Exotic Hanukkah recipes…and Tina’s menorah tips
Photo: Tina Wasserman
Deep Fried Potato Blintzes

By Tina Wasserman

This is going to seem untimely since Hanukkah is just beginning this coming weekend, but I thought I would share these tips for cleaning your wax-encrusted hanukkiahs after the holiday is over. I originally saw this article on the Modern Tribe website, which is a great source for all things Judaica, serious and funny. You can find that great Hanukkah sweater or even a 7-foot blow-up dinosaur holding a dreidel for your front yard as well as beautiful menorahs and gifts.

I share with you the following hints that they posted courtesy of Amy Kritzer:

1. Hot water: Put your menorah in a heat-proof container such as a large pan and pour hot water over the menorah until the wax melts off and floats to the top. Wipe off extra wax with a towel. Be careful that the wax doesn’t drip into the sink drain as this can clog your drain! You can also spot-clean by warming with a hair dryer (high heat, low fan). If your menorah is glass or ceramic, start with warm water to slowly warm the menorah so it does not crack from the change in temperature.

2. Freeze the menorah: Put your menorah in the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour until the wax hardens, and then peel it off. Ice cubes help with spot-cleaning. This works best with metal menorahs as glass or ceramic menorahs may crack under the temperature change.

3. The oven method: Put your menorah on a foil- or parchment-lined sheet pan in the oven on the lowest temperature setting for a few minutes until the wax melts off. Very carefully (it’s hot!) turn over the menorah so the wax comes out of the holders too. Then simply throw away the foil and you have a clean menorah! This works best with metal menorahs as ceramic and glass can crack under temperature changes.

4. The oil method: Prevent wax from sticking by coating your menorah with nonstick cooking spray to keep the wax from sticking if it drips. (Do not use on precious metals.)

5. Beeswax and dripless candles: It helps to use beeswax or dripless Hanukkah candles to prevent the wax from dripping in the first place! Or try freezing your candles before lighting. It helps prevent drips!

6. Drip cups: You can also line your menorah with drip cups or foil to catch any drips.

7. Love the wax: Can’t get all the wax off? Let it be! I have friends who let the wax build up every year so that it conjures memories from the past celebrations.

Whatever you do and whatever you eat for Hanukkah, enjoy the holiday and remember that little miracles happen in our daily lives.

Ensaymada: ‘Filipino Special Bread’

You might wonder why I am including a Filipino recipe for Hanukkah. First of all, they are delicious. They are baked, not fried (although you probably could fry the dough spirals), and they represent a land that was one of the first countries to openly accept Jewish refugees during the Holocaust. Approximately 1200 Jews were welcomed to the Philippines and, because they were from Germany and Austria, the Japanese invaders during the war let them live in peace as opposed to other foreigners from countries at war with Germany and Japan who were imprisoned during the Japanese occupation of the islands.

This bread has its origins in 17th-century Spain. I learned this recipe from the pastry chef on a cruise ship many years ago. Enjoy!

  • 8 cups bread flour
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 packages dry yeast
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 2/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, melted for topping
  • 1 cup sugar for topping

1. Combine the flour, sugar, salt and yeast in the large bowl of an electric mixer.

2. Heat the milk and water in a microwave oven for 2 minutes or until they are hot to the touch but won’t burn your finger to the touch.

3. Add the hot milk, water and butter to the flour mixture and beat on low speed for a minute. Add the eggs and continue beating for 7-10 minutes on medium speed.

4. Place dough in a bowl or plastic bag that has been greased with 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil. Cover and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until dough has doubled in size.

5. Punch down dough and cut into 32-36 pieces. Roll each piece of dough into an 8-inch snake. Coil the dough, pinch end under to secure, slightly flatten spiral and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

6. Let dough rest for about 15-30 minutes or until doubled in size.

7. Bake dough in a preheated 350-degree oven for 15 minutes or until light and golden.

8. Cool the rolls for 15 minutes. Melt the remaining butter in a microwave oven in a shallow glass bowl and place the sugar in another bowl.

9. Dip tops of rolls in the melted butter and then dip buttered side in the sugar. Place, sugar side up, back on the cookie sheet to cool completely. Serve warm or at room temperature. May be frozen before topping with sugar.

Yield 32-36 4-inch coiled rolls

Tina’s Tidbits:

• If you want, another Filipino custom is to also sprinkle some grated mild white cheese over the top along with the sugar.

• This is a brioche-type dough but the higher gluten content of bread flour is recommended for creating a light roll. You can substitute regular flour but the consistency will be different.

• This recipe can easily be halved if you are not expecting an army at your Hanukkah celebration.

Yucca Potato Latkes

When I visited Cuba on a humanitarian mission, I visited the Patronato, which houses a JCC in Havana. With scant food supplies, their cook showed me how to fry little Yucca fritters and I immediately suspected that this was one dish that might grace the Cuban Hanukkah table.

One of my readers contacted me after reading my article about Cuba to tell me about her background. She told me that over four generations ago her ancestors came from Eastern Europe to Spain and changed their names from Mendel to Mendez. By the time she was born in Cuba after the revolution, her family had been completely assimilated into the Christian world of the Converso. Growing up in the New York area, she was surrounded by the Jewish culture and drawn to it as well. She now is happily married to a Jewish man for many years and has restructured her life back to her Jewish roots. Here is her recipe for Yucca Potato Latkes.

