

DULCE DE LECHE

Take one unopened 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk and place in a large pot or Dutch oven. Cover with water until completely submerged; simmer for 2 or 3 hours, depending upon how dark you like your dulce de leche. 

Check water level frequently, making sure the can is always completely covered with water. After cooking, take the can out of the pot carefully and allow to cool completely before opening it. Don’t try to open the can while it’s hot — the pressure inside could cause it to burst out.  

Deborah Benaim owns dB catering in Los Angeles.

The accidental brussels sprouts latkes


A couple of years ago, just before Chanukah, I heard Akasha Richmond on KCRW describing how her kitchen manager had over-ordered Brussels sprouts (to the tune of 50 pounds). In desperation she decided to add the extra Brussels sprouts to her latkes.  That’s the way great inventions happen.  

Akasha didn’t provide any further details, so I don’t know how similar our two versions are. But mine have been a huge hit at my Chanukah parties and will definitely be making an appearance this year.

I usually make sweet potato latkes to go along with the Brussels sprouts ones, and if you’re offering two or three types of latkes, the quantities in this recipe will serve at least 16. But if you’re serving these on their own (perfectly satisfactory!) I’d plan on this recipe serving eight. Make sure you have a food processor on hand if at all possible. It will make your preparations that much easier.

POTATO AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS LATKES

  • 2 pounds russet potatoes
  • 1 small onion 
  • 5 large eggs 
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts
  • 1 cup canola oil

 

Peel the potatoes and shred them in a food processor (or grate them by hand).  Put the grated potatoes in a colander perched over a bowl, and let them drain for 15 minutes. Discard the liquid from the bowl, but keep the starch that remains at the bottom of the bowl.

Peel the onion, and grate it in the food processor (or by  hand).

In a large bowl, mix the starch from the potatoes with the grated onion, eggs, flour, salt and pepper.

Trim the ends off the Brussels sprouts, and run them through the fine slicing disc of your food processor (or slice them vertically into thin slices). Add the sliced Brussels sprouts to the bowl with the egg-onion mixture and grated potatoes.  

Heat the canola oil in a large sauté pan, then adjust heat to medium. Drop heaping teaspoonsful of the batter into the pan, and fry until golden brown, turning them over so both sides are done. If they’re getting dark too quickly and seem to be burning, lower the heat.  

Remove latkes from pan, drain on paper towels, and sprinkle a bit of extra salt on top, if desired.

Makes 8 servings.

Hava Volterra is chef and owner of Hava’s Kitchen in Santa Monica

Zengoula with lemon syrup: A new-old Chanukah treat


The tradition of eating latkes during Chanukah is only half the story. Don’t get me wrong — I love crisp potato pancakes, but there’s so much more fried deliciousness to enjoy over eight days. I’ll explain.

Latkes are traditional European fare, and a German potato pancake is simply a latke by another name. The Jews who migrated north and west into Eastern and Central Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries (after potatoes had traveled there from the New World) thought potato pancakes would make a dandy fried food to commemorate the miraculous bit of oil. 

On the other hand, if you were a Jew who lived in Babylon (Iraq) or had taken a different and much earlier migratory route into North Africa, for instance, there’d have been no potatoes and no latkes. Instead you’d have been frying up crisp, local golden pastries for your Chanukah parties.

Which brings me to zengoula, the syrup-soaked funnel cakes that have been popular for centuries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (where they are called jalebi). Zengoula were adopted long ago by local Jews as their Chanukah food. (This raises the very interesting topic of recipe patrimony — how regional foods become associated with and claimed by different local cultures as their own.)

Zengoula are irresistible; each crunchy bite shatters to a burst of sweet syrup. If you’ve ever tackled home-fried sufganiyot (doughnuts), zengoula are so much easier and quicker to make. It takes only a few minutes and a fork to whisk up the simple cornstarch, flour and yeast batter (the cornstarch keeps the pastries crisp). Then, all you need is a resealable plastic bag and a pot of hot oil to begin the fun.

This recipe comes from my Iraqi safta — grandmother — Rachel, who could pipe perfect coils into the bubbling oil the way they do at Arab bakeries in Jaffa and Nazareth or at Tunisian bakeries in Paris. That takes practice. Free-form Rorschach-like shapes — seahorses, dolphins, geese — that magically pop up in the hot oil are just as delicious. My grandmother used to dip the funnel cakes in traditional sugar syrup. I think they’re infinitely more wonderful infused with a tart lemon syrup and adorned with long curls of fragrant citrus zest — making venerable zengoula a 21st-century Chanukah treat.

ZENGOULA WITH LEMON SYRUP (IRAQI FUNNEL CAKES) Pareve

FOR THE DOUGH:

  • 1 1/8 teaspoons (1/2 package) active dry yeast
  • 1 1/4 cups warm water (100 to 110 F)
  • 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cornstarch
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt 

 

FOR THE LEMON SYRUP:

  • 2 to 3 lemons
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 quarts mild-flavored oil with a medium-high smoke point such as grapeseed, sunflower or avocado), for deep-frying 

 

TO MAKE THE DOUGH:

In a small bowl, stir together the yeast and 1/4 cup of the warm water; let stand in a warm place until the mixture bubbles, about 10 minutes. 

In a medium bowl, using a fork, stir together flour, cornstarch and salt. Stir in 1/2 cup of the warm water and the yeast mixture. Then slowly stir in enough of the remaining 1/2 cup warm water until the dough is lump-free and the consistency of thick pancake batter. You should have 1 1/2 to 2 cups batter. 

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until doubled in bulk, at least 6 hours, or up to 24 hours. The dough will be loose and spongy and have a yeasty aroma.

TO MAKE THE LEMON SYRUP:

Using a five-hole zester, remove the zest from 1 lemon in long strands. Halve and squeeze enough lemons to yield 1/3 cup juice. In a small pot, stir together the lemon juice and zest, water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring frequently, until the sugar is completely dissolved and clear, about 1 minute. Pour into a pie pan and let cool. (The syrup can be made 1 day ahead, covered and refrigerated.) 

TO MAKE THE FRITTERS:

Transfer the dough into a 1-gallon resealable plastic bag or large pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch plain pastry tip and set the bag in a bowl for support. Let the dough stand for about 15 minutes before frying. Line a large plate with paper towels. Place the prepared plate, tongs, a slotted spoon, the syrup, and a tray to hold the finished fritters near the stove. 

Pour oil to a depth of 3 1/2 inches into a 4- or 5-quart pot, wok or electric fryer and heat to 375 F. If using a plastic bag for the dough, snip 1/4 inch off of one of the bottom corners, cutting on the diagonal, to create a piping tip. Roll the top of the pastry bag closed to move the batter toward the opening. Don’t worry about air pockets.

Pipe a bit of the batter into the hot oil. The oil should bubble around the batter immediately. If it does not, continue heating the oil and try again. Pipe the dough into the hot oil, creating 3- to 4-inch coils or squiggles, letting gravity help push the batter out. Be careful not to crowd the pan. Fry the dough, turning once with tongs at the halfway point, until bubbled, golden and crisp, 4 to 5 minutes total. Use slotted spoon to remove the fritters from the oil, drain them briefly on the paper towel-lined plate, and then drop them into the syrup for a moment or two, turning them to coat evenly. Lift them out of the syrup and transfer them to the tray in a single layer to cool. Repeat with remaining batter, skimming any loose bits of dough from the hot oil between batches to prevent burning. Scrape any batter that escaped into the bowl back into the pastry bag to make more pastries.

The cooled pastries can be piled on a platter. Pour any remaining syrup over the top. The fritters taste best served the same day they are made, although they will hold their crispness overnight. Store, loosely covered, at room temperature.

Makes 8 servings.

NOTE: A couple of 2-inch chunks of raw carrot added to the frying oil act as magnets, attracting all those little brown bits that might otherwise burn and impart an acrid taste to the oil. It’s an old-fashioned trick that works! 

For Chanukah, breakfast latkes two ways


I first tasted latkes for brunch at a trendy eatery on the Lower East  Side about six years ago. Since then, I’ve seen them across the country on brunch menus everywhere from diners to Michelin Star restaurants.

Latkes — or potato pancakes, as they’re known to non-Jews — are comfort food that provide the perfect base to any number of savory toppings, but especially a runny egg or salty, fatty smoked salmon. After all, a latke is very similar to hash browns, a quintessential breakfast food.

It’s traditional to eat fried foods like latkes during Hanukkah, celebrating the miracle of the oil lasting for eight nights. And who doesn’t love a holiday that encourages enjoyment of a little extra oil?

These breakfast latkes take the best of a classic and add a fun, American twist that screams brunch party.

Here I offer two options: one dairy and one meat. If you keep kosher but want to serve both at a single meal, you could leave out the corned beef from the second latke and just top classic latkes with some fried or poached eggs. If you want to be really indulgent, you could whip up some buttery Hollandaise sauce — you’ll have your guests raving for months.

EVERYTHING BAGEL LATKES WITH DILL CREAM CHEESE AND SMOKED SALMON

Yield: 12-15 latkes

These latkes are both creamy and savory. Making latkes bite-size makes the experience a little more fun – guests can easily eat the latkes with their fingers, and also feel like they can indulge a little more since the portions are small.

For the latkes:

  • 4 Idaho (Russet) potatoes
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 3 large garlic cloves
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 ounces goat cheese, left at room temperature
  • vegetable oil for frying

 

For the cream cheese:

  • 6 ounces cream cheese, left at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

For the everything bagel topping:

  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dried minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried onion
  • 2 teaspoons thick sea salt
  • Thinly sliced smoked salmon

 

Before getting started on the latkes, I advise making the everything bagel topping and the dill cream cheese.

Add softened cream cheese to a bowl and combine with fresh dill, lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Place back in the fridge until ready to serve.

To make the everything bagel topping, mix together the sesame seeds, poppy seeds, dried garlic, dried onion and thick sea salt. Set aside.

Peel and cut potatoes and onions in half. Peel garlic cloves. Place potatoes, onion and garlic through food processor for a coarse grate (you can also grate coarsely by hand).

Place potato mixture to a large bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt, goat cheese and 2 tablespoons everything bagel topping mix.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Form bite-sized mounds of latkes, taking care not to squeeze too much liquid out of the latkes. Fry until golden brown on each side, then place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to cool. Immediately sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

When ready to serve, spread thin layer of dill cream cheese on top of each latke. Add smoked salmon on each latke and top with sprinkle of everything bagel topping. Serve while still warm.

CORNED BEEF HASH LATKES WITH FRIED EGGS

Yield: 12-15 latkes

These corned beef hash-inspired latkes work best with thinly shredded corned beef. If you can purchase a hunk of corned beef, as opposed to sliced, that would be ideal. If not, make sure to heat up the corned beef before shredding it or dicing into very, very tiny cubes.

But don’t skimp on the salt in these latkes just because you think the meat will be salty – the potatoes still need salt to make these latkes most flavorful.

  • 4 Idaho (Russet) potatoes
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • Shredded corned beef
  • Additional salt
  • Additional eggs
  • Fresh parsley
  • Vegetable oil for frying

 

Peel and cut potatoes and onions in half. Peel garlic cloves. Place potatoes, onion and garlic through food processor for a coarse grate (you can also grate coarsely by hand).

Place potato mixture to a large bowl. Add eggs, flour, salt and shredded (or diced) corned beef.

Heat vegetable oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Form large, fist-sized mounds of latkes, taking care not to squeeze too much liquid out of the latkes. Fry until golden brown on each side, then place on a wire rack on top of a baking sheet to cool. Immediately sprinkle with a pinch of salt.

Fry or poach eggs to your liking. When ready to serve, place latkes on platter and top with fried or poached eggs. Top with chopped fresh parsley.

Kislev: Rainbows, oil and salt


During the month of Kislev, which begins later this week, we celebrate Chanukah. The most obvious food of this holiday and month is oil, the miracle ingredient.  During Chanukah, some women recite the story of Judith, a heroine who used salt as a weapon. “Legend has it that Judith fed the enemy general Holofernes salty foods to make him thirsty for wine. As he lay in a drunken stupor she was able to slay him, thus saving Jerusalem from siege.”

A symbol of Kislev is keshet (rainbow). During Kislev, when the flood waters receded, a rainbow appeared in the sky and God told Noah, “I will keep my covenant with you and your descendants…and never again will a flood destroy all life. . . . I have put my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between Myself and the world. “

The recipe I created for Kislev uses lots of salt and olive oil but it is not another recipe for latkes! Since Kislev is celebrated during a dark, cold time of year, I offer a dish whose brightness will counter the damp weather and provide lots of nourishing ingredients. It is a salty and oily salad made with an array of bright foods, symbolic of the rainbow, with pieces cut into arches.

Indeed, eating a rainbow of foods is not only good for one’s health, but critical for sustainable agriculture. As part of our covenant with God, we are required to protect Creation. We can be inspired byNoah, the first seed saver and protector of biodiversity. Our agricultural practices–what and how we grow–are critical to environmental sustainability. Indeed, monocropping, lack of biodiversity in seeds, and use of chemicals and fertilizers endanger our food supplies and environment. Such practices remove critical nutrients from soil, leave crops vulnerable to disease (think of the Irish potato famine) and undermines the genetic diversity of our food supply.

Kislev: Oil and Salt Rainbow Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 head of lettuce, washed and torn
  • 10 pitted olives, chopped into pieces
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • 1 tbsp roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 persimmon, chopped into quarters
  • 1/2 orange, peeled and chopped into quarters
  • 3 pieces of stale bread
  • 5-6 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: sea salt
  • optional: juice of remaining half of orange

Preparation

1. Wash the lettuce and tear into pieces.

2. Soak in olive oil (about 3-4 tbsp total) and then cut into pieces. Place on tray in toaster oven at 375 degrees. Bake until crispy, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from oven to cool.

3. In a serving bowl, add 2 tbsp olive oil to the bottom. (I just learned this tip to help better coat the lettuce in oil.) Add lettuce and mix well with oil. Add olives, capers, permission, orange, sunflower seeds and bread pieces to lettuce. Mix well.

4. Add freshly ground pepper. Taste to decide if salt should be added. Option to add the juice of the remaining half orange. Mix well and serve.

B’tayavon!

PS: If you are interested in my other Chanukah recipe and articles, please click here and here.

Make your Chanukah party one for the ages with these recipes


Chanukah is not just for children, but usually they have most of the fun. They open presents, light candles during the eight days of the holiday and get more than their share of cookies and potato latkes. Our Chanukah party will be shared by four generations this year because our two great-granddaughters will be joining us. 

In planning a Chanukah dinner for the entire family, I always try to remember who likes, or doesn’t like, certain foods and to make sure that there are always enough vegetables for those who don’t eat meat. It’s usually a good idea to keep the menu simple, with an emphasis on food that can be prepared in advance and won’t be ruined if some of the guests are a little late.

Fried foods are always eaten during Chanukah, which begins the evening of Dec. 16 and commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple. Our appetizers will consist of foods fried in olive oil, like Mini Potato Latkes served with bowls of Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar and our family’s traditional Glazed Apple Slices.

We’ll feature a special Olive Oil Cake for dessert, a recipe from Dario Cecchini, one of Italy’s best-known food personalities. He features this cake at his restaurant Solociccia in Tuscany.

There will be plates of fresh and dried fruits, and — because everyone in our family loves chocolate — my delicious Chocolate-Cinnamon Snaps. It is a tradition in our home to wrap some of these cookies in silver foil, representing the Chanukah gelt (money) given to the children during the holiday — just another reason for them to smile.

