Chanukah Food Traditions

Chanuka FoodsOkay, so I’ve now covered why we eat fried food on Chanukah, and why we eat dairy foods, but why the particular dishes that we associate with Chanukah? Why Latkes? Why Sufganiot (jelly donuts)? There are plenty of foods that fit into the fried/dairy category, so why these ones?

Over time, different Jewish communities throughout the world have found a variety of ways to incorporate both oil and dairy into their Chanukah meals. One of the most famous, Israeli sufganiot, may actually derive from a yeast dough pastry mentioned in the Talmud (the written edition of the oral Torah). These pastries were cooked in oil and called sufganin (absorbent) because they absorbed a lot of oil in cooking. They did not contain milk, but were sweetened and perhaps even filled with honey and the fact that they were cooked in oil led to the pastries becoming a Chanukah staple early on.In Spain, Jews added cheese to these pastries—and from this twist on an old tradition evolved the many cheese doughnuts, fritters, and other fried cheese pastries popular among Sephardim. They may have influenced the cheese pastries popular in some Central European communities as well. A jelly-filled version evolved among German Jews, who brought it with them to the Land of Israel in the 1930’s.

In more Northern communities, where olive oil was scarce and expensive, goose or chicken fat often had to be used for frying. Potato latkes, apple fritters, and other non-dairy fried foods became the norm, although today when olive (or other pareve) oil is affordable and commonly used in preparing latkes, etc., dairy is often added—usually in the form of a dollop of sour cream on top of a latke.

So there you go, you now know the whys, so go and check out the recipes for the hows! Chag Samayach everyone!

Best Mac and Cheese – Ever

Baked Mac N Cheese

This recipe comes from my Mom. It is AMAZING! In fact, she often gives it as a bridal shower gift given with a casserole dish. Yes, you can use that idea for your next shower… it’s a good one, and she gets royalties 😉

Ingredients:

½ cup (1 stick) butter or margarine
½ cup all purpose flour
2-3 boxes of mac & cheese (we like using wacky mac, but whatever is your favourite)
1 – 1 ½ lbs. or more of different cheeses, shredded
5 cups of milk
Salt & pepper
Bread crumbs (optional)
Pam, butter flavoured

Directions:

Melt the butter in a pot over medium heat. When butter bubbles, whisk in flour. Mixture should be think and pasty. Slowly whisk in milk about a cup at a time. You have to use a whisk or it will get lumpy. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the mixture bubbles and becomes thick.

When the mixture is as thick as melted ice cream, start adding cheese. Use the cheese packets included with the mac & cheese, and any other sharp flavoured cheese, such as cheddar, kashkeval, or goat cheese. A blend works best. Taste and add cheese until it is delicious! Season with salt and pepper to taste. As the mixture cooks, it may become too thick – just add some more milk. Stir often, and/or turn down the heat so that it does not burn.

In the meantime, boil pasta from the boxes according to the directions. Drain well. Mix the cheese sauce and pasta together – it should be very saucy.
Pour the mixture into a baking dish sprayed with Pam. At this point, you can sprinkle the top of the pasta with breadcrumbs. Spray the top of the pasta with butter flavoured Pam and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until the top is all browned and bubbly.

Latkes – 3 Ways

Potato LatkeRegular Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

4 medium potatoes
1 onion
2 eggs
½ cup flour or matzo meal
1 teaspoon chicken soup mix (bullion)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, chicken soup mix, baking powder, salt and pepper to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Yields about 2 dozen or 5 dozen miniatures.

Sweet Potato LatkesSweet Potato Latkes

Ingredients:

2 lbs. sweet potatoes or yams
2 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 – 2 teaspoons cinnamon (to taste)
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred potatoes in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potatoes shreddings very well. Take half of the shreddings and puree them. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potatoes. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in potato mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 18 – 20 pancakes.

