September 18, 2019

O, Chanukah! Looking beyond latkes

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, the highlights of our Chanukah celebration included visiting with extended family — uncles, aunts and cousins — lighting the Chanukah candles and eagerly awaiting the platters of fried potato latkes. In our home, the potato latkes were served crisp and topped with sour cream, sugar or apple sauce.

Most families have a favorite latke recipe that is made year after year. The real quandary is what to serve with the latkes.

In planning a Chanukah dinner, it’s usually a good idea to keep the menu simple. The emphasis should be on foods that can be prepared in advance and will hold up if guests arrive late. Every year, our menu changes. One year, we served Cabbage Borscht With Short Ribs. Another year, it was beef brisket with prunes, almost like a tzimmes, in a wine sauce. It’s fun to serve something new during Chanukah to surprise the family.

If meat is on your menu, Cabbage Borscht With Short Ribs is a winner. Made with beets, tomatoes, lemon juice and brown sugar, it is a hearty meal. The short ribs may also be served as a separate meal with potato latkes.

Another perfect main course for the family during Chanukah is Baked Sea Bass With Black Olive Sauce. Prepare the fish in advance and store in the refrigerator; it only takes 15 to 20 minutes to bake, which means you can put it in the oven when guests arrive.

When it comes to latkes, consider serving condiments like Green Tomato Marmalade, Chopped Olive Spread, Red Onion Marmalade, Red Pepper Jelly, Fresh Tomato Salsa or smoked salmon—and don’t forget the guacamole. For dessert, simply top your latkes with cinnamon and caramelized apple slices for a special treat. And if you are feeling ambitious, make the traditional Israeli dessert, nondairy sufganiyot (doughnuts), served with raspberry preserves.


2 pounds marrow bones, cut in 2-inch pieces, optional
4 pounds short ribs
3 onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 bay leaf
1 head green cabbage, shredded
4 beets, peeled and sliced
1 (12-ounce) can tomatoes
or 6 fresh tomatoes, peeled
and chopped
1 teaspoon fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/3 cup brown sugar
Juice of 6 lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
to taste

In a large pot add bones, short ribs, onions, garlic, parsley and bay leaf. Cover with water, bring to a boil and skim froth from the top. Lower heat and simmer, covered, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Add cabbage, beets, tomatoes, basil, paprika, brown sugar and lemon juice; simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Add additional sugar, lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste.

The short ribs may be served in borscht or as a separate course with potato pancakes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup pitted and chopped black olives
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
1 tablespoon minced fresh basil
or 1 teaspoon crumbled dried
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste
2 pounds sea bass fillets
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1/2 cup dry white wine

In a small bowl, stir together garlic, olives, oregano, basil and parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Spoon the garlic mixture on the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking dish, spreading evenly. Arrange the sea bass fillets, skin side up, on top of the garlic mixture. Pour the vegetable stock and wine around the sea bass. Bake in preheated 425 F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, basting with the juices, until cooked through. To serve, arrange fillets on heated serving plates and top with the garlic mixture.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.


1 large onion, peeled
4 russet potatoes, peeled
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 extra-large eggs
3 tablespoons matzah meal or unbleachead all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Salt and freshly ground black pepper,
to taste
Olive oil for frying

Using the knife blade of a food processor, grate the onion; replace the blade with the shredding blade, and grate the potatoes. Transfer onion and potatoes to a large bowl, and squeeze the grated mixture between your fingers to wring out as much liquid as possible. Add lemon juice, eggs, matzah meal, baking powder, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Heat 1/8 inch of olive oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter by large spoonfuls into the hot oil, flattening with the back of the spoon to make 2- to 3-inch latkes. Cook on one side until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes; turn and cook on the other side, about 2 minutes. (Turn once only.) Add oil to pan as needed to prevent latkes from burning. Drain well on paper towels and serve immediately.

Makes about 2 to 3 dozen latkes.


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

In a large, skillet, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until sugar begins to turn golden. Add tomatoes, orange juice and zests, and simmer until tomatoes are soft and liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 15 minutes. Cool.

Makes 2 to 3 cups.


1 cup pitted black olives
1 cup pitted green olives
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons minced parsley

On a wooden board, chop the olives coarsely; transfer to a glass bowl. Add olive oil and parsley; toss well.

Makes 2 cups.


1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
2 large or 3 small red onions, finely diced (about 3 cups) or thinly sliced
1/2 cup orange juice
Grated peel of 2 oranges

Place sugar and water in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until the sugar begins to turn golden. Add the onions, orange juice and peel, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the onions are soft and the liquid has reduced to a thick syrup, about 20 to 30 minutes. Cool.

Makes about 2 cups.


1 1/2 pounds sweet red peppers
(about 4 large peppers)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon chili powder or
1 small red chili
5 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
6 ounces liquid pectin

Wash and cut up peppers, discarding seeds and stems. Place pieces, a few at a time, in food processor and chop fine. In a large pot, combine chopped peppers, vinegar, salt and chili powder. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add sugar and lemon juice, mixing until sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil. Stir in pectin and bring to a boil, stirring constantly, for exactly 1 minute. Remove from heat and skim off foam with metal spoon. Ladle into hot, sterilized jars; seal immediately.

Makes about 6 to 8 (8-ounce) jars.


4 firm ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded
and chopped
1/2 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, mix the tomatoes, onion, chili, cilantro and salt. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 2 cups.


1/2 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup apple juice
Juice and peel of 1 lemon
6 large tart Pippin or Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, thinly sliced

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine preserves, sugar and apple juice. Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until preserves and sugar are dissolved. Bring syrup to a boil and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.

Place lemon juice and peel in a large bowl and toss apple slices. Add apples with juice to preserve mixture and toss to coat evenly. Simmer until apples are soft, mixing occasionally. Cool. Transfer glazed apples with sauce to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Makes about 3 cups apple slices.


These doughnuts are traditionally filled with raspberry preserves before frying. For an easier approach, fry the doughnuts unfilled, and serve the preserves as an accompaniment on the side. 

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup nondairy soy milk
Oil for frying
1/2 cup sugar mixed with 1 tablespoon
1 (16-ounce) jar raspberry preserves

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, blend olive oil and sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Add egg, beat well; stir in vanilla.

Mix together flour, baking soda, nutmeg and salt; add to sugar mixture alternately with soy milk. Stir until well blended; dough will be soft.

In deep fryer, heat oil to 365 F. Using a small ice cream scoop or teaspoons, scoop out dough and drop into hot oil. Fry only enough doughnuts to fit in fryer without crowding and keeping oil from cooling down. Drain on paper towels and roll in sugar-cinnamon mixture. Serve with raspberry preserves on the side.

Makes about 18 doughnuts.

Judy Zeidler is the author of “The Gourmet Jewish Cook” (Morrow, 1988) and “The International Deli Cookbook” (Chronicle, 1994). She teaches cooking classes through American Jewish University’s Whizin Center for Continuing Education. Her soon-to-be-published cookbook, “Italy Cooks,” is based on 35 years of travel to Italy. Her Web site is