MINI POTATO LATKES

  • 4 large potatoes, grated
  • 1 onion, grated
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/3 cup flour 
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

 

In a large bowl, combine potatoes, onion, eggs and 1 tablespoon oil. Add flour, baking powder and salt and pepper to taste.

In a large heavy skillet or nonstick frying pan, heat 1/4 inch of oil. With a teaspoon, carefully spoon batter into hot oil; flatten each spoonful to make small, thin latkes. Cook for about 2 minutes per side, turning only once, until golden brown, and adding more oil if necessary. Drain well on paper towels. Serve with Tomato Salsa, salmon caviar or Glazed Apple Slices.

Makes about 6 dozen mini latkes.

TOMATO SALSA 

  • 4 ripe, firm tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 serrano chili, stems and  seeds removed, finely minced (optional)
  • 1 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt to taste

 

In a glass bowl, combine all ingredients. Serve immediately or cover with plastic wrap and chill. 

Makes 2 to 3 cups.

GLAZED APPLE SLICES

This versatile recipe offers an elegant change from old-fashioned applesauce for Chanukah. It makes a great light dessert for informal meals or a special treat for family breakfasts. The translucent slices can be used as a pie filling, or in open-faced tarts. Or just drain the slices, add nuts and raisins and voila! instant strudel filling.

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange marmalade
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 6 large golden delicious apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
  • Juice and grated zest of 1 lemon

 

In a large, heavy skillet, combine sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until sugar and marmalade have dissolved. Bring this syrup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until it begins to thicken.

In a large bowl, toss apple slices with lemon juice and zest (this will prevent apple from turning dark). Then add apple slices, lemon juice and zest to syrup in skillet; toss gently to coat apples. Simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, until apple slices are soft. Transfer to a glass bowl; cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator. 

Makes 3 to 4 cups.

DARIO’S OLIVE OIL CAKE

From “Italy Cooks,”by Judy Zeidler. 

  • 1/2 cup plus 5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup ground almonds 
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 oranges, finely chopped (use pulp and peel)
  • 4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 cup raisins, plumped in Vin Santo wine to cover (and slightly drained)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

 

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Brush a 10- or 12-inch springform pan with 3 tablespoons olive oil; dust pan with ground almonds.

In bowl of electric mixer, beat eggs with sugar. Add orange peel and pulp; blend well. Slowly add 1/2 cup olive oil alternately with flour and baking powder; mix until smooth. 

Let rest 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. The oil is light but tends to separate from the batter; mix well. Stir in raisins.

Spoon batter into prepared pan, level it, and sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, remaining 2 tablespoons oil and pine nuts. Bake in preheated oven 35 to 40 minutes. 

Makes 10 to 12 servings.

CHOCOLATE-CINNAMON SNAPS

  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2/3 cup unsalted margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup

 

Preheat oven to 350 F.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together margarine and 1/2 cup sugar until light and fluffy. Blend in egg. Add melted chocolate and corn syrup; blend well. Blend in flour mixture. Refrigerate 1 hour for easier handling.

Using 1 tablespoon of dough at a time, shape into balls. Roll balls in remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Place about 2 inches apart on foiled-lined baking sheets. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool on racks. 

Makes 3 dozen cookies.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant, cooking teacher and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her website is judyzeidler.com.

Eight chefs’ new Chanukah delights, one for each night


This year, Chanukah and Thanksgiving coincide: Chanukah is celebrated for eight days by candle-lighting, gift exchanges and eating foods fried in oil, an ancient custom, commemorating a miraculous event at the Temple in Jerusalem, while the Thanksgiving meal reminds us of our American heritage. Both offer a special time to reflect on our traditions and enjoy a family meal. 

Of course, the favorite Chanukah food is latkes, most often made from grated potatoes and served with sour cream, preserves or applesauce.

This year I decided to interview some well-known chefs and restaurateurs for some new and different ideas. The result was more than I bargained for. I never dreamed there could be so many sensational new recipes, and an added bonus was the delicious new sauces these food experts provided to serve with the latkes.  

I am featuring eight chefs and their recipes, one for each night of the holiday. Our family is also celebrating Thanksgiving a day early, on the first night of Chanukah, since our family is traveling from Northern California as well as Washington and Oregon to be together for this special celebration.     

Michel Richard, who was the chef/owner of Citrus while in Los Angeles, has just opened his new bakery, Pomme Palais, and restaurant, Villard Michel Richard, at the Palace Hotel in New York. Always looking for ways to reduce the use of butter and cream, he developed wafer-thin, super-crisp Oven-Fried Potato Latkes, which have absolutely no resemblance to the old-fashioned, heavier and more caloric ones. They are also a perfect dish to serve with your Thanksgiving turkey meal.

Bruce Marder, the innovative chef of Capo and the Brentwood Restaurant in West L.A., came up with Two-Tone Potato Latkes, made without eggs, which he serves with salmon caviar to celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving . 

Chef Jonathan Waxman’s restaurant, Barbuto, in New York City’s West Village section, serves Italian-inspired cuisine. Several years ago he shared this Red Pepper and Corn Latkes recipe, served with a creamy corn sauce, which has become a staple for our Chanukah menu.   

Michel Ohayon, chef/owner of  Koutoubia in West L.A., offers another substantial main course for Chanukah: Moroccan Ground Beef and Potato Latkes, which he suggests should be served with harissa, a spicy-hot chili pepper sauce that can be found in most Middle Eastern markets.

When your guests arrive, offer them a large bowl filled with thin home-fried potato chips that our foodie friend, home cook Luigi (Lou) Liuzzi created. It is one of his many innovative food experiments that we continue to enjoy.

Chef Brett Swartzman is a chef with passion. Originally a native of Chicago, he is creating his second Chanukah celebration at the Brentwood Country Club.  They love his Potato Latkes With Granny Smith Applesauce, and this year he is going to surprise them with Sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts).  

Chef Robert Bell, owner-chef of Chez Melange and Mama Terano, both in the South Bay, prepared an unusual potato latke recipe on my TV show “Judy’s Kitchen” many years ago. Thinly sliced russet potatoes are arranged in layers in a skillet to resemble the pedals of a flower, then baked in olive oil until crisp. It’s always a tasty dish to serve during the holiday. 

Josiah Citrin, chef-owner of Melisse in Santa Monica, serves his family’s traditional potato latkes, using a special French cheese. This is a recipe that his French grandmother, Simone, prepared for Chanukah, and she always served it with fig compote.

With these eight exciting latke recipes, it is a perfect time to plan a festive latke party for your family and friends. Keep the menu simple — after all, the latkes are the real stars, and a hearty soup or salad may be the only addition needed. If your latkes are served for dessert, invite guests to drop in after dinner for latkes, tea and coffee.

Preparation can be made easy by using your food processor or blender, and remember, many batters may be made in advance, then fried at the last moment. In planning your Chanukah party, don’t forget to include the traditional songs, the custom of giving Chanukah gelt (foil-wrapped chocolate coins) to the children and exchanging small gifts.


MICHEL RICHARD’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES 

1 pound (about 4 medium) potatoes, peeled
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Sour cream and diced cucumbers

Preheat oven to 325 F.

Cut the potatoes into long, thin strips, about 1/8-inch wide, by hand or using your food processor’s julienne or shredder blade. Place potato strips in a bowl of water to cover. Before cooking, drain potatoes, then dry well in a lettuce spinner or with a clean kitchen towel. 

Place a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add 3 tablespoons olive oil and heat. Add the potatoes and stir-fry until tender, about five minutes. Turn the potatoes out onto a baking sheet and push the strips together to form a rectangle or triangle, about 1/4-inch thick. Roll using a rolling pin to flatten further.  

Oil a large baking sheet. Cut into the flattened potatoes by pressing down on a fluted cookie cutter, creating 2 1/2- to 3-inch rounds.  Using a spatula, transfer the latkes to the prepared baking sheet. (This can be done in advance.) 

Before baking, season potatoes with salt and pepper. Bake in the preheated oven until crisp and brown on both sides, about 30 minutes, turning the latkes halfway through. Transfer them to a serving platter, using a metal spatula. Serve with sour cream and diced cucumbers. 

Makes about 8 servings


BRUCE MARDER’S TWO-TONE POTATO LATKES

1 large russet potato, peeled
1 large sweet potato, peeled
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying
Salmon caviar

Julienne potatoes lengthwise into long matchsticks, either with a knife, food processor with julienne attachment or mandoline.  Place in large bowl, add salt and pepper to taste, and mix well.

In a cast iron skillet or on a griddle, heat olive oil. Shape potato mixture to form pancakes about 2 inches in diameter. Fry on one side until brown, then, using a metal spatula, carefully turn and flatten with the back of the spatula and brown on the other side.

Place latkes on heated plates and serve immediately with salmon caviar.

Makes about 12 latkes.


JONATHAN WAXMAN’S RED PEPPER AND CORN LATKES

Creamy Corn Sauce (recipe follows)
1 red bell pepper
3 eggs, separated
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1/2 cup flour
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper
Salmon caviar (optional)

Prepare Creamy Corn Sauce; set aside.

Roast red pepper in a 375 F oven for 40 minutes, turning once.  Skin will puff and brown. Peel off the skin, remove the stem, and discard seeds. Puree in blender or food processor. 

In a large bowl, combine the red pepper puree, egg yolks, milk and corn kernels; mix well. Blend in the flour. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Fold egg whites into red pepper mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

In nonstick or heavy skillet, heat 1 to 2 tablespoons oil.  For each latke, spoon 2 tablespoons batter into the hot oil and fry on both sides until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until all batter has been used, adding more oil to skillet as needed to keep latkes from sticking 

Serve with Creamy Corn Sauce and top with salmon caviar, if desired.  

Makes about 24 latkes.    


CREAMY CORN SAUCE

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup corn kernels
1/2 red bell pepper, finely diced
1 cup vegetable broth
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons minced chives

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet and saute corn kernels until tender, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and saute diced red bell pepper until tender, about 2 minutes. Set aside.

In a saucepan, heat vegetable broth and simmer until reduced to about 1/2 cup. Add sauteed corn and bell pepper.  Blend in cream and simmer until thickened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, and stir in chives. Serve warm.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups.


MICHEL OHAYON’S MOROCCAN GROUND BEEF AND POTATO LATKES

2 pounds potatoes
Oil for frying
1 medium onion, diced
Salt and pepper
1 pound ground beef
1 tablespoon minced onion
1/2 teaspoon each minced fresh parsley and fresh cilantro
Pinch nutmeg
Pinch mace (optional)
Pinch saffron (optional)
1 egg
Harissa

In a pot, boil potatoes for 45 minutes; peel and mash. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and saute diced onion until soft.  Add to potatoes with salt and pepper to taste. Cool.

In a skillet, brown ground beef, minced onion, parsley, cilantro, nutmeg, mace and saffron, until no juice remains. Cool mixture and transfer to a food processor. 

Using the knife blade of a food processor, blend meat mixture with egg. 

Using a heaping tablespoon of mashed potato mixture, place in palm of hand and place a teaspoon of ground beef mixture in center. Roll potato mixture around meat mixture.  Flatten between the palms of your hands.       

Fry in oil in nonstick skillet, or deep-fry until brown and crisp. (These can be prepared in advance and warmed in the oven, or served cold. ) Serve with harissa.  

Makes about 10 latkes.    


LUIGI’S POTATO CHIPS

4 russet potatoes
3 to 4 cups olive, peanut or canola oil for frying
1 tablespoon salt

Peel the potatoes and slice them very thin using a mandoline or a sharp knife. Places the sliced potatoes in a bowl of cold water. Pour oil into fryer or large pot and heat to 375 F.

Dry the potato slices between two clean kitchen towels and place some into the not oil. Do not overload.

Fry for five minutes, or until golden brown. Transfer the chips to a large cookie sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle salt onto the chips. Continue in batches until all the chips are cooked. Place the chips carefully into serving bowl — do not dump them from cookie sheet, as you do not want pour the excess salt from the sheet into the bowl. 

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


BRETT SWARTZMAN’S SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS)

2 tablespoons active dry yeast

1/2 cup warm water (100 to 110 F)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar, plus more for rolling
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
3 cups vegetable oil, plus more for bowl
1 cup seedless raspberry jam

In a small bowl, combine yeast, warm water and 1 teaspoon sugar. Set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes.

Place 2 1/2 cups flour in a large bowl. Make a well in the center; add eggs, yeast mixture, remaining 1/4 cup sugar, margarine, nutmeg and salt. Using a wooden spoon, stir until a sticky dough forms. On a well-floured work surface, knead until dough is smooth, soft and bounces back when poked with a finger, about 8 minutes (add more flour if necessary). Place in an oiled bowl; cover with plastic wrap. Set in a warm place to rise until doubled, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

On a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Using a 2 1/2-inch-round cookie cutter or drinking glass, cut 20 rounds. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise 15 minutes.

In medium saucepan over medium heat, heat 3 cups oil until a deep-frying thermometer registers 370 F. Using a slotted spoon, carefully slip 4 rounds into oil. Fry until golden, about 40 seconds. Turn doughnuts over; fry until golden on other side, another 40 seconds. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a paper-towel-lined baking sheet. Roll in sugar while warm. Fry all dough, and roll in sugar.

Fill a pastry bag fitted with a No. 4 tip with jam. Using a wooden skewer or toothpick, make a hole in the side of each doughnut. Fit the pastry tip into a hole, pipe about 2 teaspoons jam into doughnut. Repeat with remaining doughnuts. 

Makes about 24 doughnuts.


ROBERT BELL’S OVEN-FRIED POTATO LATKES

4 russet potatoes, scrubbed and thinly sliced
8 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F. 

Brush a nonstick skillet with a small amount of olive oil and arrange the potato slices in a ring, overlapping until the entire surface is covered. Pour a thin stream of olive oil over the potato slices until completed coated (use most of the 8 tablespoons). Repeat with another layer, brush with remaining olive oil, and fry on medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes.

Transfer to the oven and bake for 20 to 30 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. Using a metal spatula, transfer potatoes to a cutting board and cut into triangles. Repeat with the remaining potato slices.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


JOSIAH CITRIN’S POTATO AND TOMME REBALAISE CHEESE LATKES

2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and grated
1 medium sweet onion, peeled and grated
1/2 pound Tomme Rabelais, grated (Salers or a firm Tomme de Savoie can be substituted)
1 large egg
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground white pepper
Olive oil for frying

Place small batches of grated potatoes in the center of dishtowels, and wring excess liquid from the potatoes. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl and repeat the process with the remaining potatoes. Add the onion, cheese, egg, salt and pepper to the potatoes and mix well to combine.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a heavy 12-inch skillet (cast iron works best). Add the potato mixture by 1/4-cupfuls to the hot oil. Lightly flatten with a spoon, and cook until golden, about 5 minutes. Turn the latkes over and cook until golden and cooked through, about 5 minutes longer. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with paper towels. Repeat process until all of the potato mixture is used. Serve warm.  

Makes about 24 latkes.


Judy Zeidler is a food consultant and author of “Italy Cooks” (Mostarda Press, 2011). Her Web site is JudyZeidler.com.

Frying high: Keeping known, lesser-known culinary traditions


Latkes and sufganiyot, the jelly-filled doughnuts especially popular in Israel, are well-known Chanukah fare made with oil to signify the holiday tale.

