April 2, 2020

Hanukkah: A Feast for the Senses

Hanukkah has always been our favorite Jewish holiday. It’s a time when the entire family gets together to celebrate by lighting candles, singing songs, exchanging gifts and eating lots of latkes. 

Also known as the festival of lights, it is observed by the lighting of the hanukkiah as a reminder of the miracle of a single flask of oil that burned for eight days.

We always look forward to our traditional Hanukkah latke party, and this year will be our 65th family celebration. But remember, frying potato latkes is a labor of love.

To begin, I mix the batter in a large bowl and my husband, Marvin, fries the latkes. Last year, he began at 6 p.m and finished about four hours later. However, he won’t be lonely in the kitchen because everyone joins in to make their favorite toppings for the latkes. 

It’s a frenzy at the buffet table when we’re ready to eat because there are so many goodies to choose from that go with latkes. Here are a few ideas for the toppings: homemade glazed apple slices, sour cream and cinnamon sugar, salmon caviar, lox and cream cheese, and olive tapenade. But be creative  and add your favorite food ideas. 

Last year, we made a large, oversized potato latke in a frying pan, topped it with smoked salmon and cream cheese, then cut into slices, and served like a pizza. It was a memorable dish that everyone enjoyed. 

Latkes now have become a worldwide versatile delicacy. They can be made with potatoes, yams, pasta or grated vegetables, and served as a main course, side dish or dessert. They are the perfect food to serve during the holiday that everyone can enjoy.

Don’t forget to serve my favorite Hanukkah dessert, sufganiyot, doughnuts fried in olive oil. 

Potato Latkes
4 baking potatoes, peeled and grated
1 large onion, grated
1 tablespoon lemon juice
4 eggs
3 tablespoons flour
Pinch baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil

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

Heat 1/8 inch olive oil in 4-inch nonstick skillet over medium heat. Ladle batter into hot oil with large spoon, and flatten latkes with back of spoon.

Cook on 1 side just until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes, then flip and cook other side. Flip once only.

Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately, plain or with topping of choice.

Makes 2 dozen latkes.

Glazed Apple Slices
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 of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon

In a large heavy skillet, combine the sugar, marmalade and orange juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring until the sugar and marmalade dissolve.

Bring the syrup to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 3 to 4 minutes, just until it begins to thicken. 

Place the apple slices in a large bowl and toss with lemon juice to prevent discoloring. Add the apples, lemon zest and lemon juice to the syrup in the skillet and toss to coat the apples.

Simmer, covered, 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft. Transfer to a glass bowl and cool to room temperature.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator.

Serve with latkes.

3 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon unsalted butter, at room temperature, cubed
Zest of 1 lemon
3 cups olive oil
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Sift flour with baking powder and salt onto a wood board; mound the mixture and make a well in the center.

Add eggs, granulated sugar, butter and lemon zest to the center of the well. Work the ingredients together until a firm dough forms, adding a little water if the dough is too dry or a little flour if it is sticky.

Cut into 8 pieces, roll into 8 finger-thick logs, and cut each log into pieces no larger than hazelnuts. The smaller the doughnuts, the tastier they’ll be.

In a deep 10-inch pan, heat oil until it registers 350 F. Drop 12 pieces of dough into the hot oil; fry until golden all over and puffed, about 2 minutes. Remove to a platter lined with paper towels; continue in the same manner with the remaining dough.

Serve hot, dusted with powdered sugar.

Serves 6.

Judy Zeidler is a cooking teacher and cookbook author.