Zucchini LatkesZucchini Latkes

Ingredients:

2 medium zucchini
1 large potato
1 small onion
3 tablespoons matzoh meal or flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 eggs
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper
Oil for frying

Directions:

Shred the zucchini and potato in a food processor. Rinse and drain the potato shreddings very well. Remove the excess water from the rinsed potato shreddings and the zucchini shredding as well (you can put them in dish towel or cheesecloth and squeeze out moisture). Take half of the shreddings and puree them along with the onion. Add the eggs, flour, baking powder, and spices to the puree. Mix the puree together with the remaining portion of shredded potato/zucchini. Pour oil to about ⅛” depth into a large skillet. When hot, drop in batter mixture by large spoonfuls to form pancakes. Brown well on both sides. Drain well on paper towels. Makes about 12 – 18 pancakes.

Endings and Beginnings

Vodka-Kaluha Cake

Vodka & Kahlua Cake
I got this recipe from my little sister, Mrs. Shuli Schwechter, who in turn got it from her friend’s mother, Mrs. Kleinman. It is a great recipe that my family makes quite often. A note on the Kahlua. According to the Chicago Rabbinical Council (cRc), whom COR recognizes as a reputable kosher authority, only Kahlua BOTTLED in Mexico is recommended. If you can’t find this type, any other coffee flavoured liqueur will do. Other alternatives are using a hazelnut or orange flavoured liqueur instead.

Ingredients:

1 package of yellow/white cake mix
1 package of chocolate instant pudding mix
1 cup oil
¾ cup water
½ cup sugar
¼ cup vodka
¼ cup Kahlua/coffee/chocolate liqueur
4 eggs

Icing:
1 cup icing sugar
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon coffee/chocolate liqueur

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium sized bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, mix together the oil, water, vodka and liqueur. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together. Adding 1 egg at a time, stir in each egg until fully incorporated. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Pour in the batter, and then bake for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick entered comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, and then remove cake from pan and cool on a cooling rack. To make the icing, blend all the ingredients together in a small bowl. Once icing/glaze has come together, pour over the cooled/room temperature cake.


 

Deli Roll

Deli Roll

Ingredients:

1 package puff pastry
⅓ cup mustard (e.g.: yellow, Dijon, deli, etc.) I recommend using a blend of different types.
½ pound white deli meat (e.g.: Turkey, turkey pastrami, etc.)
½ pound dark deli meat (e.g.: corned beef, salami, etc.)
1 egg
Sesame seeds/poppy seeds (optional)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a clean work surface, roll out the puff pastry into a large rectangle. Cut off a thin strip of the dough, and set aside. Using a pastry brush, spread out your choice of mustard(s); then lay out the light coloured deli meat. Add another layer of mustard, and then lay out the dark coloured deli meat. Repeat layering mustard and meats, so that you have either about 4 layers, or run out of meat. Taking long side of the dough, roll the pastry into a log. Place the roll onto a greased or parchment lined cookie sheet. Using the dough that was set aside, and create a nice pattern on top of the log, such as a vine or flowers. Baste the log with the egg, and then sprinkle on the sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 20 minutes or until the crust golden brown. This can be served warm or at room temperature.

Mushroom Stuffed Beef Rouladen

Rouladen

For this recipe, I suggest using shoulder steak. Have your butcher tenderize it for you, or if you don’t have that option, you can go at it with a meat mallet. I hear it’s a great stress reliever!

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 pound assorted mushrooms (brown, Portobello, button, etc.), thinly sliced
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
1 egg, beaten
¼ cup bread crumbs
8 (3 ounce) pieces shoulder steak, pounded thin
¼ cup dry red wine
2 ½ cups beef stock
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Directions:

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Stir in garlic, onion and mushrooms. Cook until the mushrooms and onion have softened, then stir in dried thyme, remove from heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. Once cool, season to taste with salt and pepper, then mix in the beaten egg and breadcrumbs. Evenly divide the mushroom mixture among the top round slices. Roll each Rouladen around the filling into a tight cylinder and secure with a toothpick. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown the Rouladen, then transfer to an 8×8 inch baking dish. Pour wine into the hot skillet and bring to a simmer. Meanwhile, stir the beef stock into the flour, and mix until smooth. Pour the beef stock into the skillet and return to a simmer. Cook until thickened, then stir in the Dijon mustard. Pour this sauce over the Rouladen. Cover, and bake 60 to 75 minutes in the preheated oven, until the meat is tender. This recipe makes 8 Rouladen. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes or wide egg noodles.