Lesser known is the tradition of cheese and the story of Judith.

Like the Chanukah story, which is part of the Apocrypha—books not incorporated in the Bible—the book of Judith tells of a beautiful widow whose town was under siege by the army of the Assyrians and decided to visit the commander in chief of the army to ask him not to overtake the town. As the story goes, she gives him wine, he gets fall-down drunk and falls into a stupor. Judith beheads the king and saves her people and the town.

Legend has it that Judith fed him cheese to make him thirsty, and since she lived in the same period as the Maccabees, Jews of various communities instituted the custom of eating cheese dishes in honor of her heroism.

On my cookbook shelf is a a classic written in the 1970s—“A Taste of Tradition” by Ruth Sirkis, the “Julia Child of Israel.” Sirkis has written numerous cookbooks and was the food editor for a major Israeli women’s magazine; she also had a popular radio show.

“A Taste of Tradition” covered all the Jewish holidays; below are some of her Chanukah recipes. Plus to celebrate Judith, some cheese recipes are included from various sources.


CHEESE LATKES
This recipe is from “Spice and Spirit, The Complete Kosher Jewish Cookbook of the Lubavitch Women.”

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup drained cottage cheese
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup oil

Preparation:
1. Place eggs, milk, cottage cheese, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and vanilla in a bowl and mix until smooth.
2. Heat oil in a frying pan (if using nonstick pan, use less oil.)  Drop batter by spoon into hot oil. Fry until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and continue until all batter is used. Keep warm until serving. Serve with sour cream or applesauce.


VANILLA RICOTTA FRITTERS
This recipe comes from a Chicago chef Gale Gand, who got it from her mother-in-law.

Ingredients:
Vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
1 1/4 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
Confectioners’ sugar

Preparation:
1. In a large saucepan, heat 2 inches of vegetable oil. Set a large wire rack over a baking sheet, top with paper towels and position near the saucepan.
2. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the ricotta and beat until smooth. Add flour and baking powder and beat until just blended.
3. Using a very small ice cream scoop or 2 teaspoons, slide 8 walnut-size rounds of batter into the hot oil. Fry over moderate heat until deep golden all over and cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fritters to the rack to drain. Continue frying the remaining fritters in batches of 8. Arrange the fritters on a platter and dust well with confectioners’  sugar. Makes 8 servings.

Chanukah fare with international flair


Around this time of year, I think of my grandmother and the stories she told me about making beef brisket and potato latkes for her first Chanukah dinner in America. She loved to cook, and sharing her recipes from Russia brought her such delight.

Chanukah, often called the festival of lights, is a joyous holiday that is celebrated at home instead of taking place in the synagogue. Families light candles and enjoy the traditional foods that are fried in oil, recalling the miracle that occurred in ancient times, when a one-day supply of oil burned in the Temple for eight days.

For many years, we shared Gramma Eva’s brisket recipe with friends at our Chanukah meals, but as our food focus changed, so too did the menu. One year, we served meatloaf and cabbage borscht. After a trip to Brazil, we had a feijoada stew for our Chanukah family dinner, and last year, the main course was fried chicken.

This year, we are going back to our traditional Chanukah fare, but with a few additions. I am roasting Beef Brisket With Prunes in a Wine Sauce, almost like a tzimmes, and serving it with an Italian-inspired green tomato marmalade and crisp potato latkes.

I still remember using a hand-held grater to help my mother make the potato mixture for the latkes. Today, the food processor cuts down on the time it takes to prepare the old family recipe. To make the latke batter in minutes, use the food processor’s knife blade to chop the onions and the shredder blade to grate the potatoes, and then just add them to a bowl with the remaining ingredients.

We begin frying the latkes when family and friends arrive at our home; meanwhile, our grandchildren spin the dreidel, a game that dates back to ancient times. Before dinner, as the guests exchange greetings, we serve Fried Zucchini Sticks. Then we sit down to a salad of shredded lettuce tossed with sliced tomatoes, fresh fennel and topped with fried parsnip chips. The main course — brisket, green tomato marmalade and potato latkes — is served family style, and everyone helps themselves.

Carrying out the Chanukah theme for dessert, we serve homemade jam-filled doughnuts, which everyone loves. Served in many countries during the holiday, they take on different names. In Israel, they are known as sufganiyot; in Italy they are called bombolini, and in Poland they refer to them as ponchiks. No matter what they are called, they are delicious. Simply fry the doughnuts, roll in sugar and serve them with a bowl of melted chocolate for dipping.

The doughnuts can be made in advance, and stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator. Before serving, just reheat and roll in sugar. Make an extra batch for your guests to take home — they are delicious for breakfast the next day.

But the party is not over. After dessert, everyone returns to the living room, where the gifts wrapped in colorful Chanukah paper are waiting to be opened by the children.


GREEN TOMATO MARMALADE
From “Italy Cooks,” by Judy Zeidler.

If you saw the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes,” you may think the only way to cook green tomatoes is to fry them. The truth is they also make a wonderful marmalade that’s a perfect accompaniment to the brisket and potato latkes.

While living in Italy we were invited to a cooking class at Nittardi Winery in Tuscany taught by Kalus Trebes, chef/owner of Gargantua Restaurant in Frankfurt, Germany. He shared this recipe. It is so versatile that I always keep a jar in the refrigerator. Not only is it delicious on toast or a frittata for breakfast, it is also a perfect accompaniment to meat or chicken.

2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
8 cups diced green tomatoes (2 pounds)
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice, heated
Grated zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until the sugar dissolves. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the tomatoes, heated orange juice and zest. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the tomatoes are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 30 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 3 to 4 cups.


BEEF BRISKET ROASTED WITH PRUNES IN A WINE SAUCE

This roast is best served well done. It is important to slice the cooked meat against the grain.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 onions, thinly sliced
1 (6- to 8-pound) lean beef brisket
5 medium carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, undrained
1 1/2 to 2 cups red wine
1 head garlic, cloves separated, unpeeled
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound pitted prunes

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Heat the oil in large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add minced garlic and onions and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes.

Transfer garlic and onions to a large roasting pot and place meat on top, fat side up. Add carrots, parsley, tomatoes, wine and unpeeled garlic cloves. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Bring to a boil, cover, and bake for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is tender. Add the prunes the last 30 minutes of baking.

Transfer the meat to a wooden board and slice. Return to pot and keep warm.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.


SUFGANIYOT (JELLY DOUGHNUTS) DEEP-FRYING RULE

The temperature of the cooking oil is very important when frying doughnuts: If it is too cool, the doughnuts will absorb it and be greasy; if it is too hot, the doughnuts will burn on the outside and remain uncooked inside. Use a frying (candy) thermometer to establish and maintain the proper heat.

These doughnuts can be fried one or two days in advance and refrigerated in plastic bags. When ready to serve, heat in the oven and they will puff up as if they were just fried.

1 package active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105 to 115 F)
Granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted margarine, melted
1 egg, separated
2 teaspoons orange juice
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup raspberry or strawberry jam
Vegetable oil for frying

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Add a pinch of sugar and set aside until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Blend margarine, egg yolk, orange juice and yeast mixture in the bowl of an electric mixer. Gradually add flour, 2 teaspoons sugar and salt and blend well. Cover with a towel and let rise until the dough doubles, about 45 minutes.

Place dough on a well-floured board and knead into a flat disc, adding more flour if needed. Roll dough out with a rolling pin to a thickness of 1/4 inch. Using a cooking cutter, cut out 2-inch rounds. Top half the rounds in the middle with 1 teaspoon of jam and brush the edges with the egg white. Place plain rounds on top of jam-covered rounds; pinch edges closed to seal. Place doughnuts on a parchment-covered cookie sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and let rise, about 45 minutes.

Reseal each doughnut.

Using a deep fryer or a heavy pot and a frying thermometer, heat about 4 inches of oil to 375 degrees. Fry three or four doughnuts at a time, turning them with a slotted spoon or tongs when one side is browned, and continuing to fry until brown all over, about 2 to 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

To serve, roll doughnuts in 1 cup of granulated sugar and serve immediately, or, to reheat, place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake at 350 F for 10 to 15 minutes or until heated through.

Makes about 12 doughnuts.


FRIED ZUCCHINI STICKS

These crisp and crunchy zucchini sticks go well with any menu. They are best fried at the last moment. But, if prepared ahead and reheated in a hot oven, they can be just as crisp.

4 medium zucchini, unpeeled
1 cup flour
1 cup bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried basil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 eggs
Vegetable oil for frying

Slice zucchini lengthwise into quarters; cut in half crosswise and set aside.

Place the flour in a small paper bag and set aside. Place the bread crumbs and dried basil in another small bag. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside. Place the eggs in a bowl and beat well.

Drop 4 to 6 zucchini sticks into the bag containing the flour, shaking the bag to coat. Transfer to a metal strainer and shake off the excess flour. Dip the flour-coated zucchini sticks into the beaten egg and then coat with the bread crumb mixture. Place on a baking sheet lined with paper towels. (You can hold the zucchini sticks at this point for at least 1 hour.)

Preheat oil in a deep-fryer or wok to 375 F.

Drop the coated zucchini sticks into the heated oil and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Transfer them to a napkin-covered platter and serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


FOOD PROCESSOR POTATO LATKES

1 large yellow onion, peeled
4 medium baking potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
Pinch baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil for frying

Chop the onion into small dice with the knife blade in a food processor. Remove the knife blade, insert the shredder blade, and grate the potatoes. Immediately transfer the potato and onion mixture to a large bowl, and add the lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda, salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Spoon the batter, about 1/3 cup at a time, into the hot oil and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn only once.) Drain the latkes well on paper towels and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 dozen latkes.

Grown-up gelt


All around the Jewish world, Chanukah is chocolate season. But that doesn’t have to mean you’re stuck with the waxy chocolate coins known as gelt. In fact, a new wave of boutique chocolate makers in Israel are redefining this beloved indulgence in Israel. Many of their skillfully crafted products are already available in the United States. One taste and it’s clear: Gelt has grown up.

Holy Cacao

This new guard of chocolatiers, contributing a reported $5.3 million to Israel’s domestic $40 million market, are savvy business owners and gourmands. Among them, only one — Joe Zander — imports whole cacao beans, working with the raw material from start to finish. This New Jersey native resides about 40 minutes outside of Jerusalem, in the Southern Chevron Hills, and like his comrades in chocolate, he is the definitive Israeli chocolatier: independent and artisan. Zander maintains his own piece of land in Peru, where he cultivates organic beans. Akin to the layered flavors of wine, his 72 percent Peruvian chocolate reveals delicious, complex, fruity hints of berries. His Dominican is darker, richer, more coffeelike. His 56 percent contains imperceptible ground hazelnuts that lighten and sweeten each bite.

Zander’s Holy Cacao label features sketches of the machinery used to make chocolate from bean to bar: a roaster, mill, conche and winnower. Seasonally, Zander makes truffles in a wide variety of flavors. Currently, he markets his wares online and through in-person individual sales in Israel, with plans to export on the horizon. holycacaochocolate.com.

Sweet N’Karem

Less than an hour’s drive from Zander’s base of operations, Sima Amsalem handcrafts chocolate in a pastoral setting within Jerusalem. Ein Karem is an ancient neighborhood resembling a Tuscan village. Amsalem’s brand, Sweet N’Karem, is a tasty homage to this beautiful setting. This self-professed chocolate addict leads a small but critical team of three women chocolatiers. Together, they produce about 40 kilograms of dark, milk and white chocolate pralines, truffles and bars each month in a former Crusader building with thick stone walls and arches. In addition to high-cacao content pieces, there are liqueur infusions and other fresh ingredients, including marzipan, whole nuts and dried fruit. Everything is packaged with the whimsical logo: a truffle fairy resting on a massive chocolate pod. The self-educated Amsalem also leads workshops for groups of 10 to 20 people seeking to learn how to make chocolates at home. Visitors also personalize Sweet N’Karem products for bar mitzvahs, weddings, corporate events and more. Minutes away, the Chocolate House retail shop at 2 Mevo HaShaar offers coffee, ice cream, gifts and more. 2eat.co.il/sweetnkarem.

Chocoholique

Chocolate that goes down easy is the sole aim of Chocoholique, a cottage industry that began when former chef Marc Gottlieb tasted an inferior homemade version of chocolate liqueur. Inspired to make his own libation, this 2006 immigrant from Cedarhurst, N.Y., showed off his creation to his friend and neighbor, Shimona Gotlieb. It was so delicious that, soon after, the pair launched Chocoholique. In two and half years, “Gottlieb & Gotlieb” have introduced eight pareve, mehadrin flavors. Top seller Peanut Butter is a boozy Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. Intense Chocolate is made with 60 percent cacao content. And in all flavors, the alcohol level is kept low, just 7 percent, to ensure the alcohol’s astringency doesn’t interfere with the enjoyment of the chocolate. Other than acknowledging that it is sourced from various bars, the pair keeps their provenance confidential. Keep your eyes peeled for imports — Chocoholique plans to launch in the United States at Kosherfest 2012. chocoholique.com.

Galita’s Chocolate Farm

Galit Alpert founded her namesake Galita’s Chocolate Farm in 1999 with methods she acquired during three years’ training in Belgium. Consumed by chocolate’s flavor and texture, Alpert set up shop in a beautiful stone building that once housed the historic Kibbutz Degania Bet’s first cow shed 85 years ago. The Galita chocolateria boasts an extensive line of products, family-friendly guided tours, a coffee and homemade ice cream bar and chocolate-making workshops for all ages. Nestled amid banana groves and green lawns near the shores of the Sea of Galilee, Galita’s embodies Alpert’s nine reasons to love chocolate: for health, soul, energy, childhood memories, relaxation, joy, desire, love and for yourself — as outlined on her charming (Hebrew-language) Web site, galita.co.il.

De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates Handmade Mountain Chocolate

Tucked away in a small “chocolate house” in the Golan Heights town of Ein Zivan, De Karina Artisan Gourmet Chocolates surprises the palate with a hint of South American flavor. Named for its founder, Argentine immigrant Karina Cheplinski, this third-generation chocolatier incorporates subtle tastes and contrasting flavors, carrying on the tradition of her grandfather, an emigrant from Europe. Her factory features a coffee shop, guided tours, tastings and workshops on tempering, making truffles and other mouth-watering adventures in chocolate-making. Advance reservations required. de-karina.co.il.

Roy Chocolate

When Roy Gershon grew tired of working in technology management positions, he turned his zeal to creating Roy Chocolate. He operates a factory, a flagship store in Tel Aviv and another in Ramat Gan’s Ayalon Mall. Greshon also supplies franchises in Rishon L’Zion, Afula, Cinema City, Haifa and Jerusalem with more than 100 flavors of pralines, truffles and intense liqueurs in innovative bottles. There are also fun gifts galore: chocolate hearts on cinnamon sticks ready to melt into hot chocolate, LoveCakes filled with ganache, gorgeous French macaroons, cupcakes topped with chantilly cream, chocolate lollipops with romantic sayings and much more in pareve, dairy, and lactose- and sugar-free varieties. Each week, Gershon also conducts several workshops around Israel. roychocolate.co.il.

Ornat

In Gush Tel Mond, in the Lev HaSharon industrial area near Netanya, Ornat considers itself the grandparent of Israel’s handmade chocolates. Established in 1987 by the La’or and Ronat families in the tradition of Dutch chocolate making, it ships pralines around the world, personalizing them for special events and corporate clients. The Ornat company operates a visitors center. Guests ages 6 and older are welcome for tours and chocolate-making workshops. cho.co.il.