  • 2 large or 4 medium California long white potatoes
  • 1 7-inch yucca, peeled
  • 1 large onion, cut into quarters
  • 2 eggs
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour or matzo meal
  • ½ tablespoon (1½ teaspoons) salt
  • 10 grindings of fresh black pepper
  • Corn oil or canola oil for frying
  • 1. Cut the yucca lengthwise into quarters and remove the hard stringlike membrane running down the center edge.

2. Grate the potatoes in a processor or by hand. Place potatoes in a colander and run cold water through them to remove excess starch. Let drain while you work with the yucca.

3. Grate the yucca and the onion and then add to a 3-quart glass bowl. Press down on the potatoes to extract any remaining water and then add the potatoes to the yucca mixture.

4. Add the eggs, flour, salt and pepper to the bowl and stir to combine.

5. Heat a large frying pan for 20 seconds. Add ¼ inch of oil to the pan and heat for another 20 seconds.

6. Spoon heaping tablespoons of batter into the frying pan and lightly flatten each little mound. Fry the latkes until golden on one side and then flip over and fry on the other.

7. Crumble 4 paper towels and place on a large platter. Place cooked latkes on paper to drain and then serve plain or with the usual accompaniments.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Yucca is also known as cassava. It is usually available in grocery stores. It looks like a giant sweet potato dipped in wax.

• According to my Cuban-born reader Libby, any favorite recipe for latkes can be adjusted to include yucca. The trick is to use equal amounts of grated yucca to potato.

• Yucca can deteriorate rapidly, which is why it is covered in wax. Store for no more than 4 days in the refrigerator.

Deep Fried Potato Blintzes

I have to admit, I do not own an air fryer. If I am going to fry a food, I use oil. But I always hated using a quart of oil to fill my big deep fryer that I received as a wedding present, so I purchased a Fry Daddy. Can’t make chicken in it but it is the perfect size for any of my Hanukkah delicacies. And here’s an interesting fact: After frying an entire recipe of corn fritters, I measured the oil and I had used only 2-3 tablespoons, which meant I used less oil than when I sauté.

So, I was thinking, what recipe could I create that was easy, could be kept hot in an oven until served and fit the description of Hanukkah food? The following recipe has two ingredients and could really take the place of latkes if you didn’t want to go to the trouble. Now, nothing really takes the place of latkes but as a side dish with brisket or with applesauce these are great! Enjoy!

  • 1 or more boxes of frozen potato blintzes or pierogies
  • Oil for frying
  • Sour cream, optional

Applesauce, optional (see recipe below)

1. Defrost the blintzes in the refrigerator.

2. Pour oil into a deep 8-inch pot or fryer.

3. Bring oil to 350 degrees.

4. Pat dry the blintzes and then place one or two into the hot oil with the seam side down. Hold the blintze down under the oil for 20-30 seconds to prevent the crepe from unfolding.

5. Cook until the first side is golden brown and then try to turn the blintze over in the oil to brown the other side. If the blintze keeps rolling back to the original side, then use your heat-proof spatula to swish the oil over the top so that both sides become brown.

6. Remove blintze to a plate covered with crumbled paper towel and proceed with the remaining blintzes.

7. Place on a nonstick rimmed baking pan and keep warm in a 200-degree oven.

8. Serve plain or with the following fresh applesauce.

Yield: 1 box contains 6 blintzes

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Using defrosted blintzes means that there is less moisture clinging to the food. Less moisture means the oil won’t sputter.

• Holding the blintze under the surface of the oil will help the end seam cook in place and not unravel like an open book.

• Crumpling the paper towel increases the surface area that can absorb excess oil.

• I find that adding more than two blintzes at a time to a small fryer drops the temperature of the oil and then the cooking time is longer and the blintzes absorb more oil than necessary.


This recipe should be in every home’s repertoire. It doesn’t get fresher than this and it is so easy to make, especially if you have a food mill.

  • 4-6 medium apples
  • ¼ to ½ cup water
  • 2-inch cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ cup sugar (optional)

1. Core the apples and cut into eighths.

2. Cover the bottom of a 3-quart pot with ½ inch of water. Place the apples and cinnamon stick in the water. Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until apples are very tender.

3. Remove the cinnamon stick, reserve the water from the pot and place the apples in the basket of a food mill.

4. Following the manufacturer’s directions, use the medium disk and pass the apples through, leaving the skins in the basket. (A strainer or colander would work as well.)

5. Add some of the reserved liquid and cool. Mixture will thicken.

6. If necessary, add sugar to taste and any additional cooking liquid. Serve.

NOTE: If you don’t own a food mill, just remove the skins by hand with a spoon before mashing.

Tina’s Tidbits:

• Because the perfume cells of the apple are in the skin, ALWAYS keep the skin on when making applesauce. The sauce will be naturally sweeter and not need any additional sugar.

• The pectin in the apple skin is a natural thickener. Sugar is therefore not necessary to bind the applesauce.

• Cooking apples with their skins on makes the sauce a rosy color.

Leave a Reply