Hoshanah Rabbah

Well, with the first half of Sukkot finished, and now moving into the second half, we bring special attention to the seventh day of the holiday known as Hoshanah Rabbah, meaning “Great Salvation”. According to tradition, our verdict that G-d has decided for us, that was written on Rosh Hashanah and sealed on Yom Kippur, is now handed down by the Heavenly Court. To celebrate this, we circle the Bimah seven times while holding the Lulav and Esrog, while reciting special prayers for prosperity. It is also the custom that during the course of the morning prayers, to take a bundle of five willow branches and beat them against the ground five times. With all this circling and beating, one can work up quite the appetite. As mentioned in past postings, we eat foods during this time that are wrapped, or encircled. These are symbolic for many different things: The wrapping up of one year of Torah reading, and beginning again. The wrapping up of our prayers and the judgment for a brand new year. And of course, the wrapping, or circling of the Bimah, now with the Lulav and later on Simchas Torah with the Torah itself. So with that in mind I thought a rolled entree would be appropriate. Just make sure to put down your Lulav before picking up your meat!

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Cabbage Rolls

Ingredients:

1 large cabbage

Filling:
2 ¼ pounds ground beef
1 cup uncooked rice
3 teaspoons oil
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 egg, beaten
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
3 tablespoons oil
2 tablespoons flour
1 46-oz. can tomato juice
3-4 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Prepare cabbage by either boiling or freezing method. Remove and check leaves. To see the process on how to freeze or boil the cabbage, click here. To learn about checking the leaves for insects, click here.

Combine all ingredients for meat mixture in a bowl and mix well. Take a single leaf of cabbage, and place a couple of tablespoons of filling at the base of the leaf. Roll the leaf up, folding in the sides as you roll. Rolls should be able to remain sealed without a toothpick.

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To make the sauce, heat oil in a large pot, stir in flour, and cook until brown. This is called making a Roux, and it will act as a thickener for the sauce. Add rest of ingredients in order listed. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes.You can add more lemon juice, sugar or pepper, according to taste.

In a large 8-quart stock pot, place a few of the extra/small or torn leaves that you have left over from making the rolls, and line the bottom of the pot. Add about and inch or so of sauce, and lay your cabbage rolls carefully, seam side down, in the sauce one by one. The rolls may be piled in layers if necessary. Cover the rolls with the remainder of the sauce, and any cabbage you have left over can be used to cover the rolls. If you have extra filling, you can either freeze it for next time, or make small meatballs out of it, and place it in the sauce as well. Cook on low flame for 2 hours, adding more water if necessary. The rolls are done when the meat is cooked through and the rice is tender.

Another Holiday?!

Succah

Yes folks, we’re now on the home stretch. After Rosh HaShanah, and Yom Kippur, not to mention the regular celebration of Shabbat, we’ve been action packed lately with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to holiday feasting! But now we wind down to the last of the season, Sukkot! The combination of fine dining and an al fresco atmosphere, what’s not to love? During this 8-day holiday (or 7-days in Israel), we get to reenact the journey that B’nei Israel took, as they wandered the desert for 40 years after the exodus from Egypt. Things were a little different then… They had Ma’an to sustain them, so no planning menus, grocery shopping, or dishes to wash up; and instead of a man-made structure of wood or cloth, they had the Heavenly protection of clouds to surround and protect them from the elements. They were also in the desert, and not in Canada in October! So for us, who are not as fortunate to have G-d provide the food and shelter, He has provided us with the creativity and desire to make this temporary dwelling a warm and welcoming atmosphere, to sit and enjoy with family, guests, and a few Spiritual visitors! (click here to learn all about the Ushpizin). While there are not specific foods inscribed to eat during the holiday, it is traditional to eat foods of the fall harvest, as well as stuffed or wrapped foods, such as cabbage rolls and kreplach (meat dumplings). We’ve got 2 ½ days to go, so let’s get on with the cooking! Unless of course G-d would like to send down some more Ma’an… I always wondered what it would taste like 🙂