Max Brenner

Though once handcrafted, Max Brenner’s “Chocolate by the Bald Man,” was acquired in 2001 by Strauss Group, which, in 2004, also merged with Elite, Israel’s leading mass-market brand. The bald man is a composite creation of founders Max Fichtman and Oded Brenner. Visit their Willy Wonka-inspired Chocolate Bar in Jerusalem’s Mamilla Mall and other locations around the world for signature products such as high-impact “cigarette packs” containing almost equally addictive wafer-thin bars and chocolate-covered caramelized pecans in colorful, reusable gift tins simply labeled “Nuts.” Of course, there are also pralines in a wide variety of flavors, including sea salt, as well as truffles and scrumptious creamy/crunchy “Feuilletine Fingers.” Innovative menu items include chocolate pizza topped with milk and white chocolate (and optional banana slices, melted marshmallows and whipped cream), a speckled “Cookieshake” of Oreos, carmelized pecans and white-chocolate creme, a “cappuccino of milk chocolate” and the not-to-be-missed, pudding-like Italian hot dark chocolate. Worth every calorie. maxbrenner.com, max-brenner.co.il.

Delizioso: Chanukah with an Italian flair


While enjoying my favorite foods on a recent trip to Italy, I began to think about Chanukah, even though it was only October. This was a natural association, because the Italians love to prepare foods with olive oil, and the traditional dishes served during Chanukah are fried in oil to commemorate the tiny supply of oil that burned for eight days and nights in the ancient temple — a real miracle.

Chanukah favorites include latkes and sufganiyot (deep-fried jelly-filled doughnuts). These and other Chanukah specialties will be enjoyed by many families during the eight-day holiday, which begins at sundown on Dec. 20.

Chanukah is always a festive occasion for my family. We gather together on at least one of the eight nights to celebrate with favorite foods and exchange gifts, and the children spin the dreidel, a game that dates back to ancient times.

This year, a different flavor will be added to our menu by including some of the recipes I collected in Italy with Chanukah in mind.

Olive oil is the oil of choice in Italy and a healthful one, as it is among the highest in monounsaturated fat.

The recipes I have chosen offer a wide variety of authentic Italian flavors. There is even a latke made with polenta (boiled cornmeal). Shaped into pancakes and fried in oil, it can be served with olive paste or your favorite latke topping.

Sicilian Rice Cakes, also called L’Orancini — or, as I like to call them, Risotto Latkes — are made with Italian arborio rice and filled with two Italian cheeses, tomato paste and parsley, and are hearty enough to serve as a vegetarian main course.

For an Italian sweet touch, make Farfallette (Butterfly) cookies. Ribbons of dough are twisted and tied into butterfly shapes, fried in oil and dusted with powdered sugar. Another favorite is Scavatelle, deep-fried pastries. I can’t help but think how perfect these fritters, fried in olive oil and dipped in a honey syrup, would be to serve for our Chanukah celebration.


SICILIAN RICE CAKES (RISOTTO LATKES)

1/2 cup chopped or grated mozzarella cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
2 tablespoons tomato sauce
1 cup breadcrumbs
Risotto (recipe follows)
1/2 cup vegetable oil

Combine mozzarella, Parmesan, parsley and tomato sauce in a small bowl.

Place breadcrumbs in a shallow bowl. Sprinkle hands lightly with breadcrumbs, scoop up 1 tablespoon of Risotto in your hands and shape into a flat oval; make an indentation in the center of each with your thumb. Place 1 teaspoon of mozzarella mixture in the center and cover the oval with another tablespoon of the Risotto. Mold into 2- to 3-inch ovals, enclosing mozzarella mixture completely. Roll in breadcrumbs to coat.

Heat oil in a nonstick skillet, and fry rice cakes, a few at a time, until crisp and golden brown on all sides. Using a slotted spoon, transfer them to paper towels to drain.

Makes about 12.


RISOTTO

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 1/4 cups arborio rice
3 to 4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large, heavy skillet. Add onion and sauté over medium heat until soft. Add rice and mix well with a wooden spoon. Add 1 or 2 ladles of hot broth or enough to cover the rice. Cook, stirring constantly, as the broth is absorbed. Continue adding broth, a little at a time, until the rice is tender, about 15 minutes.

Add the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, whipping cream and Parmesan cheese. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Continue cooking 2 to 3 minutes longer. Cool. 

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


POLENTA FRITTA (CORNMEAL LATKES)

2 1/2 quarts milk or water
2 1/2 cups coarse yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 jar (6 ounces) olive paste

Bring milk to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Pour the cornmeal in slowly, in a thin stream, stirring constantly. Add salt and pepper, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring frequently, until the liquid has absorbed and the cornmeal is thick, about 30 minutes.

Wet a large cutting board with water; spread the cooked polenta evenly over the surface with a wet spatula to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Set aside until completely cooled.

Cut polenta into 3-inch rounds with a cookie cutter.

In a nonstick skillet, heat 1/4 inch of oil and fry the latkes until golden brown on both sides. Spread with olive paste.

Makes 24 Risotto Latkes.


FARFALLETTE DOLCE (SWEET BUTTERFLIES)

2 egg yolks
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon lemon
juice
1/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon sweet wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Vegetable oil for frying
Powdered sugar

Beat egg yolks in a large bowl. Blend in granulated sugar. Add lemon juice, milk, wine and olive oil. Gradually add flour and salt, mixing well after each addition.

Knead dough on a floured board until smooth. Cover with a towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Roll dough out very thin. With pastry cutter or sharp knife, cut dough into strips 6 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. Tie each strip into a knot to make butterfly shapes.

Heat vegetable oil to 370 F in a deep fryer or deep, heavy pot. Fry pastries until golden brown on both sides, turning once, being careful not to crowd. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Cool. Place on a large platter. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Makes 2 dozen.


SCAVATELLE (FRIED PASTRIES)

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water
1 cinnamon stick
1 tablespoon olive oil
Peel of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon sugar
Pinch salt
1 cup flour
Honey Syrup (recipe follows)
Olive oil for frying

Place water, cinnamon stick, olive oil, lemon peel, sugar and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Remove peel and cinnamon stick. Add flour all at once and, using a wooden spoon, mix until dough comes together. It will be lumpy.

Spoon dough onto a floured board, punch down, and knead into a flat disc to remove lumps. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into thin ropes. Cut into 6-inch ropes and, working with one rope, bring one end of the rope around to form a loop, crossing over the other end (leaving 1-inch ends) and pinching to resemble a bow tie. Place on paper towels and cover with a clean, dry dish towel.

Heat oil in a deep fryer or heavy saucepan and fry pastries until browned. Dip in Honey Syrup and serve at once.

Makes about 4 dozen.


HONEY SYRUP

1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon sugar
Peel of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon water

Place honey, sugar, lemon peel and water in a saucepan. Mix well, simmer over low heat, and discard lemon peel.

Makes about 1/4 cup. 

A Jewish food writer explores France


Author and Jewish food connoisseur Joan Nathan may be best known for her award-winning cookbooks on Jewish cuisine in America and Israel. But long before any of those projects began, there was Paris.

Like so many people, Nathan first fell in love with food in the City of Light, where she traveled as a teenager in the 1950s and was introduced to buttery tarts layered with plums, squares of softened chocolate pressed inside crusty baguettes, and decadent potato and cheese gratins. In her newest book, “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France” (Knopf, $39.95), Nathan revisits this land of first food loves to explore the role that Jewish cooks played — and continue to play — in shaping the country’s celebrated culinary traditions.

Despite her lifelong adoration of France, Nathan said she did not immediately think to explore the country’s Jewish connections. “[For years] I was naively unaware of the history of Jews in the country,” she writes.

She is not the only one. The French Jewish community is one of the oldest in Europe (dating back to the first century C.E.), and the country houses the world’s third-largest Jewish population, behind Israel and America. Still, French Jewish cooking does not claim the same global recognition as other European Jewish cuisines.

The reason, says Nathan, is a combination of the general French aversion to publicly expressing private matters, like religion, and the reverence with which all of France’s residents regard their national cuisine. French Jews “think of the food they eat as simply French … buying seasonal produce and, like all French people, almost obsessing about their next meal,” Nathan writes. “They may go to a kosher butcher or grocery store, but they bring up their children to se tenir comme il faut, to have French manners at their beautifully set tables.”

Still, over the centuries, Jewish cooks and merchants, butchers and food producers have left a profound, if veiled, legacy on French cuisine. Chocolate, for example — one of the foundational building blocks of French food — was likely introduced to France in the 16th century by Jews who fled to Bayonne during the Inquisition. In Bayonne, Jews cultivated the use of chocolate for medicinal purposes and also became candy makers, thriving in the business until, as Nathan writes, “little by little, other Bayonnais learned to make chocolate, and their numbers increased so much that in 1691 Christian chocolate-makers banned Jews from the trade.”

Similarly, Jews were instrumental in popularizing the controversial French delicacy foie gras — fattened duck or goose liver produced by force-feeding an animal using a technique called gavage (French for “to force down the throat”). The practice was once deeply enough connected to France’s Jews that the medieval French rabbi and sage Rashi felt inclined to condemn it in a talmudic commentary. “Israel will one day pay the price for these geese,” he wrote, “… for having made these beasts suffer while fattening them.”

Nathan writes that the Jewish influence on French food continues today. In recent years, a new Jewish palate has settled in France, following the 250,000 Jews from former French colonies like Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia who migrated there after World War II. Along with other immigrants arriving from North Africa, these Jews have helped to introduce dishes like brik (a flaky filled pastry similar to a boreka), hearty tagines and couscous to France’s culinary lexicon.

Meanwhile, the young American expatriate chef Daniel Rose has helped bring flavors of the Jewish kitchen, creatively presented, to France’s dining elite at his popular Parisian restaurant, Spring. Nathan first wrote about Rose’s restaurant in 2008 for The New York Times, and the chef’s recipes — like brandade (using cod) potato latkes and brisket with ginger, orange peel and tomato — feature prominently in her book.

Like all of Nathan’s cookbooks, “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous” travels much deeper than the plate. A delicious dish — a savory babka with olive tapenade, say, or a Moroccan braised lamb — might be Nathan’s gift to the cook, but it is the family histories and traditions she presents alongside these recipes that make the book valuable both inside the kitchen and outside it.

On a culinary trip to Israel last March, which Nathan led for a group of food writers (myself included), I had the opportunity to watch her at work, poking around our hosts’ kitchens, inquiring about the origins of a beautiful mortar and pestle, or coaxing a recipe’s history from the memory of its cook. Her journalistic style is fueled by vigorous curiosity and, it seems, a personal mission to save endangered food ways and beloved dishes from extinction.

I have no doubt that Nathan’s research methods in France echoed what I witnessed in Israel. A recipe for chopped liver with a confit of onions is paired with the tale of Michel and François Kalifa, a husband and wife (he from Morocco, she the daughter of Polish parents who arrived in Paris after World War II) who run the 93-year-old Parisian butcher shop Maison David. A presentation of cherry bread pudding includes the story of Françoise Tenenbaum, a deputy mayor of Dijon who coordinates meals for the town’s elderly residents. Readers meet Simcha Cohen, whose father cured his own caviar in Tunis, and Huguette Uhry from Alsace, who bakes a brioche for Rosh Hashanah that takes two days to complete.

If anything feels missing from the “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous” collection, it is the stories and dishes that were simply lost to time before Nathan arrived to capture them. The book, then, is a call to the kitchen — but also a reminder to celebrate and remember the food traditions that bind us.

Fennel and Citrus Salad
This winter salad, published in Nathan’s “Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous,” is a dish served by chef Daniel Rose during Chanukah at his Spring restaurant in Paris.

1 fennel bulb, trimmed
4 grapefruits
5 oranges
1 teaspoon sugar
3 tablespoons sherry vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 handfuls baby arugula
Sea salt to taste
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons finely chopped
fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped
fresh mint

Using a mandoline or a sharp knife, slice the fennel very thin. Place it in a bowl of ice water and refrigerate for at least an hour.

ut off the tops and the bottoms of the grapefruit and oranges. Slice off the peel and the white pith, and cut in between the white membranes to yield individual segments. Put in a large bowl and stir in the sugar, vinegar, olive oil and pepper.

Arrange the arugula on a serving platter. Drain the fennel well, pat dry and season with salt and additional pepper. Toss into the bowl of citrus segments and their vinaigrette, and toss to mix.

Spoon the citrus-fennel mixture on top of the arugula. Sprinkle with lemon zest, dill, parsley and mint. Serve immediately.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Reprinted with permission of The Forward.

Washington, D. C.: Progress on both sides of the aisle


The partisan atmosphere surrounding the president’s State of the Union address will only get nastier as we approach the 2008 presidential race. So now might be the best time to take a
moment and reflect on the greater good that is served by Jewish activism in all political parties.

For me, that message hit home in a very special place this year: the White House.

For reasons both complicated and simple, last December, my wife, Betsy, and I were invited by the President and Mrs. Bush to the White House to attend their annual Chanukah party. Something unexpected and amazing happened to us there, but not where you might think.

It wasn’t speaking with the president and Laura Bush; it wasn’t wandering the White House staring at portraits of Washington and Lincoln while nibbling on kreplach. It wasn’t the Marine Corps Band playing Chanukah songs or even stepping out on to the balcony overlooking the Rose Garden, spending a moment alone where so many have stood with the world on their shoulders. Nope — amazing as all of that was, none of it stacked up to what was next.

There we were, sharing a brief word or two with the president and his wife while waiting for the White House photographer to take our picture, when Betsy leaned over to the president and asked, “Can I see the kitchen?”

Betsy is a talented cook with a fair amount of training. A TV special on the White House kitchen and its head chef intrigued her months ago, and she figured this was her shot.

“Huh?” the president responded. “The kitchen? Here? Ours?”

You could tell that despite all these years standing in line greeting people, taking pictures and answering questions, this was a first for the president. He looked at me with a sort of husband-to-husband smile on his face and said, “The kitchen? I’ve never seen it.”

After seeing how stunned the president was by the question, Laura. Bush stepped in.

“Well of course you can see the kitchen. Charles,” she politely requested while pointing to one of her aides, “would you please show Rabbi and Mrs. Leder to the kitchen?”

Next thing you know, there we were, smack dab in front of the steam table and the stove.

And that’s when I saw him — the mashgiach. A mashgiach is a rabbi specially trained in the laws of keeping kosher. There he was, beard, kippah, payes, tzitzit and all, watching over the White House kitchen to be sure the food was strictly kosher. A Chanukah miracle if I ever saw one.

“Rabbi,” the head chef shouted from across the kitchen, addressing the mashgiach, “can I put the fish in this oven after I take the chicken out, or is that not OK?”

“Fish after chicken?” the mashgiach responded. “No problem.”

To some this would seem a comical moment — to me it was deadly serious. A little more than 60 years ago, the American Jewish community was so politically impotent that we could not get Franklin Delano Roosevelt to do anything to stop the slaughter of 6 million Jews. Roosevelt’s record on Jewish refugees and their rescue is “very poor” — one of the worst failures of his presidency — according to historian David Wyman. On this point, at least, there appears to be some measure of agreement among historians.

“This is not an issue on which Roosevelt’s reputation for greatness will rest,” said historian Alan Brinkley in a documentary on the Holocaust. “Quite the contrary — the record is quite poor.”

