By Ethel G. Hofman
(JNS) Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is the eight-day celebration commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem. We light each menorah candle to remember the Maccabees and the miracle of the oil that lasted much longer than expected. This year, another seeming miracle — that of rejoining with family and friends after two years of a pandemic that has lasted longer than many thought — will take place just a few days after Thanksgiving, making a wallop of a holiday weekend.
It always begins on the same day on the Jewish calendar, 25 Kislev, which corresponds this year to the evening of Sunday, Nov. 28, lasting through the evening of Monday, Dec. 6.
Hanukkah goodies go beyond latkes and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts), but they are traditionally oil-based. For a contemporary take, to cater to well-traveled culinary tastes and for a bit of flavor from abroad after being stationed at home for far too long, these recipes feature international dishes.
Decorate holiday tables with gold-foiled gelt (money) and dreidels of all sizes and colors. Photocopy song sheets to “Maoz Tzur” (“Rock of Ages”) and other traditional tunes. Finish the pumpkin pie before a new round of sweets arrives. Continue the story.
From my table to yours, Happy Hanukkah!
Smoked Salmon Latkes with Capers and Dill
Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts, Basque-Style, with Sizzle
Dark, Sticky Gingerbread
Bagna Cauda (Dairy)
- To make pareve, substitute margarine for butter.
- Make ahead of time, cover and refrigerate. Warm in microwave.
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 1 can (2 ounces) anchovy fillets, drained
- 1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
- Freshly ground pepper to taste
- Assorted vegetables, cut into lengths and pieces
- Crusty bread, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Blend oil, butter or margarine, anchovies and garlic in blender or food processor until smooth.
- Transfer to a small saucepan. Bring to simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Don’t worry if the sauce separates.
- Season with pepper to taste.
- To serve: Pour warm sauce into a small pitcher. Place on platter, arrange vegetables around and bread cubes in a separate bowl.
Smoked Salmon Latkes with Capers and Dill (Pareve)
- Substitute dry breadcrumbs for matzo meal.
- Bake 3 large potatoes for mashed potatoes. Do not add butter, margarine or seasonings.
- Shred smoked salmon and snip fresh dill with kitchen shears.
- May prepare the mixture ahead of time. Cover and chill until ready to cook.
- Serve with store-bought salsa.
- 2 cups mashed potatoes
- ¾ cup matzo meal, divided
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon hot sauce
- 3 ounces smoked salmon, shredded
- 2 tablespoons capers, coarsely chopped
- ½ cup fresh dill, coarsely snipped, loosely packed
- Vegetable oil for frying
- In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, ½ cup matzo meal, egg, hot sauce, salmon, capers and dill. Mix well. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to stiffen.
- Place remaining matzo meal in a shallow dish. Shape about 2 rounded tablespoons of the mixture into patties. Coat on both sides with the matzo meal. Repeat with the remaining mixture.
- Heat about ½ inch oil to 350 degrees in a large, deep skillet. (No thermometer? An easy, safe way to check on the temperature is to stick the end of a wooden spoon into the hot oil. When bubbles form around the wood and they float up, the oil is ready. If bubbling hard, oil is too hot. Reduce heat and check again.)
- Arrange latkes in hot oil. Cook over medium heat until crispy and golden-brown, 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels.
- Serve hot with salsa.
Pan-Fried Chicken Breasts, Basque-Style, with Sizzled Black Olives (Meat)
- Line baking pan with foil for easy cleanup.
- Cook the day before. Cover tightly and refrigerate. Remove from the fridge 20 minutes before reheating.
- Use a combination of seasonings, such as Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute, for the tarragon, oregano, sage, garlic powder and salt, about 2 teaspoons.
- 4 chicken breasts (about 2½ pounds), skinless, boneless
- ½ cup bottled vinaigrette dressing
- 1¼ cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 (6-ounce) can small pitted black olives, drained
- ½ teaspoon each tarragon, oregano, sage, garlic powder and salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Cut each chicken breast in half lengthwise. Set aside.
- Pour dressing into a shallow dish. Pour panko into a separate shallow dish and stir in tarragon, oregano, sage, garlic powder and salt. Dip chicken in dressing to coat on all sides and then dredge in panko mixture.
- Heat oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken. Brown in hot oil until golden-brown, about 3 to 4 minutes on each side.
- Place on a baking sheet. Set aside. Add the drained olives to the skillet.
- Heat over high heat, 3 to 4 minutes or until sizzling. Scatter olives and pan scrapings over chicken. Cover tightly with foil.
- Bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake 20 minutes longer, or until chicken is no longer pink at the thickest part.
- Arrange chicken and olives on a serving platter. Serve hot.
Dark, Sticky Gingerbread (Dairy)
Makes 20-24 servings
- To make pareve, substitute pareve margarine and oat, coconut or other dairy-free milk for whole milk.
- Substitute Chinese Five Spice for orange extract.
- 1 cup dark-brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
- ¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons molasses
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup milk
- 12/3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons powdered ginger
- 1½ teaspoons orange extract
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Spray 11×7-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, beat brown sugar and butter until pale and fluffy. Add ¾ cup molasses, eggs, milk and ⅔ cup flour. Beat until smooth.
- Gradually stir in the remaining 1 cup flour, adding baking soda, ginger, orange extract and pepper. Fold in the crystallized ginger.
- Pour into prepared baking dish. Brush the remaining 2 tablespoons molasses over top.
- Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (the center may fall slightly). Cool before cutting into squares. Freezes well.
- Can serve with a dollop of whipped topping or vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.
Funnel Cake (Dairy)
Makes 4 cakes
- Use vegetable oil, not olive oil (vegetable oil has a higher smoke point). It’s best for high-temperature cooking such as deep frying.
- To test oil temperature: When the oil is preheated, dip the handle of a wooden spoon or a chopstick into the oil. Ready when the oil starts bubbling steadily around the handle. If bubbling vigorously, the oil is too hot. If only a few bubbles pop up, the oil isn’t hot enough. Or drop a 1-inch piece of white bread into the oil; it should brown (not darken) in 60 seconds, then the oil is ready.
- To use a funnel to pour. Cover the bottom of the spout with your finger. Pour about ½ cup batter into the funnel. About 2-3 inches above the hot oil, release your finger from the funnel bottom and pour the batter in a spiral motion into the oil.
- Use a pitcher to pour.
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup milk
- ½ cup water
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons baking powder
- Oil for frying
- Confectioners’ sugar to dredge
- In a medium bowl, whisk the egg, milk, water, sugar and vanilla to blend.
- Stir in the flour, ½ cup at a time, with the baking powder in the last addition. The batter should be like heavy cream. If too thin, add a little extra flour.
- In a deep, heavy pot or skillet, pour in oil about ¾ inch deep. Heat to 365-375 degrees.
- Pour about ½ cup batter into hot oil, using a circular motion. Fry 1-2 minutes on each side, or until golden-brown. Use a spatula and a spoon, or 2 spoons, to flip. Drain on paper towels.
- Dredge with confectioners’ sugar.
- Serve warm.
Pineapple Shrub (Pareve)
- Drain canned pineapple chunks. Place in the freezer for 1 to 2 hours until frozen.
- Frozen pineapple chunks are available in markets.
- Orange juice may be substituted for brandy.
- Serve in wine glasses.
- 3 cups frozen pineapple chunks
- 2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
- ½ cup coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons brandy
- Place frozen pineapple in a food processor. Add the sugar and process until coarsely chopped.
- Slowly pour in the coconut milk and brandy. Process until smooth. Pour into small cups.
- Serve immediately.
Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist, author and culinary consultant.