Post-Fast – Indulgence!

Creme Brulee

Crème Brûlée French Toast

I know this goes against what I was saying about not gorging yourself after the fast, but if you’re ever going to eat something rich and calorie loaded like this dish, this is the time to do it! What’s even better about this dish is that it’s even better if you prepare it the day before and let it sit in the fridge overnight, having the bread soak up all the flavours, and then bake it right after the fast and eat it hot! This recipe will make 12 servings.

Ingredients:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter
2 cups packed brown sugar
4 tablespoons corn syrup
1 large challah
10 large eggs
3 cups half-and-half or whole milk
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 teaspoons orange flavoured liqueur or orange juice concentrate
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions:

In a small heavy saucepan melt butter with brown sugar and corn syrup over moderate heat, stirring, until smooth and pour into a 13×9 inch baking dish, making sure that the pan is at least 2 inches deep. Cut the challah into large cubes. You can remove the crusts or keep them, it’s a matter of personal taste. Arrange the bread cubes in the baking dish, squeezing them slightly to fit. In a bowl whisk together eggs, half-and-half/milk, vanilla, liqueur/juice concentrate, and salt until combined well and pour evenly over bread. Do not toss, as you want the sugar/syrup mixture to stay on the bottom of the pan. At this point you can let the dish sit for 15-20 minutes to allow the bread to soak up the egg and milk mixture, or you can refrigerate the bread mixture, covered, at least 8 hours and up to 1 day. Preheat oven to 350° Fahrenheit, and if you’ve chilled the dish, bring bread to room temperature. Bake bread mixture, uncovered, in middle of oven until puffed and edges are pale golden, 35 to 40 minutes. Serve hot french toast immediately. TIP: When you serve this, turn the piece upside down on the individual’s plate, to allow the caramel-y goodness (and the Crème Brûlée aspect of the recipe), run down over the toast!

Pre-Fast Meal – Main Course

Lemon Chicken

Roasted Lemon Chicken with Root Vegetables
I got this recipe from my sister Ellie. She is an excellent chef in her own right and a much better baker than me!

Ingredients:

3lb. Chicken
2 small/medium sized lemons, washed
6 cloves garlic
2 ½ teaspoons coarse salt, divided
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 ½ cups of chicken broth
3 Potatoes, cut into wedges
3 Carrots, cut into ½ inch discs
3 Parsnips, cut into ½ inch discs

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Remove the giblets and any fat from the chicken cavity. Roll the lemons on the counter with your hand to soften, then prick with a fork, going all the way through the rind of the flesh. Cut one of the lemons in half. In a small bowl, mash the garlic with 1 ½ teaspoons of the salt until a paste forms. Rub half this paste inside the chicken and then stuff one and one half of the lemons into the cavity. Add 3 tablespoons of the oil to the rest of the garlic paste and rub the mixture on the outside of the chicken. Place the cut up vegetables in a roasting pan, tossing with the remaining salt and oil, and form a make-shift rack for the chicken to rest on. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and pour the broth into the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half into the broth. Roast for 60-65 minutes, basting with the pan juices halfway through the cooking time, until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 180 degrees Fahrenheit, juices run clear when pricked with a fork, and the drumstick moves easily in its socket. Cover the chicken and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve with the pan juices.