Sixty years after Roosevelt, thanks to hard work and commitment by generations of American Jews, Betsy and I stood next to a mashgiach in the White House kitchen during a time in America when nearly all politicians of import have a profound respect for the role American Jews play in our society.

I am not a Republican. I am not a Democrat. I make my decisions on people not platforms. I am overjoyed that there are Jewish Democrats with influence in the Democratic Party. I am equally glad that there are Jewish Republicans with influence in the Republican Party.

The Torah speaks of the suffering the Jews in Egypt underwent when “there arose a new king who did not know Joseph.” American Jews can never afford to be anything other than close to the president, whomever he or she may be.

I, for one, am grateful to be an American during a time when the Jewish people is embraced not just in rhetoric and public statements but in the White House, in the room where, like in every house, things are revealed in their truest form — the kitchen.

Rabbi Steven Z. Leder is a rabbi at Wilshire Boulevard Temple and the author of “The Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Things” published by Behrman House.

Holiday Celebration of Arts and Eats


The year-to-year tradition of celebrating Chanukah doesn’t change at our home. It always includes lighting candles, playing dreidel, eating latkes and having the children open gifts. But, the highlight of Chanukah for me is having all of our family together at the same time. It is one of the few holidays when our children and grandchildren arrive from everywhere, so we can celebrate and spend time with each other.

But, for the past 15 years, the festivities have included our special friends, artist Peter Shire and his wife, Donna. It all began when we invited Peter to visit the Skirball Museum, which was then located on the campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, next to USC. We toured the collection of Judaica in the basement of the museum, and when Peter saw the menorahs, he was intrigued by their design and how the artists had adapted the local culture and architecture into their creations.

Several days later we called Peter and asked if he would be interested in a commission to create a chanukiah for our family, and he was delighted with the idea. He combined contemporary shapes, cactus, the local mountains, and included many colorful symbols that depicted a Southern California theme.

Peter’s chanukiah has a permanent place in our art collection, and is similar to the one that he later created for the Israel Museum and the Skirball. He recently designed several more, some contemporary, with simple architecture elements, others made in the shape of birds or plants.

During the holiday, Peter always lights the candles on his California-inspired Chanukiah at our home. After they are lit, it is time to eat the first batch of crisp and hot latkes, which have been fried in olive oil to commemorate the story of the one-day supply of oil that burned for eight days. I still remember the family Chanukah celebrations from when I was young, consisting of our extended family of uncles, aunts and cousins. This was a special time when everyone eagerly awaited the latkes, and later all commented on who had eaten the most.

Of course, while the latkes are served, the children are looking over the wrapped Chanukah gifts, eager to open them, but they have to wait until after dinner when we return to the living room.

The Chanukah meal this year begins with a salad composed of chopped chicken livers, placed on a bed of baby greens and garnished with pomegranate seeds. The main course, ground chicken loaf, everyone’s favorite comfort food, is baked in a tomato-wine sauce and served with homemade cooked apple slices.

For dessert we have a cookie exchange and ask everyone to bring his or her favorite ones to go with the Chocolate Sorbet that I have made. This supersmooth sorbet, made without milk, cream, or eggs, tastes as rich and creamy as ice cream, and I think the addition of Concord grape wine really enhances the sorbet’s intense chocolate flavor. At the end of the evening there are always bags of cookies for the children to take home as a Chanukah treat.

Award-Winning Perfect Potato Latkes

This latke recipe was chosen as one of the top 10 recipes of 1998 by the Los Angeles Times. “The best we’ve ever eaten,” said their test kitchen and food editors.

4 baking potatoes, peeled

1 large yellow onion, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

4 extra-large eggs

3 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

Pinch of baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Olive oil, for frying

Grate the potatoes, using a food processor or fine shredder. Immediately transfer the potatoes to a large bowl and add the onion, lemon juice, eggs, flour, baking soda and salt and pepper. Mix well.

Heat 1/8-inch of oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot oil with a large spoon and flatten with the back of the spoon to make 4-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, three to five minutes; then turn and cook on the other side, about two minutes. (Turn once only.) Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately, plain or with topping.

Makes 12 latkes/four servings.

Chocolate Sorbet (nondairy)

3 cups unsweetened cocoa powder

2 cups sugar

12 ounces semisweet chocolate, melted

1 cup Concord grape Wine

Combine the cocoa and sugar in a large, heavy saucepan. Add 4 cups of water, a little at a time, in a thin stream, mixing with a wire whisk until well blended and smooth. Bring to a boil and boil for five to 10 minutes, or until thick. Stir in the melted chocolate and port. Bring to a boil and simmer for about four minutes, or until thick, stirring constantly. Pour into an 8-cup pitcher or bowl and place in a larger bowl filled with ice and cold water. Mix until cool. Remove bowl from ice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Process in an ice cream machine according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer the sorbet to a covered container and freeze for at least one hour for flavors to mellow. If frozen solid, soften in the refrigerator and beat until smooth and creamy before serving.

Makes about two quarts.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Holiday Food Fight: Potato vs. Pastry


“The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate” edited by Ruth Fredman Cernea (University of Chicago Press, $18).

As if we didn’t have enough on our plates, here’s something new to argue about. Not that Jews don’t have a fine history of conflict: Hillel vs. Shammai, Bundists vs. Zionists, Labor vs. Likud. But now, to have to pick between sweet and savory, round and triangular, latke and hamantashen. How to choose?

Of course, Purim (hamantashen) and Chanukah(latke) are new holidays, Johnny-come-latelies that turned up after the Bible, so of course they have to fight. You don’t see smack-downs between matzah (Passover) and challah (Sabbath), do you? (Actually, you already know who would win. There’s a reason that Pesach only lasts eight days.) No, the old guys are established. They have their turf. It’s the arrivistes who have to put on the big show.

Thank goodness one of our great universities — Chicago, no less — is on the case. For close to 60 years, it has staged an annual latke-hamantashen debate. Big names (such names! Nobel laureates, New York Times best-seller-list writers, presidents from only the top schools) use their fancy-schmancy degrees and expertise to argue about which food is better. They have some learning, let me tell you, and they show it. Apparently a few of them wear costumes, and those who don’t wear their doctoral robes. (Philosopher Martha Nussbaum once declaimed her argument in Grecian dress.) This is one dignified occasion.

You’d think that after almost six decades, there would be a clear winner. But the more than 50 entries in this anthology just argue one another to a standstill. Not that they don’t try. Alan Gewirth shoots the moon with a complicated semantic analysis proving superiority of the latke, while Lawrence Sherman shows the importance of the hamantashen in Shakespeare. Did you know that the latke was central to the Renaissance? It was. Did you know that the lyrics to a famous and popular song really should read, “Tears on my Hillel?” They should. You can only imagine the advances that the Superconducting Super Hamalatkatron will bring to science. (It harnesses the strongest force known to man: guilt.)

So the old saying, “Two Jews, three opinions” still holds. In this book, one feminist argues that women should embrace the latke as the epitome of their struggle, while another shows how the potato pancake is the symbol of women’s oppression: It has banished them to the kitchen while the others — all men, of course — eat.

And some of the contributors make things even worse by throwing in some ringers: Darwin and his voyage on the “Bagel,” the discovery of the mysterious Shroud of Purim. There is even an entry that proves (conclusively, in this reviewer’s opinion) that the herring is truly the essential Jewish food.

So, is this book funny? Of course it’s funny, even laugh-out-loud funny. It’s Mickey Katz in academic drag, Borscht Belt with a Ph.D.: “‘When I want your opinion,’ as the great Jewish thinker Sam Goldwyn remarked, ‘I will give it to you.’ This is known as the Socratic method.”

Ted Cohen, who now presides over this affair as the emcee, shows why he is an eminent philosopher:

In every possible world, there is a latke. How do we know this? By discovering that it is impossible to imagine a world in which there is no latke. Try it.

First imagine a world. Put in everything you need for a world; this is to be a whole world, not a fragment.

Now add in a latke.

Now take that latke out. It cannot be done, can it…?

Consider, “The schlemiel has said in his heart there are no latkes.”

The schlemiel can say this, but he cannot think it, for it makes no sense.

What sense is there in a nonexistent latke? How can the perfectly edible be absolutely inedible? It makes no sense.

Similarly, French deconstructionist Francoise Meltzer writes with characteristic simplicity:

“How, in short, can it be that the latke and the hamantash are mere orts about to merge in triumphant sublation which will neutralize the apparent dialectic? …[T]he answer is that the sublation of the two forms is always already present in the existence of what we (significantly) refer to as — the croissant.”

You see what she means. Other participants — and here the social scientists really shine — use the arcane methods of their disciplines to isolate, demystify, recalibrate and interrogate the very meaning of our collective, nay, communal lives that the latke and the hamantashen do so much to affirm and, yet, to undermine.

But seriously, folks. Most of the humor here is in-crowd stuff, college professors poking fun at their own pomposity with Yiddish and food and some shared traditions. You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy “The Great Latke-Hamantash Debate,” because the editor includes a glossary of Hebrew and Yiddish terms (as well as some recipes). But here, as with most parodies, you really do have to know something about the object(s) being pilloried — in this case, the academic fads and fashions of the last half-century. And unfortunately, some of the material is dated. Nothing ages like university gossip.

So maybe the book does get a little long. Though the jokes are broad, the premise wears thin. These guys only do this once a year, so reading the book is like cramming all those years into one sitting. It’s a little hard to digest. And at the end, it’s still hard to decide on which one, latke or hamantashen, the smart money should bet.

Article courtesy the Forward.

David Kaufmann cooks for his family nightly in Washington, D.C.

 

Latkes Without End, Amen


 

It’s 1991, and I am in the basement kitchen of Temple Mishkon Tephilo in Venice. I don’t know what it looks like now, but back then, many years ago, the place had an Army hospital feel about it: beige cupboards that didn’t sit quite flush on their hinges; floor-level shelves stuffed with mismatched sheet pans, clouded plastic bowls and skillets the size of UFOs; dull counters scratched and scrubbed and scoured by generations of helpful women; and a giant industrial stove — I want to say a Wolf — six or eight sensationally powerful commercial grade burners girded by iron and stainless steel, its pilot lights burning like eternal flames.

My wife, Naomi Levy, was the synagogue’s rabbi at the time. She ruled the upstairs sanctuary and classroom. But I was most comfortable down below, by that inferno of a stove.

Out of college, I had supported a writing habit by cooking and catering. Nothing edible was strange to me. So I prided myself on being able to command any kitchen, from that of the A-list half-Jewish actress in whose Palisades home I’d catered a Christmas dinner of ham and brisket, to Mishkon, where I liked to slip out of services early and help Jesus set up for Kiddush. (At Mishkon, the janitor was a Mexican immigrant named Jesus, the security guard was an Arab immigrant named, no kidding, Mohammed.)

If some congregants were perturbed by a female rabbi who couldn’t cook an egg and a male rebbetzin who hung out in the kitchen, they didn’t let on. They took a sow’s ear and turned it into a kosher meal. Soon I was teaching Passover cooking classes for the synagogue’s adult-ed department, and very soon after Naomi and I started dating, someone asked me to take charge of cooking the latkes for the annual Chanukah party.

Most synagogues have Chanukah parties, and all Chanukah parties have latkes. Not dozens, but hundreds, or thousands. Somehow I suspected that if Rabbi Levy and I were to become an item, I would find myself volunteering or volunteered for such duties. After all, at a homey 200-family shul like Mishkon, everyone has to pitch in, and it wasn’t as if I could teach Mishna. I was no Torah expert, but I did know latkes.

What did I know, and how did I know it?

First of all, anybody who has ever considered a career in food has given serious thought to the potato. When I applied to be a sous chef at a San Francisco restaurant several years earlier, the chef asked me to make an omelet. Then he asked me how I would make a tomato sauce. Then he asked me to peel and cut potatoes. I set out a bowl of cold water, found a good peeler, and proceeded to make short work of it. Every kitchen job I ever had involved pounds and pounds of potatoes, and I grew to understand and respect them so much — this homely, earth-bound lump, transformed into something light and soft or crisp and delectable — that I have never been able to bring myself to calling them “spuds.” I hate that word.

Latkes are a simple form of potato preparation, as potato dishes go. But simplicity in cooking, as the food writer Richard Olney wrote, is a complex thing. I have had rubbery latkes, starchy latkes, undercooked latkes and latkes so greasy that two of them could run a diesel engine for a week.

I learned the basics from my mother, and Joan Nathan. My mother makes superb latkes, but evidently this is not unusual. When I told people I was writing this essay, they all had the same response: that their mother made the perfect latke.

The varieties of latke experience varied among these people’s mothers. The ingredients hardly change: potatoes, eggs, salt, pepper and a binder, either flour or potato starch or matzah meal. But some people mash the potatoes, some grate them finely, some coarsely. Some use onion. Some use more eggs, some less.

Some fry their latkes in a lot of oil, turning them into little rafts on a roiling sea of grease. Others sauté them in nonstick skillets with a tablespoon of canola. The skinless breast meat/egg white crowd, acolytes of la cuisine Lipitor, go one step further, waving a can of PAM over a cookie sheet and baking their pancakes in a hot oven. If your mother does that, and you think she makes the best latkes in Jewish history, good for you, and good for your arteries.

Most of us consider the recipe we were raised on as the best, be it for brisket, fesenjan, kubaneh or latkes. Your search for the perfect latke, then, was over before it began, unless you are like me and have a restless hunger, a belief that with a slight change, a different oil, a coarser grate, maybe a hotter flame, the ideal can be made even better.

Anyway, your mother’s going to die one day. So unless she has taken you to her side and shown you her technique — and latkes are 90 percent technique — you will have to discover the perfect latke for yourself.

This is a bigger problem than the high priests of Jewish continuity care to admit. While they wring their hands over whether the next generation will know Torah and Jewish history and carry Israel close to its heart, who is worried whether young Jews will learn how to skim the fat off a chicken soup or shape a perfect Moroccan cigar? Our food ways do not define us — they are neither the point of being Jewish nor even close to the richest part of our culture. Foodaism is no substitute for Judaism. But the recipes of our foremothers are, if not our operating system, then some critical software. They provide a sense memory of tradition, a source of potent symbolism, a connection to the past and a link to the future. And they taste good, too.

Most Jewish women I know can’t cook like their grandmothers. The men can’t cook like their grandmothers, either. In some cases their own mothers can cook, but didn’t pass the skills along. That’s not to say these people don’t let their marble countertops and DCS ranges lay fallow. Their menus read like the sides of a shampoo bottle: Grill chicken breasts. Broil salmon. Rinse. Repeat. They can empty a bag of mesclun into a bowl, and given time, a pricey measuring beaker and a recipe, they may make a vinaigrette to dress it. If Emeril makes a Yorkshire pudding, they may soil their Sur la Table-ware doing one of those, too. But do they know gribenes? Can they make kreplach? If grandma was Persian, how’s the crust on their chelou? And if the answers are, no, no and soft, what about their children? I suppose there are warm and wonderful Jewish homes that have never known a pot of homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove, but they’d be even warmer and more wonderful with it.

I’m not an out-and-out alarmist about these things. Even a dish like latkes is not an immutable part of Jewish culture. As with so many traditional Jewish foods, its origins can be found in a blend of cultures. Bagels, challah, falafel, hummus, lox — we can say we popularized them, but we cannot with a straight face say we invented them.

Chanukah tradition dictates that foods be cooked in oil, to symbolize the one-day supply of oil that burned for a miraculous eight days in the rededicated Temple. Italian Jews cooked fried chicken on Chanukah and Iraqi Jews zalabia, or fried dough.

Potato pancakes, being cheap and easy and delicious, fit into the concept, and became a staple of Ashkenizic tradition. As for the latke, Yiddish for “potato pancake,” it is common in Eastern European and Germanic cuisine, a Christmas staple served with goose at Ukrainian tables where Jews no doubt adapted the tradition to their own needs. Potatoes didn’t arrive in Europe from their native Peru until the 1500s, so for more than a millennia we managed to keep the holiday alive without them. According to cookbook writer Joan Nathan, before latkes, fried buckwheat cakes were the European Chanukah staple. Yum.

These days, Chanukah flirts with the temptation of capitalist excess that has turned Christmas into a retail orgy. But as long as it features the latke it will retain an obdurate hominess. Designer latkes — made with yams or zucchini or taro or hand-pulled Korean noodles — are invariably a disappointment. Put your great-aunt in a miniskirt and call her a supermodel, it changes nothing. Gussy the holiday up with presents, fuse it with Christmas and Kwanzaa, give it its own feature film and TV special, there’s no getting around the fact that we’re not talking Handel’s Messiah and gingerbread houses. We’re talking three-note songs and fried potatoes. Christmas perfumes the house, Chanukah clings to the drapes: live with it.

Which brings me back to Mishkon Tephilo, circa 1991. We are a crew of men dedicated to providing enough latkes to the synagogue’s annual party. A couple of hours before the congregants arrive, we gather around the dirty tubers. We set up buckets of cool water and start peeling, plopping the potatoes into their bath. I’ve bought eggs by the flatload from Smart & Final, and crack them into a bathtub-sized stainless steel bowl, beat them with salt and pepper, then grate the potatoes, give them a squeeze, and toss them into the eggs. Finally I throw in some grated onion and matzah meal or flour — I don’t remember which and it doesn’t matter. I make latkes like Tommy plays pinball, by feel, and you should, too.

If the batter doesn’t remind you of the sand and seawater you turned into drip castles as a child, it’s not right.

We press every skillet in that overused, under-refurbished kitchen into service, and fill each one with a quarter inch of peanut oil. Then we fire them up.

Rule No. 1 of latke preparation is you can never make enough latkes. If they are good, they will disappear. Everybody has room for one more. Make as many as you can and when they run out they run out (But plan on three per person).

Rule No. 2 is kids are not allowed. Hot oil and children don’t mix. Hot oil and most adults isn’t even a great match, but what can you do?

Rule No. 3 is you may get burned. It happens, and most times it’s not serious.

Rule No. 4 is water is the enemy. Joan Nathan told me to always press as much moisture as possible out of the shredded potatoes. Let the water settle, collect the starch at the bottom and ladle it back into the potato mixture.

Furthermore, while frying latkes, or anything for that matter, if a drop of water lands in the boiling oil, stand way back. It will hiss violently then explode like a bottle rocket, and someone will get hurt.

Rule No. 5 is enjoy yourself. Latkes are among the more forgiving of Jewish foods. Even bad ones are usually edible, especially when heaped with the traditional toppings of applesauce or sour cream.

That’s what I did cooking those latkes in the synagogue basement — I enjoyed myself. I remember the next few hours of my life as a happy moment in time. I insisted that hot latkes just out of the oil were better than frozen and reheated latkes or latkes kept warm in the oven, and they are. So we worked furiously to turn out latkes as people began arriving, and we worked even harder to keep up with demand as the temple basement filled with hungry children, seniors and parents. I didn’t hear a word as my wife led the congregation in blessing the candles or singing “Rock of Ages.” She was in her element, I in mine.

As fast as we loaded the platters with pancakes they disappeared. Sweat soaked our shirts and slicked our faces. If we slacked off for a moment, we faced an impatient mob. We used every last potato, every last bit of batter. There are famous photos of the men who stoke the wood-fired bread ovens of Paris stripped to their waists, torsos glistening as they wrestled with fire to create their perfect loaves, and I think if someone had been there with a camera we were a kind of Ashkenazic variation on the ovens of Poilane. But we kept our shirts on.

Then it was over. Many people said the latkes were perfect. Many more said they were good, but not as good as the ones their mother made. The latkes were as they should be — crispy around the edges, a bit soft in the center, not greasy, 99 percent potato, 1 percent egg. But the experience of making them in the basement of my wife’s synagogue, that was perfect.

And to cap it off, someone — I suspect Danny Brookman — brought the cold beers that appeared in the fridge once we were finished.

Talk about the miracle of Chanukah.

 

Fritter Away Your Time for Chanukah


 

We just returned from a trip to Italy, concentrating on the provinces of Puglia and Campania close to Naples. It is a region that we enjoy because of the diversity of the foods and wines available.

We visited several new places but returned to one of our favorites, La Caveja, a country restaurant with eight rooms, in the village of Pietravairano. It is owned by Antonietta Rotondo and Berardino Lombardo. They hosted us two years ago, when we had a remarkable experience that lasted past midnight, observing just-picked olives being crushed into olive oil.

However, since our last visit, they have remodeled their farmhouse into a wonderful villa. It is a bed and breakfast, and includes six additional rooms. In Italy, it is called an agri-turismo.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner that they cooked in their newly restored kitchen, and for dessert, Antonietta served us honey-glazed fritters fried in olive oil. She called them Scavatelle and said they were made from a traditional recipe that was handed down from her grandmother.

I couldn’t help but think how perfect these fritters fried in olive oil and dipped in a honey syrup would be to serve for our Chanukah celebration. She was happy to share the recipe with me, when I told her that I would like to serve them to our family.

This pastry is easy to make, and it is a project that you can share with your children or grandchildren. Baking helps teach children to follow directions, how to measure and weigh ingredients, tell time and other useful skills. So, let them help in the shaping and dipping of these delicacies.

The dough can be rolled out several hours in advance and covered with a dry towel. Fry and dip in the honey syrup just before serving, so they will be warm and crisp.

Remember, Chanukah begins at sundown on Tuesday, Dec. 7. Happy Chanukah!

Scavatelle (Fried Pastries)

Adapted by Judy Zeidler from Antonietta Rotondo at La Caveja.

Antonietta said that these pastries are traditionally served on a large lemon leaf.

1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons water

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon olive oil

Peel from 1/2 of a lemon

1 tablespoon sugar

Pinch of salt

1 cup flour

Syrup

1/4 cup honey

1 tablespoon sugar

Peel of 1/2 a lemon

1 tablespoon water

Olive oil for frying

In a saucepan, place water, cinnamon stick, olive oil, lemon zest, sugar and salt. Boil for two or three minutes. Remove zest and cinnamon stick. Add flour all at once, and using a wooden spoon, mix until dough comes together. It will be lumpy.

Spoon dough onto a floured board, punch down and knead into a flat disk to remove lumps. Pull off pieces of dough and roll out into thin ropes.

Cut into 6-inch ropes and working with one rope, bring one end of rope around to form a loop, crossing over the other end (leaving 1/2-inch ends) and pinching to resemble a bow tie. Place on paper towels and cover with a dry dish towel.

In a saucepan, place honey, sugar, lemon peel and water. Mix well and simmer over low heat.

In a deep fryer or heavy saucepan, heat oil and fry pastries until browned. Dip in honey syrup and serve at once.

Makes about four dozen.

Antonietta Rotondo and Berardino Lombardo can be contacted at:
La Camere della Locando
La Stalla della Caveja
Via s.s. Annunziata
Pietravairano (ce), Italy
Telephone (0823) 984824, fax (0823) 982977.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Cookbooks, 1988) and “The 30-Minute Kosher Cook” (Morrow, 1999). Her Web site is members.aol.com/jzkitchen.

 

Applesauce Warms Holiday Celebration


 

By the time Chanukah rolls around, I’ll have spent the last three to four weeks cleaning and cooking up a storm for a Thanksgiving feast; planning, decorating, and baking for my daughter’s birthday party; volunteering and baking some more for several school holiday celebrations; shopping, preparing and delivering gifts for family and friends; and, of course, working full time. Usually, as I take the menorah out of the cabinet, I am fighting off a cold and longing to the celebrating to end, so I can sleep.

But as a single mom, I have no choice but to dig deep, and find one more layer of energy, and holiday joy, to share with my daughter as she excitedly waits to open gifts, play dreidel, light candles and eat latkes.

I have this wonderful old book, “A Treasury of Jewish Holidays, History, Legends, Traditions” by Hyman E. Goldin. My father must have bought it at one of his cherished used book sale haunts, because on the title page, next to where my mom wrote her name, is the price, written in pencil: 35 cents.

Inside it starts with a 20-year calendar of Jewish festivals and fasts, from 1951/52 to 1970/71. Each holiday section begins with vintage pen-and-ink drawings of observant men in prayer; women preparing food; families at a festival meal; men and boys seated and dressed in slacks, shirts, and ties; women and girls standing, wearing perfectly pressed dresses, and holding platters of food and a smile.

I don’t use this book as a factual resource so much as for a cultural one, because even the choice of words, as well as their meaning, reflect the standards of another generation. Under the Chanukah chapter I found sentences such as, “Returning from the synagogue after Maariv [evening] service, the master of the house finds the Chanukah lamp all prepared for the occasion. A holiday spirit pervades the house and all is cheerful and gay.” Or, “During Chanukah, after the evening meal, people usually indulge in playing such games as checkers, chess, dominoes, card and one special game known as Kautowes … arithmetic riddles and puzzles.

I am intrigued by the quaint orderliness of the books’ words and pictures, however one Chanukah as my throat burned and my body’s center of gravity pushed me down, I found particular relevance in the very first sentence in the Chanukah chapter. It asks, “What is Chanukah?” and answers, “In Hebrew, Chanukah means dedication.”

Although the term refers to the rededication of the Temple by the Jews after they defeated the Greeks, I think it is a perfectly modern description for many of us who celebrate the holiday today. Since Chanukah falls during such a busy time of year, celebrating requires a special dedication. Like the Maccabees who were outnumbered, outsupplied and certainly low on energy, we must also work with what we have left to keep this holiday alive.

On the day preceding the first night of Chanukah, I was too tired to make yet another trip to the grocery store for latke fixings, so we had warm bowls of soup, lit the Chanukah candles, and without much fanfare, my daughter opened her first present. But on the second day, I re-entered my kitchen and found one box of instant latke mix and a refrigerator drawer full of apples.

I set a dozen apples on the kitchen table so we could sit while my daughter peeled, and I sliced and cored. We added into the mix a couple of ripe pears and some delicious dried Turkish apricots. Soon three pots holding three different version of applesauce simmered on the stove. My daughter loved the cinnamon smell, and I couldn’t wait to feel the warm applesauce on my raw throat.

When we sat down to our latke dinner, late on the second night, three colorful candles were lit on the menorah, the gifts were lined up on an old bookshelf, a bowl of shiny chocolate gelt was on the table, I was wearing wrinkled corduroy overalls and my daughter was in her sparkly embroidered blue jeans. We ate together — my daughter thrilled with the latkes and excited for the coming dreidel game, and me soothed by the warm applesauce and our modern picture of Chanukah dedication.

Chunky Applesauce

Since Granny Smith apples are firmer, they add the chunks to this mixed applesauce as well as a nice tart contrast to the sweeter sauce.

3 Granny Smith apples

2 Jonagold apples

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh

Peel, core and cut apples in 3/4-inch chunks. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring apples, cinnamon, lemon juice, and 1/4 cup of water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, mashing and stirring every few minutes. Uncover the last few minutes so excess water cooks off. Cook approximately 15 minutes or until some apples softened into sauce and some are chunky. Serve warm or chilled with latkes.

Makes six servings.

Pear Applesauce

My daughter loves pears, so I thought this might be a nice combination. It is sweeter, softer, and darker in color and extra soothing warmed.

2 Jonagold apples

1 Granny Smith apple

2 Bartlett Pears, ripe

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch ground clove

1/4 teaspoon lemon juice, fresh

Peel, core and cut apples into chunks and pears into slices. In medium saucepan over medium-high heat, bring apples, pears, cinnamon, clove, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of water to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered, mashing and stirring every few minutes. Uncover the last few minutes so excess water cooks off. Cook approximately 15 minutes or until apples and pears are soft and saucy. Serve warm or chilled with latkes.

Makes six servings.

Lisa Solomon writes food articles for several publications, including The Atlanta Journal Constitution, Washington Jewish Week and The Canadian Jewish News.

 

It’s All About the Olive Oil


 

“I like to have fun in the kitchen,” said Susie Fishbein, a stay-at-home mother of four — three girls and a boy — who became an overnight success with the publication of her cookbook, “Kosher by Design: Picture-perfect food for the holidays & every day” (Mesorah, 2003).

While some food writers automatically push the same old latke and brisket menu at Chanukah, Fishbein offers a lighter touch by mixing in Mediterranean fare. And although she tweaks culinary tradition, she honors it. Fishbein believes in presenting beautiful food in unique ways.

Because Fishbein never attended culinary school, she has empathy for the home cook who is working blindly from a stranger’s instructions and, maybe, a picture. Her recipes are easy to follow; even novices can achieve professional results.

Although she is playful and adventurous, Fishbein is serious about finding inspiration.

She talks to lots of people, asking them about their favorite foods. She reads restaurant menus the way some people study the stock market. She’s never just eating; she’s figuring out what ingredients she’s tasting and which flavors compliment each other. Her aim is to keep ahead of the kosher curve.

“Creating recipes is my forte,” she said. To invent novel ways of preparing food, she spends huge amounts of time experimenting in the kitchen. She asks her husband and children to test her creations.

“Through trial and error, I attempted a new dish several months ago,” she said with a laugh. “It went through three phases before my family said: ‘Give it up! It just isn’t any good.'”

With a bubbly personality, Fishbein describes a recent December when a Hadassah chapter on Long Island invited her to demonstrate how to make beignets, a type of French fritter.

“Beignets are fresh and exciting at Chanukah,” she said. “A change of pace from jelly doughnuts.”

Because she expected 200 Hadassah women at the demonstration, Fishbein asked her mother for assistance.

“Ironically, I don’t come from a long line of good cooks,” she said. “My ancestors were amazing women, bold beyond their time. But we gagged on their food.”

Watching Fishbein whipping up the beignet batter and frying fritters, her mother said: “Those aren’t beignets, they’re punchkis!” She then claimed that Fishbein’s grandmother used to make an Ashkenazi rendition of this French confection. “It’s the one thing that Bubbe made well!”

Fishbein found this hiliarious, because she had searched long and hard for this upscale idea. Then, through a series of missteps followed by corrections, she perfected her version of the recipe, only to find something similar had been in the family for decades.

Every Chanukah, Fishbein throws a block party and includes all of her neighbors. Inviting 18 adults and 14 children, she serves many of the recipes from “Kosher by Design,” especially the ones calling for olive oil.

Olive oil, a precious commodity in Jerusalem during the Second Temple period, is at the heart of Chanukah cooking. After the Maccabees prevailed in a series of bitter battles, there was only a 24-hour supply of oil left to light the Temple menorah.

This created a crisis, because it took eight days to replenish lamp oil. But, miracle of miracles, one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days. Paying homage to this joyous event, no Chanukah menu would be complete without food fried in oil.

True to this theme, Fishbein serves family and friends Rigatoni ala Norma, a scrumptious Italian dish made with red sauce riddled with fried eggplant and basil. Her Parmesan Crusted Grouper is a remarkably easy recipe that yields amazingly delicious results.

A perennial favorite, Greek Tomato-Spinach Pizza is surrounded by phyllo dough and layered with fried veggies and ricotta and mozzarella cheeses. Fishbein likes these two dairy recipes because of the role cheese plays in the Chanukah story.

Aware that food is mightier than the sword, Judith, an unsung heroine, entertained an enemy general and plied him with salty cheese. To quench his thirst, he consumed far too much wine. After he fell asleep from the wine, Judith cut off his head with his sword, helping her people prevail against the enemy forces.

Today, the Festival of Lights remains a joyous occasion. In accordance with the holiday’s spirit, there’s a photo of a glittering table flooded with glowing candles and blue and gold accouterments in the Chanukah chapter of “Kosher by Design.”

Fishbein knows how to turn an ordinary dining room into a dazzling scene that impresses guests. She has become the doyenne of Jewish entertaining. As a matter of fact, she’s publishing “Kosher by Design Entertains” in time for Passover.

No matter what your home looks like, Fishbein suggests firing up your imagination when setting holiday tables (see page 50). Last Chanukah, her house was under construction. “We had bare walls down to the studs,” she said. “The place was a disaster zone.” Yet at her annual Chanukah party, she overshadowed chaos with extravagance.

“Would you believe the photo from my cookbook was actually my table — taken during the demolition,” she said. “It goes to show, you can create ambiance anywhere.”

But how do the creatively challenged get started? Fishbein suggests beginning with the best food. Yet, she says, it’s not only what you serve, but how you serve it.

A simple garnish creating contrast, an offbeat tablecloth such as a quilt, an Oriental pot filled with flowering plants — these things elevate the mundane to the magnificent. Search your house for lovely objects long forgotten. Mix and match things representing different styles and adapt them when you entertain.

“Above all, enjoy yourself,” Fishbein said. “Let each meal be a wonderful journey — the sharing of something special with people you care about and love.”

Rigatoni Ala Norma

6 medium Asian eggplants, unpeeled and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices crosswise

Salt to taste

1 1/4 cups or more olive oil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped

2 (28-ounce or 32-ounce) cans whole plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 tablespoon sugar

3-4 fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus ex

tra for garnishing

1 pound rigatoni, uncooked

Paper towels

Lay eggplant slices in a single layer. Lightly salt both sides. Cover with paper towels. Let sit for 20 minutes. Press on paper towels occasionally to soak up water that will come from eggplants.

In a large frying pan, heat 1 cup, or more, of olive oil over medium high heat. Make sure you have at least an inch of oil, so it will cover the slices and eliminate the need for flipping each piece over. When oil is hot, carefully add the eggplant in batches and fry until golden on both sides. Add more oil, if necessary. Transfer to clean paper towels and drain. Season generously with salt and black pepper.

Place 1/4 cup olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic and sauté until golden. Add the tomatoes and any accumulated juices. Add the sugar and simmer about 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken. Add the chopped basil leaves and simmer three to four minutes longer.

While the sauce simmers, prepare the pasta according to package directions until al dente (chewy). Drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water in case sauce needs thinning.

Toss the pasta with the eggplant and sauce. Garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Makes six to eight servings.

Greek Tomato-Spinach Pizza

1/4 cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, minced

3 (10-ounce) boxes frozen chopped

spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

2 teaspoons dry oregano

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

15 ounces ricotta cheese

10 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

1/4 cup butter, melted

4-6 fresh tomatoes, evenly sliced

1 1/2 cups grated mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Sauté about five minutes, or until onion is transparent.

Add spinach and saute until all excess moisture has evaporated. Add oregano, basil and pepper. Mix well. Remove from heat. Mix in ricotta cheese. Set aside.

Grease a large jelly roll pan (the kind with a small rim). Lay one sheet of phyllo in it. The phyllo may be just a little bigger than the pan. Brush phyllo with melted butter. Top with a second phyllo sheet and brush with melted butter.

Repeat process until all ten sheets are buttered. Roll the ends of phyllo into themselves to form the “pizza crust.” NOTE: Phyllo dough dries out quickly, so keep sheets covered with a damp cloth until use.

Using a spatula, spread the spinach ricotta mixture in an even layer over the phyllo. Arrange tomatoes over this layer. Sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. When cool enough to handle, cut into squares.

Makes 12 servings.

Parmesan Crusted Grouper

1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/3 cup butter, softened but not melted

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 scallions, thinly sliced

4 small (1-inch thick) grouper fillets

1 lemon

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preheat broiler to high.

In a small bowl, combine Parmesan, butter, mayonnaise and scallions. Reserve.

Place grouper fillets on a lightly greased boiler pan. Squeeze juice from lemon over fillets. Sprinkle with black pepper.

Broil 6 inches from heat for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Spread tops of the fillets with cheese mixture. Return to oven and broil for two minutes longer, or until topping is lightly browned and bubbly. Remove fillets to platter.

Makes four servings.

Beignets

4-6 cups vegetable oil

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1 large egg

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons sugar

confectioners’ sugar

Pour oil into a deep pot to a depth of 3-4 inches. Heat oil to 370 F.

In a large bowl with the mixer at medium-high speed, combine the milk, water and egg. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Mix until batter is smooth.

Using a 1/8 cup measure, drop the batter into the hot oil and fry about 3-4 minutes. Don’t make them much bigger or the inside won’t cook properly. The beignets will float to the surface. Turn them a few times, until the beignets are golden on both sides. Remove and drain on paper towels. Use a strainer to sprinkle confectioners’ sugar on all sides. Serve hot.

Makes 20-24 beignets.

Recipes from “Kosher by Design: Picture Perfect Food for the Holidays & Every Day,” by Susie Fishbein (Mesorah).

 

Calendar


The Jewish Journal is no longer accepting mailed orfaxed event listing information. Please e-mail event listings at least threeweeks in advance to: calendar@jewishjournal.com.

By Keren Engelberg

Calendar

NOVEMBER 27/Saturday

SHABBAT

Hebrew Discovery Center: Nov. 26-28. Family Shabbaton with special guest speaker Rabbi Isaac Balaness. $195, $375 (couples). Ventura Beach Marriott, 2055 Harbor Blvd., Ventura Beach. R.S.V.P., (818) 348-4432.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Padua Playwrights: 4:30 p.m. Padua Playwrights presents a workshop production of “Tirade for Three” and “Gary’s Walk,” parts one and two of a trilogy by Murray Mednick. $10. Electric Lodge, 1416 Electric Ave., Venice. (310) 823-0710, ext. 4.

28/Sunday

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

San Diego Center for Jewish Culture at the Lawrence Family JCC: Noon-5 p.m. “Diversity of Life: A Photographic Exhibit” by Zion Ozeri. Free. David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, 4126 Executive Drive, La Jolla. (858) 362-1348.

EVENTS

Yiddish Alive: 4-7 p.m. A new conversation group in Orange County. All ages and experience levels welcome. Temple Beth Tikvah Fullerton, 1600 N. Acacla, Fullerton. (714) 671-0707.

29/Monday

LECTURES

Sephardic Temple Tifereth Israel: 7 p.m. Discussion on “‘In God’s Image’ or ‘The Image of God’: a Spiritual Look at Your Brain.” $15 (includes dinner). 10500 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 475-7311.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Workmen’s Circle: 3-5 p.m. Stanley Schwartz presents his “The Peaceable Kingdom” sculpture. 1525 S. Robertson Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 552-2007.

Academy for the Performing Arts at Huntington Beach High School: 7:30 p.m. “I Never Saw Another Butterfly,” the story of one boy’s journey through the Terezin ghetto on the way to the Auschwitz death camp. $6. Huntington Beach Library Theatre, 7111 Talbert Ave., Huntington Beach. (714) 536-2514, ext. 4305.

MET Theatre Company: 8 p.m. Opening of “The Merchant of Venice,” the classic play reset in early 20th-century New York. $15, $12 (students and seniors). 1089 N. Oxford Ave., Hollywood. (323) 957-1152.

EVENTS

Beth Jacob (teens): 9 a.m. “NFL” Non-stop Fun and Learning, featuring four big-screen NFL games playing simultaneously. Free. 9030 W. Olympic Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 278-1911, ext. 120.

OASIS (seniors): 1:30-3 p.m. Yiddish conversation group. All levels welcome. $5 (per trimester). Jewish Family Service, 8838 Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 446-8053.

City of Hope Singers: 5:30-8:30 p.m. Vocal group for singers of all skill levels from all over Los Angeles. Hope Village, Comedy Theatre, 1500 E. Duarte Road, Duarte. (714) 562-0860.

30/Tuesday

LECTURES

Caravan for Democracy: 5 p.m. Natan Sharansky, Israeli minister for Jerusalem and diaspora affairs addresses students and faculty at UCLA. Free. www.caravanfordemocracy.org. For more information, see page 16.

The Menachem Institute: 7:30 p.m. Rabbi Laibl Wolf discusses “The Art of Jewish Meditation.” ($5 in advance), $7 (at the door). 18181 Burbank Blvd., Tarzana. (818) 758-1818.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Hammer conversation with screenwriter Bill Condon and author T.C. Boyle. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7056.

EVENTS

Jewish Federation of the San Gabriel and Pomona Valley Jewish Book Festival: 7:30 p.m. Author Kate Wenner discusses “Dancing With Einstein.” La Canada residence. R.S.V.P., (626) 967-3656.

1/Wednesday

LECTURES

Adat Ari El: 12:30-1:30 p.m. Erika Jacoby a Holocaust survivor discusses her new book, “I Held the Sun in My Hands – a Memoir.” $3. 12020 Burbank Blvd., Valley Village. (818) 766-9426.

StandWithUs: 7 p.m. Lecture by Khaled Abu Toameh, award-winning Palestinian journalist. $10 (in advance), $15 (at the door). Museum of Tolerance, 9786 W. Pico Blvd., Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (310) 836-6140.

Jewish Book Month: 7:30 p.m. Author Ruth Ellen Gruber speaks about her latest book, “Virtually Jewish: Reinventing Jewish Culture in Europe.” Alpert JCC, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. (562) 985-7585.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Hammer Museum: 7 p.m. Some Favorite Writers presents Jonathan Franzen. Free. 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 443-7000.

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: 7 p.m. (beginners), 8 p.m. (regular class), 9:15 p.m. -midnight (open dancing). David Dassa leads Israeli dancing. $7. Irmas Campus, 2112 S. Barrington Ave., Los Angeles. ddassa@att.net.

OPEN HOUSES

Valley Beth Shalom Day School: 9:15 a.m. Kindergarten Live. 15739 Ventura Blvd., Encino. (818) 530-4072.

EVENTS

Temple Isaiah: 4-7 p.m. Chanukah Bazaar. 332 W. Alejo Rd., Palm Springs. (760) 325-2281.

PROGRAMS

Northridge Hospital Medical Center: 6:30 p.m. The Healing Arts program offers its monthly topic, “Balanced Nutrition for Holiday Eating.” Roscoe Campus, Penthouse Auditorium, 18400 Roscoe Blvd., Northridge. (818) 885-5488.

2/Thursday

LECTURES

Israel Cancer Research Fund: 7 p.m. Dr. Timothy Cloughesy, associate clinical professor, UCLA department of neurology, discusses “Using Molecular Biology to Individualize Brain Cancer Care.” Free. Loews Beverly Hills Hotel. 1224 Beverwil Drive, Beverly Hills. R.S.V.P., (323) 651-1200.

California Museum of Ancient Art: 7:30 p.m. “Warrior Women of the Bible” with speaker Dr. David Noel Freedman. First in a two-part series, “Women of the Ancient Near East.” $15 (adults), $12 (seniors), free (members). Wilshire Boulevard Temple, Piness Auditorium, 3663 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (818) 762-5500.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

L.A. Film School: 8 p.m. Larry Hankin’s “10 Funny Fables Plus 1” with cameos by Janeane Garofolo, Larry Hankin, Jeff Garlin, Jerry Stiller and others. Free. 6363 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles. (877) 952-3456.

3/Friday

SHABBAT

B’nai Tikvah Congregation: 6:30-7:30 p.m. A musical family shabbat. Services and potluck dinner. Free. 5820 W. Manchester Ave., Los Angeles. (310) 645-6262.

Nashuva: 6:45 p.m. Nashuva community service-oriented Kabbalat Shabbat.

Westwood Hills Congregational Church, 1989 Westwood Blvd, Westwood. www.nashuva.com.

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

CSUN Arts Council: 7-9 p.m. Eighth annual high school art invitational opening reception. Thirty-nine Valley high schools and more than 200 students are participating in the show. Main Gallery, N. University Drive, Northridge. (818) 677-2226.

Camelot Artists Productions: 8 p.m. David Steen’s “A Gift From Heaven” is the story of an Appalachian family’s demise. $28 (general), $20 (students). Beverly Hills Playhouse, 254 S. Robertson Blvd., Beverly Hills. (310) 358-9936.

Vanguard Theatre Ensemble: 8 p.m. Opening night gala of the holiday play “Greetings.” Champagne reception immediately follows the show. $23. 120-A W. Wilshire Ave., Fullerton. (714) 526-8007.

Imaginary Friends Music Partners: 9 p.m.-midnight. Jazz pianist George Kahn and the George Kahn Quartet play songs from their newest release “Compared to What?” Featuring Andy Suzuki, Karl Vincent and Paul Kreibech. $10 cover, plus minimum. Lunaria Jazz Club, 10352 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. (310) 282-8870.

EVENTS

Chai Center: Dec. 3-5. Desert Hot Springs Retreat. Hot springs mineral baths, women speakers and teachers, gourmet healthy food, stress reduction, massage and informal classes. R.S.V.P., (310) 391-6691.

UPCOMING

Sat., Dec. 11

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

MnR Dance Factory: Creative drama workshops for children with Chicago actress/writer Lisa Diana Shapiro. Free. 11606 San Vicente Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 826-4554.

Sun., Dec. 12

PROGRAMS

ATID (21-39): Dec. 12, 4 p.m. “Adventures in Judaism II” for young professionals ages 21-39, an afternoon of workshops, latkes, cocktails, “ultimate dreidel” and a Middle Eastern buffet. Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 481-3244.

Dec. 30-Jan. 2

ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Wilshire Boulevard Temple: Winter Rikud in Malibu. Israeli dancing weekend. From $175. www.rikud.com.

Feb. 17-21.

PROGRAMS

Jewish Student Union: Applications now available online for the annual JSU New York experience trip. www.jsu.org.

SINGLES

27/Saturday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7:30 p.m. Post-Thanksgiving mixer. $15-$20. 639 26th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P., (310) 393-4616.

Jewish Singles, Meet! (30s and 40s): 8 p.m. “Not-So-Speedy Meeting” and game night in conjunction with Temple Ner Maarav. $9. 17730 Magnolia Blvd, Encino. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 750-0095.

28/Sunday

Jewish Singles Volleyball: 3 p.m. Volleyball and post-game no-host dinner. Free. Playa del Rey Beach court No. 11 at the end of Culver Boulevard, Playa del Rey. (310) 278-9812.

JDate: 7 p.m. (reception), 7:30 p.m. (concert). Performance by Israeli recording artist Noa. $45 (online only). Fred Kavli Theatre, Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. www.jdate.com.

New Age Singles (55+): 7 p.m. “Starlight Ballroom Dance” with music by Johnny Vana Trio. $10-$12. University Synagogue 11960 Sunset Blvd., Brentwood. (310) 473-1391.

29/Monday

Nexus (20s and 30s): 7:30 p.m. (beginners), 8:15 p.m. (intermediate), 9-10 p.m. (open dance). Israeli dancing lessons and open dance. $5 (members), $6 (nonmembers). Alpert Jewish Community Center, 3801 E. Willow St., Long Beach. www.jewishnexus.org.

Project Next Step: 8 p.m. “Coffee Talk” with coffee and pastries. $7. 9911 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles. (310) 284-3638.

30/Tuesday

L.A.’s Fabulous Best Connections: 6-9 p.m. Dinner at Marmalade Cafe. The Grove, Third Street and Fairfax Avenue. R.S.V.P., (323) 782-0435.

Westwood Jewish Singles (45+): 7:30 p.m. Therapist Maxine Gellar leads a discussion about “My Most Embarrassing Moment.” $10. R.S.V.P., (310) 444-8986.

The New JCC at Milken: 8-11 p.m. James Zimmer leads Israeli folk dancing. $5-$6. Salsa, swing and tango lessons for an additional $3 (7-8 p.m.). 22622 Vanowen St., West Hills. (310) 284-3638.

1/Wednesday

Nexus (20s-40s): 6 p.m. Volleyball followed by no-host dinner. End of Culver Boulevard, near court No. 15, Playa del Rey. www.jewishnexus.org.

2/Thursday

Conversations at Leon’s: 7 p.m. “Date or Mate, What Are You Looking For?” $15-$17. 639 226th St., Santa Monica. R.S.V.P. (310) 393-4616.

J Networking: 7:30 p.m. The new Jewish networking group meets in the West San Fernando Valley. R.S.V.P. by Nov. 26, (818) 342-2898.

Mosaic: Dec. 2-5. Trip to Kartchner Caverns, Ariz. info@mosaicla.org.

3/Friday

Brandeis-Bardin/Makor Jewish Learning Circle: Dec. 3-5. Partnership weekend with the theme “The Search for Roots and Wings: Commitment and Creativity” with Rabbi Gordon Bernat-Kunin. $130 (singles), $240 (couples). Simi Valley. (805) 582-4450.

New Age Singles: 6 p.m. No-host dinner at Nibbler’s in Beverly Hills followed by Creative Arts Shabbat Service at Temple Beth Am. 1039 La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles. R.S.V.P., (310) 838-7459.

Singles Toward Marriage (30-39): 6:30 p.m. Monthly Shabbat dinner with group discussions led by Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritzky. 5998 Conifer St., Oak Park. R.S.V.P., (818) 993-0441.

upcoming

Sat., Dec. 11

Sephardic Singles Havurah (40s-60s): 7 p.m. Chanukah celebration and potluck dinner with candlelighting, prayers, songs and dancing. $5. R.S.V.P., (323) 294-6084.

Jan. 21-23

J-Ski (20s-40s): Mammoth Ski Trip. $185. Also, March 2-6, Whistler Ski Trip. $759. JskiLa@aol.com.

Keren’s Corner

Le Nouvel Anti-Semitism

What’s new in French anti-Semitism? Head downtown Thursday, Dec. 2 to find out as ALOUD at Central Library presents Michael Curtis, who will discuss “Anti-Semitism in France: Past and Present.” The author of numerous books on the history of France and anti-Semitism will discuss the relationship between historic traditional anti-Semitism in France and its current manifestations, including new factors like the extreme political left and Muslim

For the Kids


Chanukah!


The holiday of lights is here
It gives me such a lift
When candles burn so bright and clear
That I can see my gift!

Have You Lost Your Marbles?

Well, you better find them to make this chanukiah!

You will need:

Nine glass jars (baby food jars work) and colored marbles.

Acetate (a clear hard plastic sheet that can be cut with scissors).

Decorate the outside of the jars with Stars of David or
Chanukah symbols.

Arrange the jars in a line and fill them with the marbles.
Make sure you fill the middle jar higher so that the shamash candle will be
higher than the others. Cut out nine circles from the acetate to fit over the
tops of the jars.

Make a slit in the middle of each circle large enough to
insert a candle.

Now you have your own beautiful chanukiah.

Or try this sweeter version:
Buy nine sufganiyot (jelly donuts) or cupcakes. Line them up.

Wrap the bottoms of the candles in tin foil (to keep them from dripping on the delectable donuts).

Stick them in the middle of each pastry. Yum!

McDonald’s to Fund Kosher Ed


McDonald’s and kashrut? Only in Israel, one might think. But an Illinois court ruled May 20 that the world’s most ubiquitous burger joint must sink $1 million into education about Judaism’s kosher laws.

The money is part of $10 million that McDonald’s must divide among a variety of plaintiffs after it was found that french fries and hash browns advertised as vegetarian in fact contained some beef flavoring.

The ruling by the Cook County circuit court ended a lawsuit that cobbled together class-action suits by plaintiffs around the country.

Ultimately, $6 million was assigned to vegetarian groups, $2 million to Hindu and Sikh organizations, $1 million to children’s charities and $1 million to Jewish groups.

Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, which will receive $300,000 in the settlement, will use the money for an educational program, "You Are What You Eat: A Kashrut Conversation," and to supply students with kosher recipes.

Four Jewish groups were also selected to divide the $1 million: Jewish Community Centers Association will receive $200,000 to develop curricula about kosher food laws and practices; Orthodox Union will receive $150,000 for education about kosher observances and educating kosher food supervisors; Star-K/Torah.org will receive $300,000 to expand its Web site to offer an interactive course for schools, hospitals, synagogues and others on creating and maintaining a kosher kitchen; and CLAL –National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership will get $50,000 to host conferences on kashrut and disseminate the resulting ideas.

Jeff Rubin, director of communications for Hillel, compared the case to the Chanukah miracle.

"It’s another positive thing that came out of hot oil," he said. "This will help us to promote an understanding of kashrut on college campuses around the world."

Tzedakah for Chanukah


The Chanukah wish lists of six needy local Jewish families
will be filled by generous families from Rancho Santa Margarita’s Morasha
Jewish Day School.

“These families have been financially disadvantaged for a
long time,” said Charlene Edwards, social services director for Jewish Family
Service of Orange County. “They asked for things our children take for
granted.”

On Dec. 4, in time for Chanukah, Edwards was scheduled to
collect gift baskets filled with wrapped toys and clothing, along with gift
certificates for groceries, movie tickets and haircuts. The cumulative
contributions from students, parents and faculty likely tallies $1,500, said
Robin S. Hoffman, the school’s Jewish studies coordinator. “We’ve been
inundated in the last week.”

The Chanukah effort is one of the first outcomes of
Morasha’s involvement with a three-year national research project of Hebrew
Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. Its Rhea Hirsch
School of Education selected eight schools to participate in Jewish Day Schools
for the 21st Century, a project to demonstrate how schools can serve as a
Jewish learning catalyst for an entire community, said Eve Fein, Morasha’s
director.

As part of the project, a 25-parent panel, which has met
regularly over the last year, settled on enhancing certain Jewish values.
Morasha’s parents chose tzedakah (charity).

“So often, kids never see the end result,” said Kathleen A.
Canter, of Aliso Viejo, a panel participant who has two children in the school.
“We wanted the whole school community involved. It’s powerful when it’s visible
to all.”

Kindle Lights, Rekindle Traditions


"The sizzle of latkes in the kitchen, the glow of Chanukah candles in the window, the sounds of children playing with dreidels," these are what most of us associate with Chanukah celebrations, said Linda Burghardt, the author of "Jewish Holiday Traditions" (Citadel Press, 2001).

However, Burghardt also believes Chanukah is a story with many faces. It’s about jolly songs, games and gifts; donuts and pancakes; miracles and military battles; and the triumph of light over darkness. The Maccabees’ victory offers lessons that continue to resonate in the 21st century.

In 175 B.C.E., Greek King Antiochus ascended to the Syrian throne, ordering the Israelites to adopt Greek religion and culture. He outlawed kosher strictures and Shabbat observance. Although the Jews were miserable, things went too far when a Greek officer ordered Mattathias, a respected elder, to slaughter a pig and partake in it. Mattathias not only refused, but slew the officer, sparking a rebellion. He and his five sons, known to this day as the Maccabees, fled to the desert and surrounding hills to launch guerrilla attacks against the Greeks.

After three years of fighting, the Israelites prevailed and recaptured the Jerusalem. Entering the holy temple, they discovered a shrine to Zeus and sacrificial pigs on the altar. They immediately destroyed statues of Greek gods and scrubbed the temple clean.

But when they attempted to rekindle the eternal light, there was only enough purified oil to last 24 hours. This was upsetting since it took eight days to produce. Yet miraculously, the oil on hand lasted until a new batch was purified. People celebrated their good fortune with an eight-day festival that evolved into modern-day Chanukah.

"What happened in ancient times relates to what’s happening in the world today," said Burghardt, referring to the aftermath of Sept. 11 and the crisis in Israel with the Palestinians.

The Chanukah story raises issues such as the relationship of people from disparate cultures, respect for religious differences, freedom and independence, distribution of power and the debate over when violence and war are justified.

"One thing I like about Chanukah is that you can’t fake it," Burghardt said. "Chanukah lasts too long, so if you don’t mean what you’re saying about freedom, justice and human dignity, you can’t sustain the charade for eight days."

In the Chanukah story, Burghardt perceives tikkum olam, the idea that as Jews our role is to try to repair the world. She suggests encouraging children not only to receive gifts, but to give them to less fortunate people or to volunteer at soup kitchens or nursing homes.

"While repairing the world, we need energy," she said with a chuckle. "And energy comes from food."

Burghardt, a freelance writer, set out to compose the book she longed for as a bride, one that not only included foolproof recipes, but conveyed how Jewish history is connected to holiday celebrations. Her book encourages people who want to learn more about Judaism.

"Here’s a place to start and that’s fine," she said, believing in Dr. Spock’s advice to new parents: "You know more than you think you know."

"I began with the idea of food," she said, explaining that her book’s concept grew from there. Burghardt questioned: "Why are you eating this? What does it mean? In the case of Chanukah, people fry pancakes and other goodies in cooking oil to honor the bit of lamp oil that stretched for eight days."

Once Burghardt understood what various holiday foods symbolize, she moved to considerations of how to welcome guests into your home, how to bring friends into your family circle, and how to create celebrations that are warm in uniquely Jewish ways.

Chanukah in particular is one of Burghardt’s favorite holidays, as close to her heart as her husband and identical twin daughters. The book’s dedication reads: "To David, Amy and Katie … with love, laughter and latkes."

"The more latkes you make, the better they get," said Burghardt, who admits she’s not a great cook, which is why her recipes convey every step to readers, short of reminding them to keep breathing. Burghardt’s Chanukah celebrations are full of special touches, large and small.

"In our house, we each have our own menorahs," she said, explaining that her husband’s menorah arrived as a wedding present. Amy and Katie’s were bat mitzvah gifts and Burghardt made hers in a pottery class. The Burghardt family places their menorahs on the dining table. "The light from four candelabras casts a glow that’s really intense." On top of that, this multimenorah tradition avoided arguments over who would light the candles, when her daughters were young.

Because Chanukah is eight days long, it’s an easy holiday for entertaining. "It’s possible to find time for get-togethers, because you always have a weekend," Burghardt said. She loves the fact that this year Chanukah falls the day after Thanksgiving because her daughters, now in college, will be there to share the festivities.

Although Burghardt enjoys throwing Chanukah parties, she also appreciates quiet nights at home. After the Chanukah candles are lit, her family does not work or watch television. They may spin a dreidel or actually talk to each other. Burghardt feels Jewish holidays are about taking time from your life, remembering the past, sharing a scrumptious meal and being together as a family. Slowing down for 20 minutes to notice the candles is what makes those twinkling lights so special.

Classic Potato Latkes

Quick Tips: Use fresh potatoes, fry potatoes as soon as grated to prevent them from turning brown, don’t overuse oil and drain pancakes well. Remember that different oils impart specific flavors, so let your taste be your guide.

8 medium russet or Idaho potatoes

2 onions

3 tablespoons oil

2 large eggs

1¼2 cup matzah meal or 1¼4 cup flour

2 teaspoons salt

1¼2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups applesauce (see recipe below)

8 ounces sour cream

1. Wash potatoes thoroughly and peel them (or leave skins on for a slightly earthy flavor), then grate them by hand on the coarsest side of the grater or in a food processor with a medium-blade grater.

2. Put grated potatoes in a sieve and let sit for five to 10 minutes until the water starts to separate out, then squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

3. Turn potatoes into a large bowl.

4. Peel and dice onions, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet and lightly sauté onions in oil.

5. Beat eggs.

6. Add onions to potato mixture, along with eggs, matzah meal, salt and baking powder. Mix well.

7. Heat skillet and cover bottom with remaining oil, then drop tablespoons of batter into it.

8. Flatten batter with a spatula.

9. Turn when edges start to brown.

10. When done, drain on brown paper grocery bags or paper towels.

11. Serve with applesauce and sour cream.

Yield: about 18 latkes

Sufganiyot (Jelly Donuts)

Sufganiyot can be complicated to make, but even novices will master the technique after a couple of tries, if someone at home volunteers to eat up the mistakes! Try a variety of jams for the filling.

2 packages of active dry yeast

31¼2 cups flour

1¼4 cup granulated sugar

1¼2 cup warm water

1¼2 cup milk

1¼2 teaspoons salt

1¼2 cup butter

2 large eggs

1 large jar raspberry jam

Oil for frying

Powdered sugar

1. Dissolve yeast in warm water.

2. In a large bowl, mix together half the flour, sugar, yeast, water, milk and salt.

3. Stir in butter and add eggs.

4. With an electric beater, mix batter until smooth.

5. Add remaining flour and knead by hand.

6. Cover bowl with a dish towel and let dough rise in a warm place for about an hour, until doubled in bulk.

7. Knead dough for a minute or two on a lightly floured surface.

8. Let it rest for about 10 minutes, then roll it out to 1¼2-inch thickness on a floured surface.

9. Use a round 2-inch diameter cookie cutter to cut out circles.

10. Place a tablespoon of jam on every other circle and cover with another circle of dough. Pinch the sides together all the way around.

11. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for about one hour, until doubled in size.

12. Pour about 2 inches of oil into a heavy skillet and heat until it shimmers.

13. Gently place a few of the doughnuts into the oil and fry, turning once, about one to two minutes per side.

14. When done, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar.

Yield: About 18 donuts

Pink Applesauce

There’s nothing like the contrast between warm, crunchy latkes and cold applesauce with its smooth texture. Some cooks prefer Golden Delicious apples, others use only Granny Smith or russets. You can experiment with single types or mix and match for a pleasing variety of flavors and textures.

7-8 medium apples

1¼2 cup water

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons orange juice

1¼2 teaspoon vanilla

1¼4 cup honey

1 teaspoon red food coloring

1. Peel, core and slice apples and place in a saucepan.

2. Add water, lemon juice, orange juice and vanilla.

3. Cover and bring to a boil. Cook over low heat until soft, about 25 minutes, adding more water if needed.

4. Mix in honey.

5. Stir in food coloring, which will turn applesauce an appetizing pink.

6. To make texture finer when cooking is done, put mixture in a food processor and puree, or serve as is.

Yield: 1 quart or 6-8 servings

Recipes "From Jewish Holiday Traditions" by Linda Burghardt.